5 expert tips for buying olive oil

January 11, 2016

Recent stories about "fake" olive oil have made consumers nervous. How can you know that you are buying authentic, healthy olive oil? 

The good news is that reports about olive oil fraud are overblown. Many articles on the internet cite studies and lists of "fake" olive oils. In fact, the studies cited did not determine that the oils were fake, instead the tasters had the opinion that the oils were not worthy of the label "extra virgin" due to factors such as color, aroma, and flavor. We test the oils with chemical laboratory tests and have found that olive oils sold in the United States are indeed 100% olive oil and consumers need not worry about adulteration, purity or safety of their olive oils.

Avoid "fake" olive oil.

How to buy olive oil

  1. Know your olive oil grades.  Olive oil is labeled as Extra Virgin, Virgin, or Olive Oil (sometimes "Classic" "Pure" or "Light-Tasting"). All olive oils have the same number of calories and all have heart-healthy benefits. Extra virgin or virgin olive oils offer additional health benefits because they retain an abundance of vitamins and polyphenols that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
  2. Look for a best-by date. The best-by date should be as far out as possible, though with proper handling olive oil can keep in a sealed container for about two years.
  3. Purchase bottles sizes that you will use within a few months of opening. Olive oil degrades when exposed to heat, oxygen and light.  The volatile flavor compounds in extra virgin olive oil will dissipate if stored improperly or for too long. Use the oil within a reasonable time of opening for best results.  
  4. Note the country of origin. This is required by federal labeling laws and is typically found on the back label near the nutritional information and ingredient statement. Oils from different countries are often blended in order to produce a consistent and/or specific flavor profile, so don’t be alarmed if more than one country is listed here.
  5. Look for quality assurance seals. The bottle may carry an origin seal that indicates the region of origin, USDA Quality Monitored Seal, or the NAOOA Quality Seal. The NAOOA Quality Seal is a guarantee of authenticity  and quality that is backed up with sensory testing AND off-the-shelf laboratory testing at least twice a year.

When you get the oil home, smell it and taste it. Experts use their senses of taste and smell to determine olive oil quality. You can taste olive oil at home to detect if your oil has degraded or has other issues with quality.  Learn how to taste olive oil in the video below.

5 olive oil buying misconceptions

  1. Color- The color of an olive oil is not relevant.   Color is not an indication of quality, although it can influence a taster’s perception. Professionals use blue-tinted glasses to remove any bias based on color.
  2. Fridge-test and lamp oil test - Some articles on the internet claim that you can test for olive oil authenticity by using the oil as a fuel source or by putting it in the refrigerator. Neither method works. 
  3. Clear, glass bottles - Dark bottles and tins are best for keeping out light, but olive oil is often sold in clear bottles so consumers can see what they are getting. A glass bottle is not a guarantee of quality.
  4. Only buy California olive oils - California makes wonderful olive oils and we support the idea of knowing your growers, but California does not produce enough olive oil to meet the demands of consumers. Quality, authentic olive oil comes from many countries including Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Morocco, Tunisia, Portugal, Turkey, Argentina and more!
  5. Only buy extra virgin olive oil - Extra virgin olive oil is the best, but other olive oils have their uses. Unlike common cooking oils such as vegetable oil, canola, corn and soybean which are solvent-extracted from kernels/seeds, ALL olive oils - including virgin, pure and light-tasting - are physically extracted without the use of solvents. With a milder flavor influence, they are handy for baking and recipes where other flavors should shine. They are often less expensive and have a higher smoke point for high temperature cooking. 

 Looking for a list of olive oils tested for purity and quality?  View NAOOA Certified Olive Oils

Posted in: Olive Oil Quality, Buying Olive Oil