Labeling of Olive Oil
One has to be very careful in selecting olive oil. High quality olive oil is that which is of the extra virgin variety. A label stating it to be ‘Extra Virgin’ does not imply that it is pure extra virgin olive oil. Sometimes, it may not even be olive oil at all, let alone extra virgin oil.
This is mainly because in USA, there are no laws against labeling an oil as extra virgin. Any oil can be called ‘extra virgin’ regardless of its quality. The chief criteria for labeling is that the oil should be cold pressed. However, countries that are members of the IOOC must conform to their standards, wherein the olive oil has to pass the chemical and sensory analysis to be labeled as ‘Extra virgin’.
Pure extra virgin olive oil making is an expensive and laborious process. Some importers and producers add a small quantity of extra virgin olive oil for its flavor to canola oil or other rectified oil (defective oil that is stripped of any fragrance, flavor and even nutritional elements).
The labels on olive oil bottles in stores are not too complicated, unlike IOOC ones. They grade an oil on its quality with one of the following categories:
– Extra Virgin olive oil: This is 100% pure and contains no refined oil. It is produced from the first pressing of olives and has a distinctly authentic flavor. Its acidity level is only up to 0.8%.
– Virgin olive oil: This variety also does not contain any traces of refined oil. It has a good flavor and an acidity level usually less than 2%.
– Olive oil: These varieties are usually a blend of refined as well as unrefined virgin oils. It has a subtle taste as opposed to the strong flavor of the virgin oils. The acidity is maximum 1%.
– Olive â€“ Pomace oil: This is usually a blend of some virgin oil and refined olive â€“ pomace oil. It is meant for human consumption but cannot be labeled as olive oil. Olive â€“ Pomace oil is used in specific types of cooking mainly in restaurants and is not found in grocery stores.
The dealers of olive oil select the label wordings with great care. When buying olive oil, you have to exercise caution and read between the lines:
– ‘Imported from Italy’ â€“ You may think that the olives were grown in Italy. However, Spain produces about half the world’s olives so most probably, the olives are from Spain. The term ”Imported from Italy’ actually means that the oil was bottled there.
– 100% Pure Olive Oil’ â€“ This gives an impression that the product is of very high quality. However, more often than not, it is of one of the lowest grades available. Look for the ‘virgin’ label instead.
– ‘Made from refined olive oils’ â€“ This implies the essence was captured. Actually, it just means that the acidity level and flavor were produced by chemical means.
– ‘Lite olive oil’ â€“ You may think that this oil has a low fat content, while the label is referring to the lighter color. All varieties of olive oil contain fat. One tablespoon of olive oil typically contains 120 calories.