You May Not Be Getting the High Quality Olive Oil You’re Paying For—Here’s Why

Don’t let the labels fool you—that "pure extra virgin olive oil" may not be the top-shelf stuff you thought you were buying.

Listen up, olive oil users! Nutritionists have touted this heart-healthy superfood for ages. And given all of its supposed health benefits—not to mention the amazing things it does for our skin and hair—olive oil is basically the healthiest food you can eat. But that doesn’t mean the high quality extra virgin olive oil you just top dollar paid for is actually in the bottle.

Don’t worry—olive oil is still good for you (and here’s why!). But labels on extra virgin olive oil don’t always tell the whole truth.

After testing name-brand products packaged as “extra virgin olive oil,” a 2012 study by the University of California found that nearly 70 percent of the extra virgin olive oil sold in the U.S. is not up to snuff. Although almost all of the brands passed the USDA chemical standards, over half of them failed the sensory requirements.

The term “extra virgin” refers to the process by which the oil is manufactured. Among the four possible grades of olive oil, virgin oil earns the highest grade because it tastes and smells better. However, researchers at the University of California noted that several of the tested brands had flavors and aromas that were rancid or musty. They even classified some of them as lamp oil, which is considered unfit for human consumption by the USDA.

You're-Probably-Buying-Fake-Olive-Oil. Here-Are-the-Telltale-Signs.Eduardo Lopez/shutterstock

“Results of this study make it very clear that efforts to control the quality of extra virgin olive oils served in restaurants and other food-service operations will likely fail if they are based only on the most commonly used chemical analyses,” said Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center and a co-author of the study.

To avoid lesser quality oils, check the bottle’s label before you buy. Some non-extra virgin olive oils tested in the study were actually olive oil mixed with refined canola oil.

According to the study’s findings, it would be smart to avoid extra virgin olive oil packaged or sold by Newman’s Own, Whole Foods, Safeway, and Star, as they were found in tests to be not 100 percent pure. However, you can trust that olive oil from Kirkland Organic, Lucini, California Olive Ranch, Lucero, and Cobram Estate are top notch.

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