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Friday, March 1, 2024

Is your olive oil really extra virgin?

In a study released on April 12 by the UC Davis Olive Center, researchers found that most olive oil imported to the U.S. was not meeting all the requirements when it came to determining whether the olive oil was “extra virgin” or not.

The results of this study come at a time when Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) introduced Senate Bill 818, which would make stricter standards for extra virgin olive oil.

“It is time that we tighten our standards to prevent mislabeled olive oil from being sold to unsuspecting consumers,” said Wolk in a press release.

“This study further confirms that California’s olive oil industry can compete and thrive in a fair marketplace. A level playing field will protect consumers while rewarding producers who meet or exceed high standards,” Wolk said.

In the study conducted by the UC Davis Olive Center, researchers found that 73 percent of the popular brands of imported olive oil failed to meet the International Olive Council’s criteria for extra virgin olive oil.

“The study showed that the oils that failed were old, of poor quality, and/or adulterated with cheaper oils,” said Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center in a press release.

The reason extra virgin olive oil is so expensive is chiefly because it is of the highest grade of olive oil and has to meet various international and U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.

This study shows that American consumers are paying the higher price for mislabeled olive oil which in some cases is also not providing the health benefits of “extra virgin” olive oil.

This is the second study conducted within a year by the UC Davis Olive Center on the quality of extra virgin olive oil. In a similar study released in July 2010, researchers found that 69 percent of the samples they analyzed of imported olive oils that were labeled as extra virgin and sold in California supermarkets failed to meet the internationally-accepted standards to be called extra virgin olive oil.

“I think one major issue this study exposes is the fact that our food companies are not being truthful about the products they are selling us,” said Katie Daniels, senior English and sociology double-major. “Food is a big issue because it is what we fuel our bodies with, and it isn’t right that we can’t trust food companies to be truthful about what they are selling to consumers.”

Wolk now hopes to discuss issues on standards and labeling at a series of informational hearings of the senate subcommittee on Olive Oil Production and Emerging Products, of which she is the chair.

ANNABEL SANDHU can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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