Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil: A Consumer's Guide

Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil: A Consumer's Guide

When it comes to extra virgin olive oil, authenticity has become an increasing concern, as unfortunately the industry has faced challenges related to fraud. The high demand for extra virgin olive oil, coupled with its premium pricing, creates economic incentives for fraudulent practices. 

In this article, we will explore various deceptive activities that contribute to the production and sale of counterfeit or substandard extra virgin olive oil, as well as provide guidelines on how to validate the authenticity of your purchase.  

Fraudulent Practices

  • Adulteration: The dilution of genuine extra virgin olive oil with lower-quality oils, often less expensive refined oils such as sunflower oil. This deceptive practice aims to increase volume and reduce production costs, leading to a product with compromised quality.
  • False Origin Claims: Misrepresenting the country of origin to command higher prices and benefit from the reputation associated with a specific region. This practice involves harvesting the olives from one country but bottling the oil in another, leading to false claims about the olive oil's true origin.
  • Blending: This involves combining olive oils from different regions. Blending olive oils from reputable regions with those from non-reputable regions can impact the overall quality of the final product. Different regions have unique soil compositions, climate conditions, and olive varieties that contribute to the distinctive flavours and aromas of their olive oils. Combining oils from various regions may result in a product that lacks the specific regional identity and terroir associated with high-quality olive oils.
  • Mislabeling: Labelling low-grade olive oils that do not meet the necessary quality standards as “extra virgin”. In the olive oil industry, extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality grade and must meet specific criteria in order to be classified as such. Genuine extra virgin olive oil is extracted through mechanical means without the use of heat or chemicals and exhibits a distinct flavour profile, with an acidity level of no more than 0.8% and a higher nutritional value. Low-grade olive oils on the other hand do not adhere to these quality benchmarks. 
  • Misleading Terms: Using terms that are unregulated, such as "pure" or "light" that do not convey any meaningful information to the consumer about the quality of the product. The term "pure" might give the impression of high quality, but in the olive oil industry, it actually denotes a lower grade. It often refers to a blend of refined and virgin olive oils, lacking the robust flavour and health benefits associated with extra virgin olive oil. The term "light" can be misunderstood as indicating lower calorie or fat content. However, it usually denotes a milder flavour achieved through blending with refined oils.

Tips to help you ensure the authenticity of your purchase:

1. Certifications: Look for products that carry certifications from recognised organisations. One such certification that provides assurance to consumers regarding the product's origin, quality, and adherence to specific regional practices, is Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in Europe. It proves the olives used in the production come from a specific geographical region and indicates the product meets specific quality standards. This includes factors such as cultivation methods and production processes. Regulatory protection helps prevent imitation or mislabeling of the product.

Our extra virgin olive oil holds the PGI Laconia certificate - all harvested, pressed and packaged in Laconia, Southern Greece. 

2. Read the Label Carefully: Examine the label for information on the country of origin, the variety of olives used, and the producer. Legitimate extra virgin olive oils often provide transparent information about the product's origins. You can also check for information related to various quality indexes that provide insights into the characteristics and quality of the olive oil and determine its compliance with industry standards, such as the acidity level often displayed as a percentage.

3. Understand the Tasting Notes: Familiarise yourself with the sensory characteristics of high-quality extra virgin olive oil, including taste and aroma. Look for terms like "fruity", "peppery" or "grassy". Authentic extra virgin olive oil should have a distinctive flavour profile. 

4. Price Consideration: Extra virgin olive oil production involves significant costs, and excessively low prices may be an indication of substandard quality. If the price seems too good to be true, it might be an indication that the product is not genuine.

5. Avoid Clear Bottles: Extra virgin olive oil is sensitive to light and can degrade when exposed to it. High-quality olive oils are often stored in dark bottles, such as tins or dark green glass bottles, to protect them from light damage.

6. Awards: Although not the sole factor in assessing quality, awards can be a positive indication in determining the authenticity of extra virgin olive oil. Particularly from reputable and well-established competitions within the industry, such as New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC) or the London International Olive Oil Competition (LIOOC) - both of which we have been honoured to win. 

The consequences of these fraudulent practices are far-reaching and undermine the reputation of legitimate producers. Efforts to address olive oil fraud are crucial for preserving the integrity of the industry as a whole. 

Educating consumers about how to identify high-quality olive oil, read labels, and recognise reputable brands is a key component. By choosing olive oils with reputable certifications and supporting ethical producers, consumers encourage industry-wide adherence to quality standards.

Addressing olive oil fraud requires a collaborative effort that involves not only consumers but also the active participation of producers, regulatory bodies, and advocacy groups. A collective demand for authentic products serves as a powerful force in encouraging ethical practices and maintaining the integrity of the olive oil industry. 

Back to blog