Fraud, Negligence and Misunderstandings?
As we advance our civilization, most of us become less connected to how our food is grown, harvested, processed, packaged and handled before it is displayed at our local grocery store. We don’t really understand how specific terminology is defined as it relates to the products we buy, nor do we separate that language from the advertising jargon. And because we are busier than ever, we have less time to devote to learning about these distinctions and therefore rely on the mainstream media to provide us with the pertinent information through “sound bites” trusting that our best interests will be looked after by the various governmental regulatory agencies. Unfortunately, corruption exists everywhere.At Key Elementals, we strive to lift the burden from you by doing the investigation, research and testing that imparts peace of mind for all of the products we source. Since you are reading this, we can assume that you care about these details and are willing to educate yourself a bit more when it comes to knowing the difference between quality foods and the average junk sold in most places.
Extra Virgin Fraud
Due to economic pressures to provide for an ever-increasing demand while lowering the cost to consumers, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) became the most adulterated agricultural product in the European Union by the late 1990’s and persists as a major international problem to this day. Of course olive oil fraud existed long before the ancient Roman Empire instituted elaborate techniques to prevent siphoning and substitution. But modern criminals use more sophisticated techniques to disguise inferior oils.
Extra virgin olive oil is the most costly of all the fruit or vegetable oils to produce, so naturally the economic repercussions of cutting olive oil with cheaper substitutes has not gone unnoticed. The problem escalated to the point that special olive oil task forces have been established in Italy and the European Union to investigate and combat these crimes. Additionally, a couple of new chemical testing techniques have been instituted in Germany, Australia and California.
In July of 2010, UC Davis Olive Oil Chemistry Laboratory collaborated with the Australian Oils Research Laboratory to evaluate the quality of extra virgin olive oils sold on retail shelves in California. In addition to testing under the IOC (International Olive Council) & the recently adopted USDA standards that analyze Free Fatty Acids, Peroxide Value, UV absorption and a Sensory (taste and smell) assessment, they also decided to measure Polyphenol content, TAG’s (Triacylglycerols) and finally subjected the oils to a couple of tests that were only utilized in Australia and Germany but are now required by the COOC (California Olive Oil Council): DAG’s (1,2-Diacylglycerol) & PPP (Pyropheophytins).The UC Davis study sent shockwaves through the olive oil community because it showed that 69% of the imported extra virgin olive oils sampled from retail shelves in California, failed the IOC Standards. But to be fair, most of the oils that failed, still qualified as less expensive "virgin" olive oil – they just did not measure up to what their labels claimed – "extra virgin" olive oil.
While these tests didn’t isolate weather the failures existed at bottling or occurred during shipping across the Atlantic or trucking across the United States or elsewhere after bottling, it did highlight the uncertainty we consumers have, in knowing that the products we are paying for, are what they claim to be.
How does one guarantee that an imported product isn’t damaged or altered during shipping where conditions can be quite extreme? Olive oil isn’t refrigerated but must be stored below 60° Fahrenheit for optimal shelf life. Luckily, olive harvest season is in the winter from November to February or March, when the Northern Hemisphere is cooler, but what if you import during our summer months?
While Australia, Germany and now the COOC (California Olive Oil Council) have instituted stricter testing to the existing IOC standards, why would any producer bother subjecting their oils to additional tests if not required? Obviously those who are distributing a substandard product wouldn’t want to be exposed, but most others are probably trying to keep costs down or don’t feel it necessary to give their customers the added confidence.
At Key Elementals, we decided that the battery of tests that Oliflix Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Spain is already subjected to, weren't enough to guarantee that our product was as good as we claimed. Our special blend olive oil is sourced from our own orchards from an isolated and protected region close to our mills, where our oil is extracted and bottled, so we don't have the concerns of many large bottlers who source oils from multiple regions or countries across the globe.
Nonetheless, after shipping several pallets across the Atlantic Ocean and trucking those pallets across the United States from New York to Los Angeles, we submitted our -- now five-month-old -- olive oil to the full battery of tests available at Agbiolab in California, the primary laboratory used for certification by the California Olive Oil Council (COOC).
To convey how outstandingly well our oil tested to people who are unfamiliar with these things, we produced this chart for you to peruse:
As you can see, Oliflix measures better than the average EVOO in every chemical test.
