Did you know that most olive oils are fake? It's true - in the U.S. over 70% of imported extra virgin olive oil is a fraud. These are the brands that you should not buy from!
What Is Fake Olive Oil?Before we get started with the brands, let's get this straight:
If you buy lower quality than the label states, the oil is fake.
Fake olive oil can come in many shapes and forms. A common but not illegal fraud is when the producer mixes in oils from an older harvest. This is technically ok, as long as the old oil has been certified as an extra virgin (or another respective grade). In practice, diluting the olive oil in this way lowers the end quality. If the "extra virgin olive oil" has spent a full year (or more!) in a tank, it has naturally started oxidising. This may not be noticeable at the time of bottling. By the time the olive oil makes it to the shelves, however, the fake olive oil brand is essentially selling a virgin olive oil or even lower quality - the oxidising makes the taste worse and it also destroys some of the benefits.
Why Fake Olive Oil Brands Are DangerousThere are two main dangers of fake olive oil:
- Free radicals - when olive oil oxidises, free radicals are produced. These are highly reactive substances and they can damage your cells down to the molecular level. Normally, olive oil is an antioxidant and it can protect you from that damage. If it oxidises before entering your body, however, the opposite effect is produced!
- Trace chemicals - you can find traces of extraction-related chemicals if the olive oil has been diluted with a soybean or another plant oil. One of the most dangerous compounds you may find is hexane. This chemical has been linked to nerve damage and even cancer!
The Shocking Results
There are numerous institutions that regulate olive oil production and give out certificates to deserving brands. The testing process involves multiple steps. It takes chemistry into account, but it also looks into the taste. Even so, when the University of California studied 124 imported brands of extra virgin olive oil, the results were horrendous. Over 70% of the oils did not pass the test. This means that nearlly all extra virgin olive oils you can buy in the US are fake olive oil brands! To help you avoid the dangers of fake olive oil, these are the brands to avoid:
Carapelli is a large Italian food company based in Florence. While their product range is fairly wide, they are most famous for the extra virgin olive oil. They are considered to be one of the leading Italian extra virgin olive oil companies. 30% of their product is exported and it often ends up on shelves in the US. They have gone through multiple scandals, lost lawsuits, and have been accused of being a fake olive oil brand more times than we can even count. The accusations date back nearly a decade but they continue to deny some of the findings!
Mezzetta is a purely US brand. It was started in the 1930s by an Italian immigrant to San Francisco. They are very popular throughout the country. Even though they keep calling themselves a family company, Mezzetta has continually failed to meet olive oil standards. We can't speak about their other Mediterranean products like the Greek peperoncini, olives, and the pasta sauces. As for the olive oil, however, it is clear - this is a fake olive oil brand.
Pompeian is yet another brand that failed the quality test. The irony here is that they have a bunch of "quality" certificates on their page. Unfortunately, these only give the illusion of high quality. The North American Olive Oil Association that certified them has been openly criticising the Olive Oil Commission of California for a while now. They are known for their lower olive oil standards and honestly, it's no wonder that they certified a brand that proved to sell subpar products.
You might not even know that Mazola carried olive oil. Arguably, they are known for their other cooking oils. While we can't speak for the quality of those, the extra virgin olive oil was indeed found to not meet the criteria. This makes Mazola one of the many proven fake olive oil brands.
PrimadonnaThis is not the first quality controversy that Primadonna has been involved in. Back in 2015, it was one of seven major Italian brands to be investigated for selling low-quality olive oil. The alleged fraud produced a huge scandal in Italy and brands faced serious backlash. At the time of the scandal, Rosario Trefiletti, the president of Federconsumatori, a consumer association said the following:
The damage caused by this deceit is enormous, not just for consumers but also for the entire country and for the image of products that are made in Italy.
Apparently, that did not stop Primadonna from exporting and selling low-quality olive oil.
Sasso was another one of the seven Italian brands involved in the 2015 controversy. They were also shown to be a fake olive oil brand by the University of California researchers. Otherwise, Sasso seemed like a perfectly genuine brand. They even pioneered some production methods and were one of the first olive oil brands with a full marketing strategy. Sadly, the product they had been marketing was shown to be fake.
Colavita is an Italian brand. At one point, they were at the front of the olive oil revolution. When the New York Times ran a feature on the health benefits monounsaturated fat-rich foods, they included a picture of a Colavita olive oil bottle. This was huge publicity for the then small family company. After the mid-eighties, the brand grew exponentially and is now one of the biggest players in the olive oil industry. Following the California scandal, however, Colavita has been shown to be yet another fake olive oil brand.
Antica Badia is mostly sold in a discount supermarket chain in Europe. It does reach the US, though not as frequently. The University of California researchers found that it too was a fake olive oil brand.
Yes, this is exactly the Whole Foods that you are thinking about. The Whole Foods Market olive oil (the supermarket's own brand) did not complete the requirements set by the specialists. This came as a shock to many American consumers, which relied on Whole Foods to provide healthy and affordable products for their daily diet.
Felippo Berio is huge in Europe and the US alike! They are one of those brands that you see in every supermarket and you learn to trust. Personally, this was the biggest shock for me on the list. I have often bought Felippo Berio oils and the fact that they are another fake olive oil brand really shook my trust in the industry. Is it even possible to buy fairly affordable extra virgin olive oil these days? Felippo Berio is not even a cheap brand and they are still a fake!
The supermarket chain Safeway sells its' own brand of olive oil. While supermarket-brand oils are always suspicious, this one seemed safe on the outside. It was properly labelled and it tasted fairly nice. Even foodie bloggers have praised the Safeway olive oil for being affordable and delicious. But that could not be further from the truth. Safeway is a fake olive oil brand. In 2014, a complaint was filed, alleging that the company says the olives for their oil were grown and pressed in Italy. In truth, the olives came from other countries. What is more, the company was accused of not really selling extra virgin olive oil. Because the Safeway bottles are clear, the oil is exposed to sunlight. Sunlight oxidises the oil and causes it to degrade. By the time this fake olive oil ends up in your salad, it is anything but extra virgin!
Coricelli, also known as Pietro Coricelli, was another one of the brands nobody expected to find here. They are smaller, compared to other producers on this lists. Pietro Coricelli had not faced controversy prior to this incident. They are now known to be yet another one of the fake olive oil brands.
Finally, Bertolli is a big company that got busted in this scandal. Their range is larger than most. From pasta sauces to various olive oils, and even frozen meals, Bertolli was not exactly considered to be a gourmet brand. Just look at how they described their extra virgin olive oil:
This quality blend of extra virgin olive oils is “cold pressed” for a naturally full-bodied fruity flavor. Use straight from the bottle on salads, pasta, marinades, soups and sauces, or to make a delectable dip.
Why would you even put cold pressed like this? This should have been the first clue.
You can't always trust labels. If you want to avoid the dangers of fake olive oil brands, always do your own research. Know where your olive oil comes from to reap all of the amazing benefits!
Buy premium olive oil from Selo Oils here.