Category Archives: Olive Oil News

Crusading for Better Olive Oil Standards

Here’s a fine little article from The Washing Post’s Lifestyle section about the crusade to improve olive oil categorizing. As major olive oil producers, we at Mamamiafoods can attest to how frustrating it is that garbage oils are being labeled as high quality oils and that consumers don’t know they’re being bamboozled. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the variety of acclaimed health benefits of olive oil, and there are SO MANY, are predicated on the substance actually being high quality olive oil and not some blend of oils or some cheap, over-exposed oils or whatnot.

Anywhere, here is an excerpt of the story. The story itself is just two pages and worth reading:

It has been about 30 years since many Americans began giving up their lard and Crisco for more-healthful extra-virgin oil. But that extra-virgin label has proved a poor guide to choosing the highest-quality oils. According to a recent study by the UC Davis Olive Center, 73 percent of the top five brands of imported extra-virgin olive oil failed to meet accepted international standards for extra-virgin. Moreover, a separate report revealed that 44 percent of consumers actually preferred rancid or fusty oil, a possible result of the prevalence of substandard extra-virgins available to American consumers.

Our high-quality olive oils meet or exceed THE HIGHEST testing standards and we have all the certifications to prove it.

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“Irreparable Damage”

The Australians have joined the fight against fraudulent labeling of olive oil:

The International Olive Council this week attacked research from the University of California’s Davis Olive Centre and the Australian Oils Research Laboratory which found 73 per cent of samples from the five top-selling imported extra-virgin olive oil brands in the US failed IOC standards for classification as extra virgin. The study also found oils were below par because of exposure to high temperatures and light; age; adulteration with cheaper refined oil; or because they were made from damaged and overripe olives, were improperly stored, or had processing flaws.

IOC executive director Jean-Louis Barjol said the research findings had an “undercurrent of aggressive, inexplicable criticism of imported olive oil quality”. “This could cause irreparable damage to the reputation of olive oil, which it has taken so much time and effort to achieve and maintain,” Mr Barjol said.

Australian Olive Association president Paul Miller said Mr Barjol’s remarks were a standard response from the IOC, which had accredited the two laboratories used in the study. “It’s hypocritical because last time they said this, not long afterwards the Spanish government did some testing and found the same problem in Spain,” Mr Miller said. “They just don’t like people finding things wrong.

“They say everything that’s made in Europe conforms (to the standards) and we know that’s not the case.” Mr Miller applauded the work by the University of California, which also failed samples from an Australian oil, Cobram Estate, because it had spent too long on the shelf. “It was old and that was the point of the test,” he said.The IOC is based in Madrid, Spain, and has 23 member states.

As well as Cobram Estate, the oils bought from California supermarkets and subjected to sensory and chemical testing for the study were: Filippo Berio, Bertolli, Pompeian, Colavita, Star, California Olive Ranch and the top-selling brand from Italy, Lucini.

It’s great that the backlash against fraud has finally been taken note of in the media. Those of us who produce authentic, high quality oils have been damaged for decades by unscrupulous produces of cheap, inferior, blended gunk. If anyone has been irreparably damaged, however, it’s the consumer, who purchases what he thinks is high quality extra-virgin olive oil, but instead of getting all the health benefits thereof, has instead been putting nut oils and other impurities into his body. Not only is he not enjoying better health, he might be poisoning himself over time, especially if he has but allergies! It’s disgraceful.

Olive oil is made from these:

These are olives.




Olive oil is not made from these:

These are not olives.

Fed Up With Phonies!

Are you using real extra-virgin olive oil? Studies say probably not!

Think that extra-virgin olive oil you’ve been buying is the high-quality real deal? Think again, people. The problem of phony oil persists, and it is a global issue. In Australia, The Weekly Times has busted a whole slew of deceitful vendors:

Extra virgin is the premium category of olive oil, but NSW government laboratory testing has found products made by Moro, Carbonell, Isabella, Bertolli and Paese Mio did not live up to the title. Testing by consumer group Choice found Italian brands Lupi, Bertolli, Bionature and Colavita as well as Spanish brands La Espanola, Always Fresh and Vetta had also incorrectly used the label. Coles discounted Moro, imported La Espanola and its Coles brand of extra virgin olive oil recently. Woolworths discounted Moro and Carbonell. The other brands continue to be sold in supermarkets except the Paese Mio, which Coles pulled following the NSW government laboratory findings.

