Probably only few of you know that the extra virgin olive oil at home is probably fake, and that the Mob is benefiting financially from selling fake olive oil to us.
To speak in numbers, Mafia is making a small fortune selling fake olive oil which costs a $1.5 billion dollar industry in the United States alone. Frankly, olive oil is Europe’s most adulterated agricultural product at present!
An investigative journalist, Tom Mueller, wrote an expose on fake olive oil under the title: Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil. He there claims that even 70% of the extra virgin olive oil sold is cut with cheaper oils. Devastating.
He says: “many olive oil scams involve mixing of low-grade vegetable oils, flavored and colored with plant extracts and sold in tins and bottles emblazoned with the Italian flags or paintings of Mount Vesuvius, under the names of imaginary producers. There are some more sophisticated scams which usually take place in high-tech laboratories. There, he claims, cheaper oils of various kinds, made from olives, but also from seeds and nuts, are processed and blended in ways that are extremely difficult to detect with chemical tests.”
Mueller also believes that the enormous popularity of this oil made it an appetizing target for food fraudsters, who earn around €60 billion a year selling counterfeit or adulterated faux-Italian foods. In some of these crimes, mafia syndicates and other criminal networks sell substandard or unsafe products at huge profits.
What is overwhelming is the fact that probably many Americans who have been buying olive-oil labeled extra-virgin for decades have never tasted the real thing!
Olive oil has been highly valued both, as a food and as a medicine in Mediterranean culture for over 2 millennia. In Ancient Rome, per-capita consumption of olive oil was estimated to be up to fifty liters a year.
Since genuine olive oil is costly, in high demand, its production is time- consuming, yet easy to adulterate, but difficult to detect the real from the fake, producing fake olive oil would prove to be an enormous moneymaking enterprise for Mafioso fraudsters.
Olive oil racketeering is one of the Italian Mafia’s most lucrative businesses. Their success can be measured by the fact that most olive oil sold is either adulterated or completely fake.
You all probably know the protagonist in the original Godfather novel, Don Vito Corleone, who was known as the“The Olive Oil King”. What you probably do not know is that his character was based on a real-life olive oil mobster named Joe Profacani.
The most coveted type of olive oil is “extra virgin.”
The Olive Oil Times defines extra virgin as:
In chemical terms extra virgin olive oil is described as having a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams and a peroxide value of less than 20 milliequivalent O2. It must be produced entirely by mechanical means without the use of any solvents, and under temperatures that will not degrade the oil (less than 86°F, 30°C).
What is the stimulus for the Mob to deal in Fake Extra -Virgin Olive Oil?
- Counter intuitively, although Olive oil is far more expensive than other oils and has very unique characteristics, it’s very easy to fake.
- It is very a big international business. Americans alone spend approximately $700 million on olive oil annually.
- Olive oil consumption is on the rise — it’s up 37 percent in Southern Europe and more than 100 percent in North America.
- Muller was told by an oil fraud investigator that: “Profits were comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks.”
Historically, Olive oil has been one of the most adulterated products in the Europe and the fraud continues until present day. In the past, olive oil fraudsters used to cut the oil with lard.
The earliest written mention of olive oil, on cuneiform tablets at Ebla in the twenty-fourth century B.C., describes teams of inspectors who toured olive mills on behalf of the king, looking for fraudulent practices. The Romans established an international trade in olive oil, and certain emperors rose to power on olive-oil wealth.
Mueller explains that the real olive oil provides numerous benefits, it is a cocktail of 200-plus highly beneficial ingredients that explain why olive oil has been the heart of the Mediterranean diet.
On the other hand, bad olives have free radicals and impurities, which corrupt that miraculous cocktail from real extra-virgin olive oil.
The European Union declared olive oil to be their number one adulterated agricultural product. The adulteration of olive oil was a well established fact in late nineteen-nineties. Indisputable evidence that olive oil was often cut with cheaper oils, like hazelnut and sunflower seed, was widespread.
