How to tell if your olive oil is the real thing | Life and style | The Guardian:
Last month, the Olive Oil Times reported that two Spanish businessmen had been sentenced to two years in prison in Cordoba for selling hundreds of thousands of litres of supposedly extra virgin olive oil that was, in fact, a mixture of 70-80% sunflower oil and 20-30% olive.
In 2008, Italian police arrested over 60 people and closed more than 90 farms and processing plants across the south after uncovering substandard, non-Italian olive oil being passed off as Italian extra virgin, and chlorophyll and beta-carotene being added to sunflower and soybean oil with the same aim.
Most alarmingly, a study last year by researchers at the University of California, Davis and the Australian Oils Research Laboratory concluded that as much as 69% of imported European olive oil (and a far smaller proportion of native Californian) sold as extra virgin in the delicatessens and grocery stores on the US west coast wasn't what it claimed to be.
In Britain, of course, it wasn't so very long ago that the most likely place to find olive oil was the chemist. Today, thanks partly to the health claims made on its behalf and partly to the fact it tastes good, the oil Homer called "liquid gold" is in half of all UK homes and we get through 30m litres of olive oil every year – more than double than we did decade ago. We're now, in fact, the world's 10th biggest olive oil-consuming nation. So with a litre of supermarket extra virgin costing up to £4, and connoisseurs willing to pay 10 times that sum for a far smaller bottle of seasonal, first cold stone pressed, single estate, artisan-milled oil from Italy or Greece, can we be sure of getting what we're paying for?