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The Great Olive Oil Rip-Off!

The Great Olive Oil Rip-Off
The Great Olive Oil Rip-Off
Chef Larry Edwards/Casa de Cuisine

In July of 2010, the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at the University of California in Davis, released their findings in a scathing report on the truth about imported "extra virgin" olive oil. Their final conclusion was: "Tests indicate that imported 'extra virgin' olive oil often fails international and USDA standards." The full report from the University of California can be found here.

What does this mean to the consumer, meaning you and I? Bluntly, it means you and I have been getting ripped-off each and every time we shell over our hard-earned money for what we think is extra virgin olive oil. The importers of these so-called "extra virgin" olive oils have basically ignored the scientific findings that their product is fraudulent but now their is a law suit pending and they will soon have to answer many questions.

A group of chef's and restaurant owners have started a class-action law suit against ten of the major olive oil brands: Bertolli, Flippo Berio, Carapelli, Star, Colavita, Mezzetta, Pompeian, Rachael Ray, Mazolla and, Safeway Select. Also included in this class-action law suit are ten supermarket chains and several big box retailers.

This class-action law suit centers on the obvious fraudulent actions of the olive oil producers, including mis-labeling the product for the purpose of marking the prices up. "The results of the tests were shocking,” the lawsuit states. “Sensory tests showed that these failed samples had defective flavors such as rancid, fusty and musty.”

According to Daniel J. Callahan of Callahan & Blaine in Santa Ana, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, “The Defendants, olive oil manufacturers, distributors and retailers who sell their product in the State of California, have been knowingly misleading and defrauding California consumers for years. Defendants have been claiming the olive oil they sell meets the high standard of the extra virgin classification, thus entitling Defendants to charge a hefty premium for the product, when in fact the product does not meet that standard and is of inferior quality often adulterated with cheaper refined oils such as hazelnut oil or lesser olive oils.”

Though this class-action law suit is centered in California, the fact-of-the-matter is, the "extra virgin" olive oil on all American supermarket and specialty store shelves is about as "extra virgin" as Madonna (the singer,not the holy Mother).

It should be pointed out that these fraudulent actions have actually been happening for quite some time, which is the reason the University of California at Davis undertook this extensive study. In fairness, it should also be noted that these studies were financed, in part, by the California Olive Oil Council, the American Oil Chemist Society and the Australian Olive Oil Association.

**Information for this article was culled from the University of California, Davis; the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science; The Olive Oil Times **

The new cookbook from Chef Larry Edwards is now available from and bookstores worldwide. One of the most anticipated cookbooks of the year, "Edwardian Cooking: Inspired by Downton Abbey's Elegant Meals."

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