Olive oil is one of the the most counterfeited food products in the world. Chances are what is on store shelves labeled “Extra Virgin” is most likely not “Extra Virgin” and often not even pure olive oil.
University of California Davis Olive Center where they study such things, did a survey. They went to supermarkets around the state and randomly selected commercially available olive oils. Then brought them to the lab and tested them. Shockingly more than half failed the test for extra virginity and several proved to be adulterated with other oils, such as hazelnut, canola, etc. Here is the link to the report.
How can we protect ourselves from this fraud? Unfortunately there is not much the average person can do. A few suggestions might help:
Do not buy imported olive oil…. What? I thought imported was better, it says it comes from Italy, it must be good right? Well no. Most olive oil that supposedly comes from Italy actually comes from somewhere else and only passes through the country.
Buy California Olive Oil when you can. Olive oil is like any fresh product; it degrades over time. The older it is the worse it is. So buying from a local source will help insure freshness and that, above all, is what you want.
If you must buy imported oil, look for a harvest date on the bottle. If there is none, at least purchase a bottle that is green not clear. Light damages olive oil. Dark bottles help protect the oil.
If you have olive oil that has been sitting around in your kitchen for a while, dump it. It is probably rancid and nasty. If you are not sure, smell it. If it smells like pencil erasers it is bad.
Buy small bottles. What? The big bottle is cheaper what are you saying? Smaller bottles will be used up and then you will need to buy more. Big bottles sit around and get rancid. It is just not worth it. Unless you use a lot of olive oil.
If you can, purchase olive oil in a boutique store where you can taste it. These are becoming increasingly common. Many have online options. If you find something you like you can go back and buy it again online without having to make the trip.
Finally once you find something good, fresh and delicious; pour it on. Use good olive oil anywhere you would use other oils or fats, especially in place of saturated fats like butter. It is one of the most healthy fats there is. Fats should be consumed in moderation. But you need fat in your diet to live. So go for it.