Try This: How to Spot Fake Olive Oil (And My Top Tips for Finding the Real Deal!)

Here’s What We’re Covering Today:

  • How to spot real vs fake olive oils to make sure you’re getting the good stuff and all of the health benefits that come with it.
  • Plus, some of my favorite go-to olive oil recommendations.

Key Points: 

  • An estimated 80 percent of the olive oil on grocery store shelves is fake or adulterated.
  • Many conventional olive oils are diluted with soybean, canola, sunflower, and other cheap oils to cut production costs.
  • Additionally, olive oil manufacturers can falsely label their products as “extra virgin olive oil” without having to meet strict quality or purity standards.

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How to Spot Fake Olive Oil

I mentioned it above, but it’s worth saying again: 80 percent of the olive oil on grocery store shelves is fake! Olive oil quality standards are not enforced by the FDA and large-scale corporations take full advantage of this.

Typically, you can know if olive oil is fake if you see buzzwords like “light,” “pure,” or “premium” on the label. These words mean absolutely nothing and are just there to trick the consumer into thinking they’re the real thing.

What’s even more messed up is companies can label their products “extra virgin olive oil” without following the extraction process that’s required to be considered “extra virgin.”

The FDA makes it easy for manufacturers to get away with this by making the processing technique voluntary, so companies can use the term even if their product isn’t truly extra virgin.

(If you want to dive into the history of the olive oil industry’s fraudulence even deeper, I highly recommend the book Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller.)

If most extra virgin olive oil isn’t technically “extra virgin,” then what is it? Typically, industrially produced olive oils are blends of other cheap oils to cut costs. Unfortunately, because the olive oil market is largely unregulated, it’s kind of like the Wild West, and it’s up to us to separate real from the fraudulent. 

How to Source High-Quality Olive Oil

Because the FDA doesn’t require olive oil manufacturers to test for purity, we can look for a seal of authenticity from third-party testers to let us know whether they’re the real deal or not.

The International Olive Oil Council (IOC), California Olive Oil Council (COOC), and North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) are a few agencies that are saving the authenticity of the olive oil industry.

These olive oil certifying agencies set rigorous quality and authenticity standards, and companies can submit samples for testing and receive a seal of authenticity if they pass.

Not every high-quality olive oil brand will have one of these seals, though. There are plenty of small-batch producers that don’t, but as long as they are certified organic or have radical transparency on their sourcing, that’s good enough for me!

Try This: 

Below are my top tips for weeding through the B.S. olive oil to find the good stuff. I also have some of my favorite olive oil brands listed.

  1. Look for extra virgin olive oil that checks the following boxes:
  • Packaged in a dark, glass container or BPA-free tin
  • The label says “cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil”
  • Look for countries of origin
  • Ideally the bottle has a harvest date (most olive oils are best consumed within 30–90 days of their harvest date)
  • Buy organic (if possible)
  • Bonus: Look for a seal from IOC, COOC, or NAOOA
  1. Here are some of my favorite brands that meet the above criteria:
  • The Furies. Organic, unfiltered, cold-extraction extra virgin olive oil. This is one of the best olive oils I’ve ever tried. In addition to their taste, I love this brand because they are women-owned and operated, use only the freshest ingredients, and are committed to sustainability in every way.
  • California Olive Ranch. This brand is pretty widely available and sold in many standard grocery stores. It has a harvest date and Olive Oil Commission of California certification on the bottle.
  • Primal Kitchen Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This brand is NAOOA certified, USDA-certified organic, and available at most natural grocery stores.

I hope you found today’s email helpful! What are some other categories or products you would like us to cover for our Try This swaps series? Let us know using the feedback feature below!

Here’s to your health,
Dhru Purohit

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