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There’s a good chance that “extra virgin” olive oil—the stuff into which you’re dunking crusty bread right now—isn’t really “extra virgin." The American Olive Oil Producers Association (AOOPA) wants the USDA to crack down, testing olive oil before it lands on American plates.
AOOPA is getting major pushback from some lawmakers who say the proposed testing is too expensive, but we think it’s worth it. Here’s why:
1. According to The New York Times, about 69 percent of “extra virgin” olive oil sold in the United States doesn’t deserve the label. Many overseas producers cut olive oil with cheaper oils made from soybeans and other vegetables. Worse, some pump the mixture with beta-carotene and chlorophyll to add color and mask unpleasant flavors.
2. The U.S. is number three in world olive oil consumption, coming in behind Spain and Italy. That’s a lot of oil, and a big incentive for producers to make more of it on the cheap.
3. Adulterated olive oil is bad news for people on the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes olive oil’s heart health benefits. According to AOOPA’s executive director, Kimberly Houlding, lesser grades of olive oil don’t impart the same benefits as the real deal.
4. You can’t trust otherwise respected brands to carry the right stuff. A 2010 report by the University of California, Davis found that olive oils by Bertolli, Whole Foods, Safeway, Newman’s Own, and other brands didn’t meet internationally accepted standards for extra virgin olive oil.
Still not convinced? Sample some real extra virgin olive oil against the faux stuff and get back to us.