Fresh Air | Losing 'Virginity': Olive Oil's 'Scandalous' Fraud


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Extra-virgin olive oil is a ubiquitous ingredient in Italian recipes, religious rituals and beauty products. But many of the bottles labeled "extra-virgin olive oil" on supermarket shelves have been adulterated and shouldn't be classified as extra-virgin, says New Yorker contributor Tom Mueller.

Mueller's new book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, chronicles how resellers have added lower-priced, lower-grade oils and artificial coloring to extra-virgin olive oil, before passing the new adulterated substance along the supply chain. (One olive oil producer told Mueller that 50 percent of the olive oil sold in the United States is, in some ways, adulterated.)

The term "extra-virgin olive oil" means the olive oil has been made from crushed olives and is not refined in any way by chemical solvents or high heat. [continue]

Tags: Fresh Air, NPR, eating, food, olive oil, radio, staples

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Replies to This Discussion

This book was reviewed on Kindle and I was thinking about buying it.  If it's on audible I will.  

From the title I was thinking, who did it, Bluto or Popeye?  Or maybe it was Wimpy - never trusted him!

Haha, too funny.

Cool -- I'll have to read about that -- I use olive oil for my oil in almost everything. I also use virgin coconut oil too.

I do not fry foods either.

I generally do not fry foods at all, but use oil in salad dressings.  Most X-virgin olive has an unpleasant aftertaste to me.  Can you recommend a brand to try?

Joan, I've always used Pompeian or Bertolli, and have liked those. But I can't speak as to whether or not they are "authentic," as this book implies many are not.

For general cooking I used the big bottles of olive oil from costco. I use that for pie crust, bread, and frying my morning egg.  For olive oil on pasta or bread or salad, I usually get a high end varietal. They have those at some of the local stores.  I would hope that if they are adulterated they would not taste so good.  Better get that book and read it!

and frying my morning egg


If you do this and it tastes good, then it's not real olive oil. Olive oil and eggs produce a distinct metallic taste, like you're sucking on keys. If making Ceasar dressing, you can partially eliminate this by par-cooking the eggs, like when you're making a hollendaise sauce.

Dallas, I didn't know these things!  Tasting like sucking on keys is exactly what I experience.  However, I experience the taste with vinegar and oil salad dressings.  I realize olive oil is healthy and my poor old heart needs tender loving care, so I would like to try some recommended brands.  Thanks!

Well, oil and vinegar isn't really blended, right, unlike an emulsified dressing or even a vinaigrette, which also has other flavors as well as sugar, too. So you tend to get more direct flavors there. That's not my favorite, personally.


I'll take field greens and add Pompeian EVOO, a pinch of salt, and shredded parmesan and a few tomatoes. It's great, imo.


My problem with most store-bought vinaigrettes is that they are too acidic -- too much vinegar and not enough oil.


When I made vinaigrettes for a restaurant I used to work at, I always made sure they had more oil than vinegar, lots of herbs, shallots, and a touch of sugar. I made some damn good vinaigrettes, if I do say so myself.

Dallas, I don't like store-bought vinaigrettes either, preferring a good oil and  excellent vinegar, and use as you describe.  I put Pompeian OVOO on my shopping list and will let you know how it is for me.  Also agreed about the ratio of oil to vinegar. 

Of course, personal taste varies from person to person. But I've always used Pompeian and think it is by far the best I've had, hands down.


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