Make sure your EVOO is fresh
As regular readers know, after reading the book Extra Virginity, I realized that the reason that (for example) Whole Foods could offer their Greek Extra-Virgin Olive Oil at a price about half of what it costs to produce was simple: it wasn’t olive oil, but rather some olive oil mixed with (say) hazelnut oil. It turns out that counterfeit EVOO is common because (a) EVOO is popular and (b) it’s expensive to make.
Since reading the book, I buy only California EVOO that’s bottled by the producer. Living in norther California, I have a good selection from which to choose. Currently, I have a quart of Bertolino EVOO from Santa Rosa CA. And Allison Aubrey reports at NPR that EVOO is still a miracle food. You can listen to the program at the link; the article begins:
The Mediterranean diet is a pattern of eating that lately has become a darling of medical researchers. It includes vegetables and grains, not so much meat and, of course, generous portions of olive oil.
Mary Flynn, an associate professor of medicine at Brown University, says the evidence that olive oil is good for your heart has never been more clear. “Olive oil is a very healthy food,” she says. “I consider it more medicine than food.”
She points to a big study published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine where researchers in Spain had men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who were at risk of heart disease follow one of three diets.
Some ate a low-fat diet, another group ate a Mediterranean diet with nuts. And a third group ate a Mediterranean diet that included almost four tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil per day.
“So, they could compare the three diets: Was it nuts, was it olive oil or was the low-fat diet beneficial?” says Flynn.And what researchers found was that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 30 percent. The nut group, which was consuming olive oil as well, did well, too.
“The fact is, there are a huge range of benefits of real extra-virgin olive oil,” notesTom Mueller, who has spent the last six years investigating and writing about olive oil. He says olive oil is good for two reasons: It’s mostly unsaturated fat, and extra-virgin oil, which is the highest-grade and least-processed form of olive oil, contains a whole range of other beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols.
But here’s the catch: Unfortunately, it turns out that more than half of the extra-virgin olive oil imported into the U.S. has been shown to be substandard.
“The fact is, it’s quite often just very low-grade oil that doesn’t give you the taste of the health benefits that extra virgin should give you,” Mueller says.
In fact, a study from the University of California, Davis, found that 69 percent of imports tested failed to meet a U.S. Department of Agriculture quality standard.And Mueller says in some cases the oil is just too old. By the time imported olive oil reaches us, it has often been shipped from place to place and sometimes not stored well. Even if it’s not noticeably rancid, many of the heart-healthy compounds have degraded and fizzled.
“Extra-virgin olive oil is fresh-squeezed juice — it’s a fruit juice — therefore freshness is a critical question,” he says.
Mueller says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration used to police olive oil imports to ensure producers were meeting quality and freshness standards. But those efforts have fallen off.
So, where does that leave those of us who want to get our hands on the healthy stuff?
Well, for starters, Mueller says look for brands that . . .
The reason FDA inspections have fallen off, of course, is that the food industry doesn’t like inspections and regulations, and the GOP has worked strenuously to defund agencies that protect the public from business misdeeds. This, despite the fact that an American is 110 times more likely to die from contaminated food than from a terrorist attack. I know I’ve said that before, but I’m still amazed that the public doesn’t seem to care.