A week ago June Pagan, one of the Chef’s I work, with alerted me to a class action suit against companies that manufacture extra-virgin olive oil.
Olive oil is high in omega 3 or anti-inflammatory fats and the one that I highly recommend so hearing this news was quite disturbing.
A study at UC Davis Olive Center revealed that 69% of imported olive oil and 10% of California olive oil failed to meet IOC/USDA standards and were either adulterated or had poor quality due to being mixed with cheaper refined oils.
This means that the oil you are using could be mixed with omega 6 or pro-inflammatory oils, negating the health benefits of the olive oil.
The companies named were Bertolli, Filippo Berio, Carapelli, Star, Colavita, Mezzetta, Pompeian, Rachael Ray, Mazolla and Safeway Select.
Ten retailers and supermarkets, including Bristol Farms, Gelson's Markets, Vons/Pavilions, Ralphs, Stater Brothers, Albertson's, Target, Walmart, Kmart and Nob Hill Foods were named is in the lawsuit as well.
Lead counsel Daniel J. Callahan. “These companies placed corporate profiteering over their integrity and the integrity of their product and have been knowingly misleading and defrauding California consumers for years.”
- Check the label. Does it say “extra-virgin” olive oil? Is there a harvest or milling date, in addition to the best-use date? Is the harvest date within 12 months? Extra-virgin oil is “best used” within 18 months. Make sure the oil is purchased well in advance of the best-used date.
- What about the bottle? Is the bottle’s color dark, which reduces light exposure? Is it on the top shelf, exposed to direct light? Light dramatically shortens shelf life, so look for signs that indicate the bottle has been on the shelf too long (for example, dust).
- Look for the COOC seal, which assures the olive oil is extra-virgin, grown in California and from the most recent harvest.
- Know your retailer. Buy from retailers who know their producers, growers and importers. Ask for a taste. Many specialty retailers are generous with sampling, as they want you to know what you’re buying.
- Verify when buying online. Check for the harvest date, and always buy from the most recent harvest. Ask before you complete your purchase.
Since hearing the news I visited Whole Foods and found a good quality olive oil named Columela, an extra virgin cold-pressed oil. Unbeknownst to me it the highest rated extra virgin olive oil by Cooks Illustrated, a service that rates many food items and appliances. Look in your cabinet and see what you are using. If it is one of the above companies I suggest you take it back to your store and buy something with the suggestions above. Your health depends on it.