As this blog has been explaining, the olive oil industry is rife with such fraud. It’s very difficult for non-Sicilian producers to compete with those of us who sell real extra-virgin olive oil. Simply put, our price points are lower because our costs are lower. We’ve been doing this since the dawn of civilization. In many places, consumers who are fed up with being sold bogus products and producers who are fed up with fraudulent labeling have been petitioning their governments to take action. California is one place where the legislature has responded:

The state Senate Health Committee took the first step in tightening standards for “extra virgin” olive oil by passing a bill from State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis. The label extra virgin olive oil is widely misused by imported olive oils, recent studies show. According to a news release, Wolk’s Senate Bill 818 passed on a 9-0 bipartisan vote. “We can’t allow our state to be a dumping ground for bad imported oil sold to unsuspecting consumers at premium prices,” Wolk said in the release. “Standards are not only critical to farmers and producers who compete with foreign imports, but more importantly to consumers.”

In California, this is the percentage of imported olive oil which FAILED laboratory tests to determine if they were labeled properly!

In fact, a 2010 report by UC Davis that analyzed olive oil sold at retail in three California regions found that 69 percent of the imported samples did not meet international and U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for “extra virgin” olive oil. “The study showed that the oils that failed were old, of poor quality, and/or adulterated with cheaper oils,” said Dan Flynn, executive director of the UCD Olive Center, who testified at the hearing.

Read that again: “69 percent of the imported samples did not meet international and U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for “extra virgin” olive oil.” If you want real extra-virgin olive oil, tell your grocer to import the high quality 100% Italian Mamamiafoods products. Why pay more for a phony product when you can pay less and get the real thing?

China Imports BOOMING!

The International Olive Council released figures today showing olive oil imports into China increased by 60 percent for the 2009/2010 season for a total of 20,565 tons, 89 percent of it coming from Europe. Spain was the main supplier (42 percent), followed by Italy (39 percent), Greece (7 percent) and Portugal (1 percent). Other exporters to China were Syria (4 percent), Australia (3 percent) and Turkey (2 percent).

Extra virgin olive oil accounted for 76 percent of China’s import volume in the period, followed by refined olive oil and olive pomace oil with equal 12% shares.

Russia imported nearly 25,000 tons of olive oil in 2009/10, for an increase of 50 percent on the previous season. 93 percent of imports were from EU countries, the principal suppliers being Spain (62 percent), Italy (25 percent) and Greece (6 percent). The shares of Tunisia and Turkey were 4% and 3%, respectively. The breakdown by product category for 2009/10 shows shares of 62 percent for extra virgin, 28 percent for refined and 10 percent for olive pomace oil.

India only imported 3,374 tons of olive oil, for an increase of 26 percent. Most (60 percent) was supplied by Spain with 34 percent from Italy. Turkey accounted for 5 percent of India’s imports. Extra virgin accounted for only 19 percent; the remaining 81 percent was refined olive oil.

Over the first three cumulative months of the season (October – December) olive oil imports rose 20 percent in Australia and 11 percent into the United States. In Japan imports dropped 7 percent from the same period a year ago.

Olive oil prices dropped 8 percent in Spain compared with the previous year to €2.01/kg, and 4 percent in Greece (€1.95/kg) while in Italy they moved in the opposite direction, going up by 14 percent to €3.07/kg. Recent weeks have seen a steep rise in prices in Italy confirming, the IOC said, the growing distance between the prices paid to producers in Italy and those paid in Spain and Greece.

Spanish Pomace-Olive Oil Industry in Trouble!

Is your olive oil blended with pomace oil (Yuck!)? Or are you using the real thing, produced in Sicily?

As a result of plunging olive oil prices growers in Spain are gearing up for protests which could disrupt one of the country’s most import farm production sectors. The leading Spanish farm COAG union estimated that average farm-gate prices last month were €1.85 per kilo, compared to costs of €2.49 last year and that Spain’s olive farmers have accrued losses of €1.9 billion in the past three seasons. Their solution? They want the government to purchase and store large quantities of olive oil until prices pick up. Further complicating the problem, Spain’s Small Farmers’ Union (UPA) has called for a food marker on olive pomace oil in order to prevent fraud. The union is worried that some producers might mix olive oil with pomace oil in order to make up for the fall in prices of virgin olive oil.

UPA Andalusia Regional Secretary Agustín Rodríguez said while the practice is banned in Spain, some packers may be tempted to mix the oils in order to “minimize the continuing losses in a market in which generic brands are eating away at brand olive oil”. He said the “scandalously” low price of olive oil makes it difficult to compete and there is a risk of an increase in practices that go against the quality of the product.

Well there’s a surprise! (Not.) Newsflash: most of them already do, which is one reason for the ever-continuing downward pressure on price. Producer A blends his oil to undercut the competition, so Producers B, C, D follow suit in order to stay competitive. Soon the entire Spanish market is blended gunk, producers are selling at a loss, and everyone is begging for a handout from the European Union during a global “recession.”

