After the airing of "Agromafia" on 60 minutes earlier this month, which focuses primarily on the fraudulent olive oil being labeled extra virgin by the mafia, many people have contacted us regarding our olive oil and if we make sure it is the "real stuff." In the report, a journalist estimates that 75-80% of olive oil on supermarket shelves in the US may be fraudulently labeled. In these cases, extra virgin olive oil is either mixed with a seed oil or canola oil OR a lower grade oil is colored to look like olive oil and sold under some major brand names as extra virgin. Lower grades of fraud will show that olive oil is from Italy, when really it comes from various other countries or sources. This has been an issue for a long time, but recent media has been bringing more attention to it. I touch on it briefly in a previous post: Olive Oil: A Health Food.
One of the motivating factors for opening New Canaan Olive Oil was to provide a bit of education about olive oil and sell the highest quality olive oil available. Many similar stores share our mission, which is why it is so important to shop small and stay away from supermarket shelves when you are looking for a true high quality extra virgin olive oil. Here are the steps we take to ensure our olive oil is real and of the highest quality:
- We buy local. In the case of olive oil, local means California! The majority of our olive oils, extra virgin or flavor infused, are made by small producers in California. This means that they are certified by the California Olive Oil Council (COOC). The COOC regulates the industry by requiring a chemical analysis of the olive oil as well as a sensory (taste) test to ensure it meets the industry standards in order for it to be labeled "extra virgin."
- We buy from small producers. Smaller, family-run olive oil groves who ship their oil directly to consumers without a middleman ensures a quality and freshness that cannot be found on supermarket shelves. For example, our Greek Koroneiki Extra Virgin Olive Oil comes from Dianne Hinnaris of The Olive Table. Her family has been producing olive oil in Messenia, Greece for over a hundred years and quality is very important to them. Plus, she does provide us with a Certificate of Analysis showing that it is certified extra virgin.
- We search for the highest-scoring olive oils from each years' competitions. Producers that care enough to enter their oils into the competitions are not allowing their oil to be passed off to a third party to be tampered with before reaching their consumers. In the past, we have purchased olive oil from Peru, Australia and California based on their results in the New York and Los Angeles Olive Oil Competitions. In order to be awarded, the olive oils are scrutinized by top tasters from around the world. The winning oils are coveted by chefs and consumers who know the value of the highest quality extra virgin olive oils.
- We use reliable distributors. In some cases, we want an olive oil that we cannot import or buy directly so instead we have to go through a distributor. There are only a couple of distributors that we have chosen to work with due to their reliability and trustworthiness. These distributors buy directly from producers and all of the products go through the International Olive Oil Council sensory and chemical analysis.
- We buy from the most recent harvest. Fresh olive oil is the best olive oil! We want to make sure our customers are getting the freshest olive oil, so in the beginning of each year we receive the newly harvested oils from California and in the summer we receive the new oils from producers in the Southern hemisphere (Peru or Australia). As long as the olive oil is stored in a dark bottle, it should be opened within 2 years of bottling and used within 6 months of being opened.
It is so important to buy quality olive oil to benefit fully from all of its health benefits. We hope you stop by to taste our extra virgin olives oils and learn a little bit more about them next time you stop by the shop!