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Quick Tip #77~The Case of Fradulent Virgin

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Inexpensive, less healthy foods masquerading as more expensive healthy ones was the headline topic of one of Dr Oz's shows last week.

This was a breaking story a couple of years ago when some curious high school students in NYC ran DNA tests on various caviars, fish and cheeses, only to find they were not what they purported to be. Instead of the real... expensive... deal, cheaper goods or in some cases even a totally different species, were... and still are... being passed off as the pricier one.

Here's that article:

While caviar and pricey cheeses may never be your thing, Dr Oz revealed a fraud that might hit a bit closer to home... your extra virgin olive oil.

We've all been told how good the monosaturated fat of virgin olive oil is for our health... and while no one is eating it off the spoon like fish oil, we've been shining our angel's halo by putting it on salads and cooking with it.

Problem is, olive oil fraud is widespread, particularly since there's been a an increased demand for it and so much money to be made by simply changing a label.
The frauds have gotten so good at it, that taste tests even fool the experts.

Dr Oz suggested a simple test we all can do at home... put your olive oil in the fridge.
If it thickens up, rather the way animal fat does when cold, then chances are, its the real deal.

My new bottle of Certified Organic Virgin Olive Oil failed the fridge test.
It was as clear and liquid as water.
It was returned.

Other ways of knowing what you've got is real, is that the oil will have not just a sell by date, but a harvest date.

Be suspicious of oils collected from a variety of foreign countries, and processed in another. Chances are high one of the suppliers hasn't been exactly upfront about what he's passing off.

Color is no indicator, as chlorophyll can be added to green it up.

So what to do? How can you protect yourself?
Short of buying your oil direct from the farmer, remember:


If it doesn't solidify, return it.

AND If you find a brand that passes the fridge test, please post it here so that others can benefit from your discovery.

Until then... I'm done with olive oil for a while.
Instead I'm sticking with extra virgin organic expeller expressed coconut.

Until I find out that's a fraud, too!

Caveat emptor, peeps!
: )

UPDATE 2/15/13
Interesting development.
I had two bottles of OO in the fridge, an opened one and the full one which was returned.
The two bottles were put into the fridge in the morning, left there overnite ...without any change in viscosity or clarity 24 hours later.

I left the opened one in the fridge and today... 3 days later, its begun to seize up. I'm not sure what to make of this.

Experiment time! I had a bit of canola oil left over from making brownies for the neighbors, so I stuck that in the fridge to see what happens. I also poured a bit of it out into a glass, so that will reach fridge temps quicker, easily by this afternoon when I return home.

UPDATE 2/16/13
So my canola oil is sitting in the fridge as clear and fluid as water.
That said, Shawn has pointed out a few articles that state that the fridge test for EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) isn't exactly reliable. Why?
A manufacturer can:
1.Add or use peanut oil, which solidifies as roughly the same temperature as EVOO.
2. Dilute the EVOO with a small amount of canola oil, and the EVOO will still solidify.

Additionally, the amount of waxes and sterols found in the skins of the olive, can influence the solidification of the EVOO.

There's a process called "winterization" which I'd read about before I wrote this blog. This is a process in which olive oil is frozen and the solid particles (waxes and sterols found in the olive's skins) are removed, so that the EVOO remains fluid under refrigerator temps (40 degrees or so).

The only problem with this, is that EVOO, by its own definition, is only supposed to be pressed by physical means and taste tested. The waxes and sterols that make the oil solid in the fridge, also add a flavor component, so I don't see how their removal can be within the definition of EVOO.

Anyways, it is what it is!
: )

UPDATE: 2/23/13
Shawn has found a brand using the fridge method!
My Cold Pressed Kirkland Filippo BERIO Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil solidified completely after 2/3 days.
*Costco brand in dark green bottle).
Thanks Shawn!

