Sourcing Quality Olive Oil

Are you getting pure olive oil?

Unfortunately, the olive oil industry has not always been transparent with its labeling.  There is a long history of adulterated products showing up on store shelves that are not pure olive oil despite being labeled as such.  There may be lower quality oil being sold as “extra virgin” oil, or there may be other oils (canola, corn, soybean, etc.) used to cut, or extend, the oil to produce more volume.

What does “extra virgin” mean?

“Extra virgin” is the highest grade of quality that can be awarded to an olive oil.  This designation requires that the oil meet strict chemical and sensory standards.  In addition, the extraction process must be mechanical, with no use of chemicals or extreme heat.

How do I source quality olive oil?

It can be a challenge to reliably find a quality olive oil if you don’t know what you’re looking for.  Follow these tips for assistance.

Look at the label

Check the harvest date and expiration date.

Extra virgin olive oil is best used within 18-24 months of harvest.

Check country of origin.

A single region is preferable.  If multiple countries are listed, it is impossible to track the actual harvest date.

Look for a certifying seal.

[Follow links for a list of products carrying this certification.]
A guide to food safety labels you can trust at the supermarket.

Use proper storage

Keep extra virgin olive oil away from light, air, and heat.
It should be packaged in dark glass or tin to cut down on light exposure, as light decreases  the shelf life.
Once you open a bottle, it should be used within 3-6 months, to minimize oxidation.
Store it away from the stove, to avoid heat exposure.  Store it in a cool, dark cabinet or pantry.

Know your retailer

Buy from specialty retailers who know the producers, growers, and importers.

They know their product well and are generous with sampling.
Domestic olive oil from single producers or co-ops are reliable.  With foreign oils, buy from producers who bottle directly for retail sale.
In short, it is best to buy directly from producers.

If buying online, make sure you identify the harvest date and select the most recent one.

Here is an example of what to look for on a label:

Reading Olive oil label


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