Is Your Olive Oil Really Olive Oil?

May we first of all begin by admitting that when it comes to food, certain cultures just do it better than we do here in North America. I’m not talking about you, your cuisine is amazing, obviously. But in general, let’s take it as a given that Greeks and Italians, for instance, know how to pick an olive and what to do with it.

One crucial ingredient we take for granted when shopping at our local grocery mega-plex is Olive Oil. Many of us will chose any bottle marked “extra-virgin olive oil” and move on to the next thing on the list without giving it a second thought. It’s made from olives right? Healthy in moderation, right? Not worth over-thinking, right? Sorry, not quite.

Yup, I’m about to do it. I’m about to give you one more thing you have to be a food snob about. Go ahead, roll your eyes, I get it. But unless you want to continue drizzling pomace oil on your salad (an oil so devoid of nutrition, so overly refined it belongs in an oil lamp – not your bowl) or dipping your bread in canola oil, I’d read on.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has discovered that many familiar grocery store olive oils are adulterated up to 50%. The producers are filling up the bottles with lower-grade oils and adding coloring to make it look right. Brands like Star, Bertolli, Colavita, Filippo Berio have all been found to be adulterated by the UC Davis Olive Centre in California. If you are in the mood to be utterly gobsmacked by what’s going on in the dirty world of olive oil importation, please see the scandals chronicled in the Olive Oil Times.
It’s called Deoderized Oil and we have no way of knowing if it’s sitting in our pantries right now because we have no labeling laws, no system of traceability and no accreditation process. In short, the words “extra-virgin olive oil” have no real meaning here in North America.

So go ahead, let yourself to be as selective with your olive oil as you are with your wine. In fact, consider bringing it as a gift when you are next invited to a dinner party (I would definitely cook for you if you brought me a nice bottle of Extra-Virgin).

We carry the Tavola Mia line of Olive Oils, selected by local olive guru and chef Maria Loggia, who can proudly boast a friendship with the generationally experienced Cimarello family and has visited the olive groves near Tuscany. I know, I wish I was her too.
My favorite is the Tavola Mia DOP Tuscia, which displays the DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) trade mark authorized by the European Union. Visit our boutique to see the whole line such as her latest Novello, a first-press oil with a distinguished flavor, and several flavored oils including the ever popular basil, lemon and oregano.

What does the DOP certification guarantee?

  • That the olive oil is produced in a specific geographic area.
  • That the olive oil is pressed from a specific variety of olives cultivated in that area.
  • That the olive oil is pressed at less than 27C°.
  • That the Ministry of Agriculture and the EU concur on the quantity of D.O.P. olive oil produced in a given year.
  • That each bottle is numbered in accordance with a strictly monitored procedure.
  • D.O.P. can only be extra virgin olive oils of superior quality.
  • Finally, it ensures farmers and producers a fair remuneration for producing higher quality products.

Doesn’t that sound better?  I feel better.  Happy dipping!

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