Olive Oil Busters: Episode 1 — Emma Olive Oil

For the first episode of Olive Oil Busters, I wrote a thread on Twitter documenting Emma’s conflict with the Canada Food Inspection Agency. I talked about what to watch out for as a consumer of extra virgin olive oil in general.

I’ve finally had some time to review that thread, which got quite a bit of engagement. In this first Olive Oil Busters blog post, I’ll review that initial Twitter thread.

Olive Oil Busters” will document everything from the chemical composition of supermarket olive oils to misleading label and marketing tactics. Typical “olive oil” companies go to great lengths to convince buyers to purchase their lower grade foodstuff because consumers don’t really know what they’re buying and the the margins on mixed sunflower and canola seed blends are still very high.

I’ve recently purchased an olive oil acidity testing kit from Hanna Instruments, so I’ll be running common store brands through the ringer and reporting my findings here, as well as commenting on how they package and label their product. For now, let’s talk about Emma.

Cold Extracted vs First Cold Pressed

Are the best olive oils cold extracted, or are they first cold pressed? There is a lot of controversy surrounding this question. Some claim that the difference is merely a difference in marketing terminology, but it is worthwhile to point out that the IOOC (International Olive Oil Council), based in Spain, requires that all olive oils bottled and exported from Europe which are sold as extra virgin olive oil must clearly state on their labels that they are ‘first cold pressed’.

Olive oil that is ‘first cold pressed’ is pressed one time. The juices are extracted by mechanical means, without the use of heat or chemical solvents. If you’ve ever made apple juice, you’ll know what I’m talking about. There’s nothing scary about making olive oil. It’s basically the same process. Nevertheless, olive oils which are lower in quality, pressed more than once, or which were extracted from pomace are often labeled “first pressed”, “cold pressed” or “cold extracted” in order to skirt the label requirement while taking advantage of the benefits of what it means to be “extra virgin”.

On a somewhat related note, I’m aware of at least one company called “BC Tomatoes” that sells tomatoes from California to residents of British Columbia, Canada. What does BC stand for? Apparently, they are just two conveniently arranged letters that have nothing to do with this great province.

Why do these companies not follow the international standards? In Canada, there are penalties for diluting and mislabeling extra virgin olive oil. Perhaps these penalties are not severe enough?

The addition of vegetable oil(s) or of olive pomace oil to a product being represented as olive oil, is not permitted. This is considered adulteration and a fraudulent practice that violates the regulations and subsection 5 (1) of the Act which prohibits false or misleading statements or claims about a food.

In addition to meeting the requirements of Section B.09.003 of the FDR, products being represented or sold as Virgin or Extra Virgin Olive oil are expected to meet the standards and definitions of the International Olive Oil Council. These standards require, among other things, oils to be cold pressed products that do not contain any refined olive oil, and make a distinction between “virgin” and “extra virgin” olive oils based on free fatty acid content.

Failure to comply with the above requirements in respect to the importation, distribution, or sale of olive oil will be considered a potential violation of subsection 5(1) of the Food and Drugs Act. Violations are subject to enforcement action under the Act, up to and including prosecution. Penalties are provided under the Act of up to $50,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months on summary conviction or $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years for conviction on indictment.

I for one know that I want nothing to do with such penalties. At Selo Oils, we produce only the finest hand-picked, first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil you can find in all of Croatia.

“Packed In Italy”

Italy has long been the country chiefly associated with extra virgin olive oil. Italy, after all, is home to the former Roman Empire, and more importantly, spaghetti. For thousands of years, Romans drank, bathed in and lit their homes with this heavenly substance. The Ancient Greeks themselves dedicated entire passages to this God-like oil in their epics, the Iliad included.

The truth is that most olive oil is not actually from Italy. Though it may be bottled there! There is certainly nothing wrong with Greek, Spanish or even Tunisian olive oil. In fact, some of the best in the world, some far superior even to Italian olive oils, do actually hail from those regions. But if a company is willing to mislead you about this one particular detail, how much else are they willing to say? Just last year, the Canada Food Inspection Agency dumped 27,000 liters of Emma brand olive oil. 50% of the entire batch was sunflower seed oil!

What is the point of selling $10/L sunflower seed oil on sale at Costco? The point is to price out real olive oil producers such as me! It is impossible to sell my goods wholesale to supermarkets. I’ve run all the numbers. I’ve called around. You just can’t do it. The only way you can get my family’s authentic Croatian extra virgin olive is to buy it directly from the source.

If you LOVE real extra virgin olive oil as much as I do, consider purchasing some of my own hand-picked, first cold pressed, extra virgin liquid gold, direct from my family farm in Croatia.

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