Sensory analysis of olive oil is the evaluation of its organoleptic attributes, which are appreciated through the senses of smell and taste. Extra virgin certification requires complete chemical analysis as well as a blind sensory assessment performed by a panel of between 8 and 12 trained tasters.
The UC Davis study included two sensory panels in their tests to help alleviate human error and bias that can adversely affect extra virgin classification. Until the introduction of the DAG and PPP tests, there were no laboratory tests that could objectively confirm sensory panel anomalies. The DAG and PPP tests showed the strongest relationship between chemical analysis and negative sensory panel results. And the PPP test was consistently the most difficult of all the chemical tests for extra virgin olive oil producers to pass.
DAG values are indicative of the aging of the oil and how long it will last. The lower the value the greater the oxidization and the more sensory defects which essentially means the oil goes rancid faster and losses its freshness. Oliflix was extremely high at 80.5%, which means it will last a very long time, before losing its freshness and eventually going rancid. Several years longer that the typical two-year "best used by" date.
PPP values are derived from the decomposition of chlorophyll, which gives the green color to the oil. The PPP will increase over time with both light and temperature exposure. Therefore, the lower the PPP the better the handling and storage was of the oil. Acceptable levels of PPP must be under 17%. Oliflix tested at 1.1%! Now you can be confident that Oliflix has been properly produced, handled and stored! We guaranteed it will age very slowly so that you can enjoy the freshness and delicate taste long after the "best used by" date!
The sensory category is pass or fail. Either it has defects or it doesn’t. Any detectable amount of fruitiness, bitterness and pungency is a pass, but the higher numbers indicate more fruity, more pungent and/or more bitter tasting oil. Bitterness and pungency is often associated with higher levels of polyphenols typically seen in olive oils made from green (unripe olives) which tend to produce a fruitiness classified as robust. Oliflix is a delicate blend that strives to be more palatable to regular consumers and therefore is crafted to reduce bitterness and pungency because we prefer a milder, daily use oil. Our polyphenol levels are still considerably higher that other oils in the medium and delicate categories.
Since a significant component of extra virgin is the sensory panel, we also entered Oliflix in the 2019 New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC) this past May, which featured a panel of thirteen international judges. We won a Silver Award in the “organic delicate blend” category.
Outsiders often assume that only one Gold, one Silver and one Bronze are awarded at these competitions, but the reality is there are numerous categories & classifications, so there can be multiple Gold or Silver awards in each category. There are no Bronze awards at the NYIOOC and more than 40% of the premium oils submitted, walk away empty handed - meaning they either do not stand out among their peers or they fail to meet the minimum sensory requirements.Pricing is also very confusing in the olive oil world partially due to the wide variety of sizes: 250 ml, 350 ml, 500 ml, 750 ml, 1 liter, 2 liters, 5 liters, etc. While it is true that Oliflix is more expensive than popular bulk brands that claim to be “extra” virgin, it should be obvious to you by now that quality extra virgin olive oil is more expensive to produce. When you compare Oliflix to any of the NYIOOC winners or any quality non-award winning EVOO, you will notice that we are 30% - 50% of the cost of our competitors. Especially when purchasing our 5-liter jug.
We Really Care About Our Food
Very few olive oils are actually “pressed” any more and so the nomenclature “first cold pressed” cannot possibly apply. Most olive oils are extracted using modern, stainless steel machinery that grinds, malaxes (mixes the olive juice and paste) and centrifugally separates the oil from the juices in temperature regulated (below 85° Fahrenheit), water-cooled, computer-automated equipment. Some companies have rightly relabeled their products "cold extracted."
Oliflix organic extra virgin olive oil is extracted using the traditional “old world” methods using granite stone mills, mechanical malaxers, hydraulic presses and gravity separation at winter warehouse temperatures hovering around 60° Fahrenheit – for a truly, first-cold-pressed, extra-virgin, olive oil.
Regulations are steering production towards the use of modern equipment because of misplaced sanitary concerns, but as you can see from the laboratory testing, Oliflix is higher quality than most oils and we believe part of that success is attributable to the “old world” methods.
We continue to go the extra mile to ensure that Oliflix is one of the best tasting, most nutritious, cleanest, organic, extra-virgin, olive oils in the world. It is the only olive oil we, at Key Elementals, consume and we use a lot of it for everything we can. In fact, some of us have been surprised to find ourselves suddenly consuming more than a liter per week. Try a bottle for yourself and experience the difference quality olive oil can make in your life. You’ll love it!