Study: Imported extra virgin olive oil often mislabeled

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Study: Imported extra virgin olive oil often mislabeled

Postby Todd » Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:17 pm

Study: Imported extra virgin olive oil often mislabeled

By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY

Two university labs found that over 60% of olive oil tested labeled as 'extra virgin' was in fact cheaper, lower-quality olive oils.

The study, released today, was conducted by the University of California, Davis Olive Oil Chemistry Laboratory and the Australian Oils Research Laboratory. They collected 14 brands of imported olive oil and five California brands in March, and shipped 62 samples to an Australian lab for analysis.

"We didn't know what we would find," says Dan Flynn, director of the UC Davis Olive Center.

Sixty-nine percent of the imported oils and 10% of the California oils labeled as extra virgin did not meet the International Olive Council and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture taste, smell and chemical standards for extra virgin olive oil. The oils were purchased in San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles.

Those standards require that extra virgin olive oil have no 'defects.' Virgin olive oil can have up to 3.5 defective flavors, such as tasting rancid, fusty or moldy. Follow-up chemical tests confirmed the findings in 86% of cases, the report found.

Robert Bauer, president of the North American Olive Oil Association, which represents importers, doesn't believe the results are a true representation of the quality of extra virgin olive oil sold in the United States.

"We're sampling over 200 oils a year, doing chemical analysis, and we're finding that less than 10% have any problems," he says. And those that do are very small brands, making up less than 1% of the market.

Taste and smell testing can be subjective "so you always have to use a lot of care," to insure that there is no bias, he says. While most Americans can't tell the difference between extra virgin and virgin olive oil, marketers can. "And their whole business depends on producing a quality product and they do all organoleptic (taste and smell) testing," he says.

Currently there are no legal standards in the USA for labeling olive oil, beyond that it must be 100% olive oil. In October the USDA will institute voluntary standards, which marketers can chose to use. These require that oil labeled "U.S. Extra Virgin Olive Oil" have "excellent flavor and odor (median of defects equal to zero and median of fruitiness greater than zero) and a free fatty acid content, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams," according to the new guidelines.

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industrie ... 5_ST_N.htm
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