The great olive oil scam: How your expensive extra virgin dressing could actually be a cheap imitation
It is hard to imagine Italian mob bosses discussing the next shipment of olive oil, but according to a new book, the age-old olive oil business is the most corrupt in the recipe book.
Tom Mueller spent months in Italy investigating the subject for Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.
There he learned that the industry is so badly taken advantage of by fraudsters and crooks, it is possible that the last bottle of olive oil you bought didn”t contain olive oil at all.
Contaminated: Tom Mueller”s investigation into the Italian olive oil industry reveals it to be the most corrupt business in the food world
He told the New York Post: “I was sitting in a dark bar with an undercover cop in Italy, and he was telling me about deals being cut with high-level politicians and millions of dollars in EU subsidies being misappropriated.
“He was speaking in this hushed tone, and I had to laugh, because this was not black-market plutonium or drugs, this was olive oil.”
The problem, he explained, is that in the USA, the FDA have better things to do than check the contents of the bottles and the labels guaranteeing them.
This means that makers of the antioxidant-enriched fatty oil can do anything they want to reduce the cost of production and charge what they would if it were real.
“Extra-virgin no longer means anything,” Mr Mueller concluded. “Lower-grade oil isoften sold with the label, despite there being a clear definition of what constitutes “extra-virgin””.
Olive oil secrets: Extra Virginity is on sale in bookstores now
Lowering the grade of the olive oil iscommon as is substituting it altogether with rapeseed oil that has beenchemically processed to make it undetectable.
Theauthor advised consumers that when buying olive oil they should try giving it a whiff. “When in doubt, resort to the smell test. It should smell fresh and fruity, without any hints of mustiness,” he suggested.
This discovery will alarm not only foodies but people who look to olive oil as a healthy alternative to butter. None of the doctored concoctions will provide the benefits that real olive oil promises.
Mr Mueller offered some suggestions to avoid being duped by the bogus olive oil manufacturers.
Sadly these included avoiding the cheaper options. According to the expert, olive oil is expensive to produce and so inexpensive price tags could be a sign that the oil has been meddled with.
Further eye-opening tips included ignoring terms like “cold-pressed” which apparently is redundant seeing as olives can only be pressed in high heat, and being weary of labels that claim the product is made in Italy.
Seemingly if a bottle is just packed in a country it can wear such a label.
With so many potential traps there is some good news too.
Places that check the sources of their product will likely sell the real deal and, if you see a harvest date on the label, you”ve most likely scored a fresh bottle of unadulterated olive oil.