Counterfeiting extra virgin olive oil is one of the most profitable scams in the global gastronomic scene. Especially oil of Italian origin is imitated on a global scale, and in some cases, it is done in a completely illegal way, blending, refining and passing it off as a different product from what it really represents.
In order to be scientifically certain that it is a counterfeit extra virgin, it is obviously necessary to resort to laboratory tests carried out by the relevant inspection bodies.
However, the consumer can proceed independently with an investigation of smell, color, appearance, labeling and price. These parameters should be carefully checked by being able to deduce important information about the quality of the oil purchased.
Before proceeding to the observation of the oil, it is necessary to know well what the classic deceptions in this commodity area are, that unfortunately suffer greatly from the negative effects derived from the falsification operated by some unscrupulous companies. Fortunately, the excellence of Italian extra virgin oil cannot be artificially reproduced without arousing suspicion. It should be remembered that in order to be defined as extra virgin, an oil must be produced by mechanical processing and cannot have an acidity of more than 0.8%. Virgin oil on the other hand, can reach 2% acidity.
COUNTERFEIT EXTRA VIRGIN: THE MOST COMMON SOPHISTICATIONS
Among the most widespread sophistications is the practice of mixing several types of oil together, obtaining a final product that only looks similar to extra virgin but does not have the same qualities.
In some cases, the most incorrect companies sell seed oil with chlorophyll and beta-carotene added, substances that are in any case not harmful to health. So-called lampante oil, that is an oil that serves as fuel, however, cannot be used for food. It is sometimes deacidified, decolorized and deodorized and then mixed with a little olive oil and sold on supermarket shelves.
The other inedible oil is pomace oil, which is the olive-processing residue which is marketed as cooking oil, is rectified by adding chemicals and mixing it with extra virgin. Here are some useful tips for recognizing a counterfeit table oil.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE A COUNTERFEIT EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
- Poorly detailed label
To be sure that you have purchased a high-quality product, you can get a lot of information by reading the label directly. The PDO mark for example stands for protected designation of origin. If such wording is present, it means that the oil is of certain provenance. Then there are other local symbology’s inserted by consortia of producers and distributors. There may be other descriptions on the label concerning the organic production method, the origin of the raw material, the olive pressing technique, the use of particular cultivars, and the region where it is produced and bottled. The other indicator of quality is the shelf life since the extra virgin maintains its properties for a long time: about 18 months after packaging.
- Price too cheap
Who wouldn’t want to save money on their weekly grocery shopping? On supermarket shelves it is perfectly normal to look for the most affordable items, but when it comes to oil one must be very careful because an excessively advantageous ratio between the amount of oil in the package and the cost of the product could open more than legitimate questions. Suffice it to say that 1 liter of extra virgin olive oil costs an average of more than €3, without taking into account labeling, vat, bottling, merchant’s mark-up and all other incidental expenses. The target price for a good product is at least 8€ per liter.
- Color, fragrance and flavor
The color of extra virgin olive oil is very intense. It ranges from golden yellow to emerald green, typical of central Italian regions such as Tuscany and Lazio with its oil from Canino where local productions are extremely appreciated all over the world. Non-extra virgin oil has a much softer and lighter coloration. Obviously, the use of chemical dyes could mislead and to be sure that it is not a counterfeit oil one must cross-reference the information with other parameters being insufficient to check only the color. On the other hand, as far as scent is concerned, the aroma emanating from a good extra virgin oil is unmistakable and even the least trained noses can grasp its peculiarities. The last indicator of quality is the strong, savory, intense flavor.
Alternatively, here is how to recognize a quality extra virgin oil!