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I am a New Zealand registered nurse and nutritionist (Grad Cert Sci: nutrition, Massey Univ). I am a Certified Zone Instructor, and have worked teaching Zone diet principles to hundreds of clients over the last 10 years. More recently after finding that eating Paleo food choices was the "icing on the cake" health wise, I have become a Paleo enthusiast and teacher. Follow me on twitter @juliannejtaylor

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Or is it? European supermarket oils are rancid and fail the EVOO test

New Zealand imports 2.6 million litres of olive oil per year from Europe. If you (like me) buy your Spanish or Italian branded extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) at the supermarket thinking you are buying a quality product, you might be surprised at the results of recent tests.

Fair Go – a New Zealand Consumer programme, decided to quality test EVOO oils from supermarkets in New Zealand following reports from studies in Australia and California that showed 80% and 69% respectively were not in fact EVOO quality. Report: Most Imported Extra Virgin Olive Oils Aren’t Extra Virgin . and Choice the people’s watchdog: Extra virgin olive oil 2010 review; Is what you buy the real deal?

Fair Go picked 14 oils from supermarkets shelves, 7 European, 4 Kiwi (not the fruit – the country, New Zealand) and 3 Australian ones. Video here: TV1 Fair Go ‘The Good Oil’

There are two tests to determine whether an oil is up to EVOO standards:

1. A Sensory test carried out by IOC certified olive oil tasters

2. A chemical test, carried out in a laboratory

An International Olive Oil Council (IOC) panel of tasters were brought together at the Nutrition Department of Massey University. The oils were blind taste tested. The 7 European oils failed the sensory test, as did one New Zealand brand olive oils (Peta Mathias).

The tasters said all these oils tasted very unpleasant.They think New Zealanders are so used to using these oils they don’t notice they are off.

I won’t be buying any of these oils again – all were rancid, and Olivani and Lupi failed Australian EVOO test

The oils were sent to an Australian Laboratory (rated the top lab on the world for the last 2 years)- all passed IOC EVOO standards, however when put through a more stringent Australian test two failed – Lupi and Olivani olive oils.

When tested for oxidation – ALL 7 European oils were described as having varying degrees of rancidity, which the tasters could clearly taste. Not only does oxidised oil taste bad – it is full of free radicals and is bad for you.

EVOO has strict standards of manufacture – Olives must be pressed only once – mechanically. Oil must not be extracted chemically or with excessive heat.

According to Tom Mueller author of “Extra Virginity” (book and website) the oil exported to New Zealand and Australia are the dregs that can’t be sold in Europe – inferior olive oil.

Storage: EVOO deteriorates with 3 things – light, air and heat. It must be stored in sealed dark glass bottles and kept cool. Transportation from one side of the world to the other can subject the oil to excessive heat.

I won’t be buying cheap European oils any more. We have some of the World’s best olive oils made from New Zealand grown olives. Village Press – one of the brands tested that passed all tests is sold through supermarkets.

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16 Responses to “Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Or is it? European supermarket oils are rancid and fail the EVOO test”

  1. nanook #

    can’t be sold in europe? i don’t think so. most olive oils in german supermarkets (oils which were winners in tests, lile LIVIO, with double price compared to the cheapest olive oils) are just as rancid.

    May 19, 2012 at 8:10 pm Reply
  2. We’re lucky in England. Aldi & Lidl sell good quality EVOO at low prices. I use Aldi’s Solesta.

    See Want the best olive oil? Then save yourself some money.

    May 20, 2012 at 1:05 am Reply
  3. lisa Demetrio #

    thank you ..tht was a very interesting article..who knew olive oil could go rancid? thnk you! Look soo forward your posts…good job in keeping us informed!

    May 20, 2012 at 3:19 am Reply
  4. I was shocked by Fair Go’s results too. I had often wondered about the quality of imported oils but was seduced by the price. But no more. Out goes my Lupi ($9.99 for 750 mls), in comes Village Press ($10 for 250 mls.) It’s worth the extra cost. I’ll just have to use less!

    May 20, 2012 at 8:02 am Reply
  5. Maybe this is why someone called my recipe for almond meal chocolate cookies “disgusting.” I don’t know where they were from, but I live in the US and buy small bottles of olive oil, keep them in the cupboard and use them up within a month or so. I’ve only gotten one bottle of olive oil that tasted terrible–it was so bitter, I threw it out.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:57 am Reply
  6. This didn’t surprise me at all! I had always wondered why I hate the taste of EVOO until I had really good fresh oil!! I only buy oil in the dark bottles and try to buy locally made. We bought a bottle of olive oil back with us from Italy last trip and it tasted entirely different from the rubbish on our supermarket shelves.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:22 pm Reply
  7. Honora Renwick #

    Thanks once again, Julianne. Good to see Village Press available in our supermarket.

    May 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm Reply
  8. Ah this is insane! Take a look at this article published by the Olive Oil Times, discussing how Americans prefer rancid oil to high quality oil… “Seventy four percent of consumers disliked the oils identified as high-quality by expert tasters….44 percent of the consumers also liked sensory defects like rancidity, fustiness, mustiness and winey flavor. The authors indicate this may be due to the large amount of defective olive oil labeled as extra virgin available to consumers.”

    http://www.oliveoiltimes.com/olive-oil-basics/quality-olive-oil-and-consumers/12465

    So that hits at both our taste acclimatization as well as the effect of branding on our taste buds. Insane.

    Thanks Julianne. I loved learning about the IOC. So quirky. I can just picture a tasting… wonder if that would be a wild event… :)

    May 26, 2012 at 3:20 am Reply
    • That is insane that people are so used to bad olive oil they actually think it tastes better.
      I hadn’t actually read that US article.

      If you watch the video they have a scene of the olive oil tasting. Very dull actually! But done to stringent guidelines.

      May 26, 2012 at 10:27 am Reply
  9. Paul le marquand #

    I have a brand of extra olive oil from Greece I want to import
    Who do I talk to to get tests done on it
    Regards
    Paul
    0064. 27 2132463
    Office landline 006463582282

    June 1, 2012 at 9:41 am Reply
  10. Graham #

    2013 update. The Broadcasting Standards Authority upheld a compaint by the importers of Lupi olive oil that the Fair Go program was inaccurate.
    As part of the complaint process, samples of Lupi olive oil from the same batch as Fair Go tested were purchased from supermarkets in New Zealand and sent to Italy for testing in an International Olive Council accredited laboratory. The testing used by Fair Go did not have this accreditation, although it claimed to. These samples passed all of the tests, including taste tests, for extra virgin olive oil.

    November 11, 2013 at 4:11 pm Reply
    • Thanks for the update.

      November 11, 2013 at 6:47 pm Reply

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