How to recognize a real extra- virgin olive oil
Olive Oil Grading
Here on page 2 we give you advice on how to actually buy what you intend, the properties of the real extra- virgin oil, determined by popular sources.
How to buy olive oil
- Some terms commonly used on olive oil labels are anachronistic, such as “first pressed” and “cold pressed”. Since most extra virgin oil nowadays is made with centrifuges, it isn’t “pressed” at all, and true extra virgin oil comes exclusively from the first processing of the olive paste.
- Don’t worry about color. Good oils come in all shades, from green to gold to pale straw – but avoid flavours such as meaty, metallic, mouldy, cooked, greasy, and cardboard.
- Look for bottles with a date of harvest. Try to buy oils only from this year’s harvest. Failing that, look at the “best by” date which should be two years after an oil was bottled.
- PDO (protected designation of origin) and PGI (protected geographical indication) status should inspire some confidence, although they are not always a guarantee of quality.
- Ensure that your oil is labelled “extra virgin,” since other categories—”pure” or “light” oil, “olive oil” and “olive pomace oil” – have been chemically refined.
- Ask to taste it before buying. Find a seller who stores it in clean, temperature-controlled stainless steel containers, topped with an inert gas such as nitrogen to keep oxygen at bay, and bottles it as they sell it.
- Prefer bottles or containers that protect against light, and buy a quantity that you’ll use up quickly.
“Extra virgin, virgin, light, pomace, filtered, cold pressed, stone milled, organic, …. The list goes on and on. If you are confused about which olive oil to buy, you are not alone. At the Olive Oil Source, we think that there are a few keys to choosing the right olive oil: first is knowing the types of olive oil available, the second is considering what you will use it for. Learning the different grades of olive oil and their characteristics will help you make sense of what you read on labels.”
Adulterated Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and UC-Davis (University of California Davis)
A detailed report from UC-Davis published in 2010 was entitled: Tests indicate that imported ‘extra virgin’ olive oil often fails international and USDA standards. It was discovered that fake extra-virgin olive oils are flooding supermarket shelves in California.
The UC Davis researchers in two studies tested a total of 186 extra- virgin olive oil samples, the both, imported and domestic, using standards established by the International Olive Council (IOC), as well as olive oil analysis used in Germany and Australia.
The results were that 69 percent of imported and ten percent of California-based olive oil labeled extra–virgin did not pass International Olive Council (IOC) and US Department of Agriculture sensory standards for extra virgin olive oil.
“More than two-thirds of common brands of extra-virgin olive oil found in California grocery stores aren’t what they claim to be, according to a report by researchers at UC Davis.”.
In fact, approximately 69% of all extra-virgin olive oils in the US stores are not what we think they are. Interestingly, while 11% of the imported, Italian samples failed both sensory olive oil testing panels, the Australian and California samples only failed one panel.
There are many who questioned the results, since the research was funded in part by the California Olive Ranch and the California Olive Oil Council. Both these groups are connected to the Australian Olive Association.
However, evidence clearly indicates that the UC Davis olive oil analysis accurately reflects reality.
UC Davis findings based on specific brands that were tested:
These brands, which were labeled extra-virgin, failed to meet extra-virgin olive oil standards:
- Whole Foods
- Newman’s Own
- Filippo Berio
- Rachel Ray
On the other hand, the following brands did meet extra-virgin olive oil standards:
- Kirkland Organic
- Lucero (Ascolano)
- California Olive Ranch
- McEvoy Ranch Organic
- Corto Olive
Nevertheless, the issue about the adulteration of olive oil got so bad that the E.U.’s anti-fraud division established an olive-oil task force. Still, olive oil fraud remains a major international problem.
Go here and peruse Tom Mueller’s best Supermarket oil picks and soak up his sage advice about finding REAL, extra virgin olive oil.