In an era marked by a population that often reads labels, it is somewhat surprising that even the most diligent readers are missing large chunks of information about the products they are purchasing.
A report by University of California-Davis found that oils labeled "extra virgin" may not guarantee a high quality or standardized product. Researchers used both sensory and chemical methods to discover the quality of retail olive oils, and the results were alarming. Nearly 70 percent of the imported "extra virgin" oils and a much smaller 10 percent of the domestic oil, sold in California were mislabeled. Many of these oils had chemical and physical properties similar to "virgin" olive oil.
Why does this matter? Because we’re not always getting what we pay for, and the flavor of our food is suffering. The report states, "Sensory tests showed that these failed samples had defective flavors such as rancid, fusty, and musty."
If you’re curious about an "extra virgin" olive oil used in your home, check out the UC-Davis Olive Center's report (PDF) for yourself, and happy cooking!
Photo by Fotolia/Oleg Zhukov