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Great information. I had no idea about this. Thanks!
    1919 days ago
  • -SHAWN-
    My Cold Pressed Kirkland Filippo BERIO Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil solidified completely after 2/3 days.
    *Costco brand in dark green bottle).
    1920 days ago
    Yep, it is confusing but I was raised on it and can tell by the taste and smell.
    1922 days ago
    If it isn't one thing it is another with these people trying to make an extra buck off us people through fraud! It is terrible! We have restaurants being caught down here passing off other fish as grouper! Geeze! Some of us couldn't tell, but someone could and got in trouble!! emoticon
    Thanks for sharing! I need some new Olive Oil, so will check that out for sure. But, you're right that is confusing!
    1923 days ago
    Thanks MzzChief. I think that up here in Canada we are fortunate that the olive oils are what they say.
    1924 days ago
    Thanks for that Mzz. When I lived in my village in
    Rhodes, we would all harvest the olives in November,
    keep enough to put in brine for the year, then take
    the olives to the press. I remember one year we
    picked olives for 6 weeks and made 400 kilos(litres)
    of the best oil.
    As kids, we would go along and when
    the first pressing came out, we eagerly waited with
    freshly baked bread and then would dip it in the oil
    and sprinkle some sea salt on it. It is embedded in my
    We would keep enough oil for the year and
    sell the rest to the people who pressed. That is the
    best and when I was there last 2 years ago, I brought
    back a 4 litre can and savoured it for salads on special
    occasions. I am going to try the solidifying test too.
    If I find a good one, I will let you know. emoticon
    1926 days ago
    Thanks for the useful info
    1926 days ago
    I'm with you on the coconut oil, for sure!

    Hadn't thought about putting olive oil in to see if it solidifies...but I had heard of Dr. Oz' claims about fake olive oil (maybe I didn't finish reading the article to learn about refrigerating it to double check it...).

    I remember one restaurant where we complained that the olive oil was rancid. The Lebanese-born owner protested mightily that it was not rancid, it was just "Lebanese Olives" (have a different taste than say, Italian or Greek olives...)... and to a certain extent, I do agree, as I have had bottles that were specifically Greek olives or specifically Turkish or whatever - the country of origin is required to be on the labels. So there is some variation... but Rancid is Rancid - that's another taste factor that is not pleasant!!! He may have just gotten the can two days ago from his jobber, but no telling how many weeks it sat, in how hot of a cargo hold, in a ship somewhere between Lebanon to here (via China, no doubt??) long enough for it to become rancid before he even got it 'two days ago'! (this episode happened like three years ago...)... so needless to say, his defensiveness and rudeness to the customers complaining about the rancid olive oil I think eventually did his business in, and they were closed within 6-12 months!!
    1926 days ago
  • -SHAWN-
    I knew about the fraud, had no idea how to do the fridge test...
    Woot woot - Thank You!
    1926 days ago
    Hey Sparkers...
    Thanks for all your comments!
    I will post any brands that are legit in the blog itself as an update, so that we know what to buy and what not to buy.

    Anything we can do to help each other out....

    I know at one point I had some good stuff... it was in a huge bottle which I separated into smaller glass jars... I put the oil I wasn't using in the back of the fridge to preserve the flavor.

    It turned green and solid.
    Wish I remembered which on it was... but it DOES show that some oils out there ARE legit!

    : )
    1926 days ago
    1926 days ago
    Oh way! Thanks for sharing this, Mzz! I'm going to pop mine into the fridge tonight, but I must admit -- I almost don't wanna know! Eating well just shouldn't be so hard. emoticon
    1926 days ago
    I live in SA and we have just recently started winning awards for our olive oil in Europe so we have had a great deal of publicity about checking the harvest date - and the bottling date.
    1926 days ago
    1926 days ago

    1927 days ago
    I'd not heard of the fraud of olive oil! I'd heard of the caviar and expensive cheese, so I guess I'm just lucky I don't have the taste or budget to be ripped off with those products. However, olive oil is a staple in this house! I just put my olive oil in the fridge so we'll see what happens in another hour or so.

    Thanks for sharing, and I'll keep you posted on the brand if it is "real" or not.

    So mine's been in the fridge all day, and it has slightly thickened, as in it moves slower through the bottle than normal. It has a "best by" date but no harvest date that I can tell (unless I pulled it off when opening it). The brand and bottle:
    1927 days ago

    Comment edited on: 2/14/2013 2:45:55 PM
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