It’s an essential ingredient in many kitchens around Australia and the world. But ensuring you’re getting what you pay for when you pick up a bottle of extra virgin olive oil isn’t as easy as you’d think.

Imported ‘fake’ oils in Australian supermarkets

In the first half of 2016, the Australian Olive Association commissioned an investigation into imported Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Australia. The research tested 27 different ‘extra virgin’ olive oils sold around Australia in major supermarkets. Their results showed that 85% of the oils tested failed to meet the Australian Standard, while 78% failed to meet the International Olive Council Standard. In most cases, the oils tested contained refined oil or seed oil, were made with low grade fruit, or were rancid.

What is ‘extra virgin’ olive oil?

The term ‘extra virgin’ is used to describe olive oils that are produced without the use of chemicals, from the highest quality olives, and isn’t adulterated or refined in any way. This ensures both the flavour of the product and its health benefits are preserved. And because of the way these oils are produced and the care taken in the process, Extra Virgin Olive Oils attract a premium price.

In 2011, the Australia Olive Association worked with the federal government and grower groups to introduce Australian standard for olive oil (Australian Standard 5264). This standard specifies that for an olive oil to be labelled ‘extra virgin’, it must be pure, unadulterated olive juice made from fruit pressed within 24 hours of picking. As it is a voluntary standard, however, consumers are still being duped into buying inferior products.

Global industry facing challenges

This isn’t just an issue faced in Australia. It’s increasingly an issue across the world. In 2016, a recent US 60 Minutes report revealed that up to 80% of Extra Virgin Olive Oil sold in the Unites States didn’t meet legal grades. The oils that failed were adulterated with cheap sunflower or canola oil, or didn’t even have a drop of olive oil in them. In November 2015, producers in Italy were investigated after being accused of selling off cheap oil under ‘extra virgin’ labelling. Not only does this mean consumers are getting ripped off, it also makes it difficult for producers of premium olive oils to compete. Interior olive oils labelled as ‘extra virgin’ drive prices down, forcing some producers to shut operations.

Where there’s a will…

For consumers and producers, transparency is the key to ensuring the quality and authenticity of food. Industry and grower groups locally and abroad continue working towards tighter standards, and anti-fraud measures are becoming more common. Find out how Oziris can provide producers with the ability to safeguard against food fraud and gives consumers the ability to trace their food back to the source of its ingredients.

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Sources:
http://www.smh.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/imported-extra-virgin-olive-oil-increasingly-failing-quality-tests-20160504-golr7y.html
http://www.australianolives.com.au/article-detail/australian-standards
http://www.australianolives.com.au/assets/files/pdfs/aoa-forms/TV-ADVERT/8_Consumer_Detriment_Report_-_Olive_Oil__October_2012_.pdf