Olive Oil—Take 2
The industry reacts to our critic's take on the quality and testing of what you buy.
My blog about “fake food” elicited some enthusiastic responses from the larger olive oil community. I had quoted sources that list many olive oils as not meeting labeled and testable virgin oil standards.
Ellie Reynolds of the Havas Formula PR company, which works for Deoleo, the parent company of Carapelli, Bertolli and Carbonell olive oils, pointed me to statistics published by the North American Olive Oil Association, which she says has reported that more than 98% of olive oil sold in the U.S. is authentic. Those resources can be found on the NAOOA’s website here.
Then, the NAOOA itself, in the form of Tom Mueller, the interim executive director, sent a more forceful letter, disputing several of my blog statements as “misleading and false.” He says that “this misinformation may have unfortunately caused many consumers to miss out on the advantages of using heart-healthy olive oil.” Which, of course, I did not say; I am a fan of good olive oil.
Mr. Mueller writes my statement that oils have been tampered with worldwide to enhance color “suggests that color indicates olive oil quality, which is false.” I hold by my statement. He says, in my response to quoting test results from Forbes magazine, that “ALL the oils tested passed ALL the objective chemical tests for extra virginity under both International Olive Council and USDA standards. The IOC has also spoken out on the inaccuracies in the conclusions of the testing and other issues with the NCL [National Consumers League] data and report.” About my quote from The New Yorker magazine that, in 1997 and 1998, olive oil was the most adulterated agricultural product in the European Union, he replied, “While we can’t speak to the quality or authenticity of olive oil sold in the EU retail market, it’s important to note that it does not reflect the quality and authenticity of the U.S. market.” True, but I never said it did; neither did The New Yorker.
Finally, he says, “it is important to point out that ALL varieties of Pompeian and Filippo Berio olive oils, as well as Colavita’s Premium Selection Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil, have the NAOOA Quality Seal.” I thank him for pointing that out.
There is no doubt, as I said in the previous blog, that deceptive practices in the international olive oil trade have proven to be real, and it is a very tricky slope that any reporting about these matters stands upon. My own research shows that there are verifiable statements to validate a great number of seemingly conflicting claims, which probably leads to more confusion on the part of the consumer. I thank the correspondents for their comments; the NAOOA website certainly has a lot of information, and, if you’re interested, I welcome you to make your own decisions.
- August 19 is the annual (renamed from Taste of the Nation) Taste! Central Florida, and an interesting Willie Wonka-ish sideline is the Golden Ticket promotion. A bunch of local restaurants have envelopes available (ask your server), some of which have a pair of complimentary tickets to the gala event (worth $150 each), to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank and Coalition for the Homeless. A list of the 22 participating restaurants, including Dragonfly Robata, Raglan Road The Ravenous Pig , Urbain 40 and Disney’s Yak & Yeti, can be found here.
- On August 21, I’ll be guest-judging at the finale of the third annual Epic Chef Showdown at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa. Benefiting Feeding Tampa Bay, the seven-week head-to-head put eight of the Tampa Bay area’s top restaurants in a mystery box competition. I’ll be joining the great Retro Rad diva, Emily Ellyn to choose from the winning chefs, and the whole thing can be watched live on Feeding Tampa Bay’s Facebook page beginning at 6:30 p.m.