The truth is that if someone wants real olive oil, he wants Sicilian olive oil. 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil made from first-pressed, old-stone-pressed Sicilian olives picked no more than 12 hours prior to this extraction. That’s what we produce and sell at Mamamiafoods. We’ve been doing precisely this for hundreds of years — we have olive trees in our groves which have been producing the highest quality olives for 800 years! It’s hard to compete with Sicily in olive oil production without cheating (blending) as you can see from this news. Have you had your dose of healthy Sicilian olive oil today?

Trouble in Turkey

What is going on in Turkey?

A staggering decline in Turkey’s olive oil exports has lead to a battle between the Aegean Olive and Olive Oil Exporters’ Union and the National Olive and Olive Oil Council (UZZK). The union’s board levied this charge at UZZK Chairman Mustafa Tan in a press release: “The branded olive oil export between Nov. 1 and Feb. 28 was 4,475 tons. The figures were 7,377 tons in the same period last year. Apparently the branded olive oil export is slashed at 40 percent, and our board finds UZZK Chairman Mustafa Tan’s declaration concerning the export figures groundless.”

To get an idea of how bad the situation appears to be, Turkey exported a total of 92,228 tons of olive oil in the 2004-2005 season but only exported 23,199 tons by the end of 2009-2010 season or about a 70% decline! Staggering, indeed, if these numbers are correct. More on this story here.

Olive oil study shows some consumers like it rancid

The University of California at Davis presented the results of a study to compare consumer preferences of olive oil and unearthed some interesting findings:

Most Northern California consumers dislike bitter and pungent olive oils — qualities favored by expert olive oil tasters — and many actually prefer olive oil that displays defective attributes such as rancidity, according to a new study from the Olive Center at the University of California, Davis.

Findings from the study, conducted by UC Davis sensory scientists Claudia Delgado and Jean-Xavier Guinard, will appear in the March issue of the journal Food Quality and Preference. The paper is available online at the journal’s website at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6T6T-51CJ38F-2/2/ba59382662ed372efb8cdcd86ed28833.

“This is the first study to compare consumer preferences of olive oil with expert ratings of the oil quality,” said Delgado, a UC Davis postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Plant Sciences.

Guinard, a professor in UC Davis’ Department of Food Science and Technology, said: “Olfactory preferences are learned, based on exposure. So we suspect that the consumers who liked the defective oils’ qualities were accustomed to those flavors because many of the imported oils they consume are rancid to begin with.”

A recent UC Davis Olive Center study showed that 69 percent of the oils marketed as “extra-virgin” in the United States actually did not meet the sensory or chemical criteria for extra-virgin olive oil. (The UC Davis Chemistry Analysis report of imported extra-virgin olive oils is available at the Olive Center website at: http://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/news-events/news-events.)

About the new study

The new study captured the preferences of 110 Northern California olive oil consumers and the reasons for those preferences. The study participants were asked to taste and rate 22 commercial olive oils that were labeled as extra virgin. Half of the oils in the study were imported, and half were from California.

The study found that 74 percent of the consumers did not like what the expert tasters identified as high-quality oil — those that were bitter, pungent and free of defects. Bitterness and pungency are two of the positive sensory attributes of high-quality olive oil, as identified by International Olive Council standards.

The researchers note that, in the case of other food products such as specialty beers and coffees, bitterness is an attribute that consumers initially dislike but learn to accept. They suggest that consumers might find bitterness and pungency more acceptable when using olive oil with food and in cooking and by knowing that healthy antioxidants in the oil are the cause of bitterness and pungency.

Consumers participating in the study did like those olive oils that had the third desirable attribute of extra virgin olive oil, which is fruitiness. In order for an olive oil to be considered extra virgin, it must have some fruitiness and zero defects such as rancidity.

Surprisingly, 44 percent of the consumers liked the olive oils that had rancid flavors, even though this is an undesirable quality that would disqualify an olive oil from being considered extra virgin.

The study also found that 74 percent of the study participants said they use olive oil for its health benefits; other reasons included for use in a recipe, bread-dipping in restaurants, family tradition and flavor.

And, the study identified three distinct demographic clusters among the consumers, distinguished by olive oil flavor preferences and buying habits.

The authors note that most of the defective oils in the study were European imports and suggest that this bodes well for the California olive oil industry. They predict that as consumers learn about the many nutritional benefits and sensory qualities of extra-virgin olive oil, the California industry will be poised for exponential growth.

Support for this study came through Guinard’s laboratory from a variety of sources. None of the funders is associated with the California or international olive oil industries.