olive oil fraud is real - here are 3 ways to spot fake olive oil

Fake Olive Oil: 3 Ways to Spot Olive Oil Fraud & Scams

Since authentic extra virgin olive oil is expensive to produce, olive oil fraud is a widespread issue worldwide and has been for years. Many studies, such as this one from 2020, have found that a large portion – some experts have claimed up to 80% – of oils sold as extra virgin olive oil in grocery stores are counterfeit.

Olive oil fraud is an issue that regulators around the world are looking to tackle. However, until better testing and stronger regulations are in place across the globe to prevent olive oil fraud, we’ve got you covered with three (plus bonus tips) ways to spot fake olive oil.  


What is Fake Olive Oil?

While some may simply be fraudulently labeled as extra virgin, others may have actually started out as authentic extra virgin olive oil. However, due to long storage in sub-par conditions, they would no longer qualify as “extra virgin”, will often taste rancid, and are no longer suitable for consumption.

Most often, fake olive oils are diluted with a cheap vegetable and seed oil or with a lower grade olive oil that has been chemically refined. They may also be combined with expired olive oil from previous years and falsely labeled as fresh, high-quality extra virgin olive oil.

Olive oil fraud occurs, of course, to increase profits - without regard to the consumer or their health. Without the vital nutrients of extra virgin olive oil, the health benefits are minimal. Fake olive oil doesn’t have any of the powerful anti-inflammatory health benefits that real EVOO naturally provides. 

So, how can you tell whether the olive oil you have or want to purchase is authentic and true extra virgin olive oil? What brands of olive oil are real and how can you make the distinction yourself when choosing EVOO? 


Is olive oil fraud still happening?

As of early 2024, the issue of olive oil fraud persists worldwide. With climate change-induced megadroughts and local heat waves affecting crucial olive oil production regions, prices of extra virgin olive oil has surged, creating opportunities for counterfeit olive oil producers.

In December 2023, Spanish and Italian law enforcement agencies conducted raids across Italy and Spain, confiscating approximately 68,000 gallons of low grade olive oil falsely labeled as high-quality. They also intercepted an additional 1,400 gallons of mislabeled olive oil ready for export. The seized olive oil was deemed "unfit for consumption."

These incidents are not isolated; similar accounts of fraudulent olive oil production have emerged from all over the world. 


3 Tips to detect frauds, scams & fake olive oil:

1. Price

Extra virgin olive oil is more expensive to produce than refined olive oils and other seed oils. Therefore, if it seems too cheap – it most likely is not authentic EVOO.

    2. Packaging

    Plastic is the cheapest packaging, but studies have proven that it degrades the olive oil over time. Our recommendation? Never buy extra virgin olive oil in plastic packaging – even if the product inside had integrity at the time of production, you are risking degraded quality from storage and you will not get the same health benefits by the time it hits your plate. Both glass and metal containers have been proven to protect the olive oil during storage for up to two years.

        3. Taste

          First and foremost, if your olive oil doesn’t have any taste or flavor at all, it’s very likely not authentic. Real olive oil will have a bright flavor with a peppery aftertaste. However, you can even go a step further with a real test that’s actually not so hard to do:
          • Pour about ½ oz of olive oil into a small glass or a spoon, and taste it straight!

          • Real extra virgin olive oil contains a molecule called Oleocanthal – and humans are able to taste it as a slightly peppery, somewhat stingy sensation in the back of our palate and top of our throat. The highest quality EVOO, often have high oleocanthal content, and will have a real “bite” to them and often even induce a slight cough when tasted like that. But any authentic, fresh (unexpired) extra virgin olive oil, should have at least a small amount of oleocanthal and a noticeable “sting” when you taste the pure oil.

            Watch Dr. Limor Goren do the olive oil test

            Bonus tips to identify fake olive oil -

            • Harvest date vs expiration date. Look for a harvest date on the bottle or box – and make sure it is less than 2 years old. Expiration date is meaningless since this date is determined at the manufacturer’s discretion. No harvest date? Red flag!

            • Check the manufacturer's website for 3rd party testing of the oil’s quality such as acidity (should be less than 0.7%, and lower than that is even better) or polyphenolic content (the higher the better).

            • Don’t purchase oil in large containers, unless you’re going to use it all up in 2 months. Although it is tempting to save money by purchasing in bulk, the oil will simply go bad once open and exposed to air for too long.


            What should authentic EVOO be?

            Authentic high-quality extra virgin olive oil boasts a vibrant, peppery flavor profile that may even induce a cough.  If your olive oil doesn’t cause a slight sting at the top of your throat when tasting it pure, it might be best to try another brand.  This absence could signify that your EVOO isn't fresh, worse, it may have been mislabeled.

            This slight burning or stinging sensation serves as an indicator of the presence of an important polyphenol known as oleocanthal – and any authentic extra virgin olive oil should contain at least a trace amount of oleocanthal. No sting = red flag!

            Oleocanthal is a potent anti-inflammatory compound linked to a variety of health benefits. From supporting cardiovascular and cognitive health to aiding in cancer prevention, oleocanthal is one of the key components that makes extra virgin olive oil the superfood that it is. The more, the better!


            Choosing Real EVOO

            Though authentic, high-quality extra virgin olive oil may not be the most economical option on the shelf, the numerous health benefits linked to daily consumption make it a worthwhile investment.

            High-quality olive oils, such as Kyoord and The Governor, contain up to 8 times more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, like oleocanthal, compared to conventional extra virgin olive oils. These potent nutrients in authentic EVOO have been scientifically tested and researched, and have been identified as vital contributors to cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, cognitive function, and overall well-being.




            How can you tell fake olive oil? 

            Identifying fake olive oil involves recognizing several red flags. Keep an eye out for suspiciously low pricing, olive oils packaged in plastic containers, and the absence of the characteristic peppery oleocanthal burn during a taste test. Additionally, inspect the bottle for a harvest date, ensuring that it's less than two years old. No harvest date = red flag! Furthermore, make sure to visit the manufacturer's website to verify third-party testing. 


            How do you know if olive oil is 100% pure?

            Our best recommendation: conduct a taste test! Authentic, 100% pure, high-quality extra virgin olive oil boasts a vibrant, peppery flavor profile that might even prompt a cough due to a subtle burn at the back of your throat. If your olive oil doesn’t have any flavor, there’s a good chance that it’s fake olive oil. 


            What does the FDA say about olive oil?

            In 2018, the FDA determined that there is credible scientific evidence to support a qualified health claim that consuming oleic acid in edible oils, such as olive oil, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

            While the FDA has regulations in place regarding olive oil quality and labeling, enforcement typically falls on state agencies. 

            How is olive oil regulated?

            The FDA regulates olive oil labeling and quality standards in the US, focusing primarily on safety and labeling requirements rather than fraud detection. Enforcement of these standards is typically carried out by state regulatory agencies through inspections and testing.

            The International Olive Council (IOC), an intergovernmental organization with 16 member states in addition to the EU, establishes standards, labeling requirements, and quality classifications for its members. The organization plays a crucial role in promoting olive-producing countries' interests, ensuring product quality, and fostering international collaboration in the olive industry. The United States is not an IOC member.

            Beyond Extra Virgin. Backed by Science.

            Founded by Dr. Limor Goren, a cancer researcher and molecular biologist, our mission is to provide high-phenolic olive oils that are scientifically backed to promote your health. 

            Our premium olive oils contain up to 10x more polyphenols than your average EVOO, making them some of the most nourishing olive oils in the world.

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