Avoiding poor-quality olive oil

As you may have seen in recent news, olive oil can be unreliable in quality and often fail quality checks. So I'm summarizing information from olive oil connoisseurs to help you choose quality oils:

Quick brand suggestions

I'm basing these suggestions on olive oil connoisseur Tom Mueller's more-detailed "supermarket picks". He has tasted them all, and believes tasting them is a better guide than chemical analyses.

When shopping at Look for
King Soopers / Kroger, Raleys Supermarkets, QFC
Cobram Estate Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Costco
Kirkland Toscano Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kirkland Toscano Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Make sure to get the Toscano oil, the larger non-Toscano plastic container is poorly-reviewed.

Whole Foods
Whole Foods 100% Californian Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Whole Foods 100% Californian Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Make sure to get the Californian oil, other varieties have failed taste and chemical analysis tests.

Other Stores / Online Shopping

See Tom's full list of "supermarket picks", or his high quality Great Olive Oils list, arranged by country.

Also see Steph Fiou's suggestion of Queen Creek Olive Mill with online ordering available.

Chemical analyses of olive oils

Here are the UC Davis Olive Center reports that sparked most of the news about "tainted" olive oils:

I noticed an interesting conclusion in the first report: "If any of the samples were adulterated, it is most likely that the adulterant was refined olive oil rather than refined nut, seed, or vegetable oils. Unless the adulteration levels were very small, the failed samples would not have met the IOC/USDA standards for fatty acid profile and sterol profile if adulterated with refined nut, seed, or vegetable oils." That's contrary to the impression given by news reports on the subject, and at least relieves my concerns that high omega-6 oils might be frequently used.

Rules of thumb for selecting your own olive oils

Freshness

Production

Geographical origin

Certifications to look for

Container

Don't worry about:

Storage and expiration

The ideal storage for olive oil is a cool and dark place. The Olive Oil Source concludes that 50°F is an ideal storage temperature to avoid clouding the oil, but that lower temperatures do not harm it. That makes me conclude that most people should just store their oil in the fridge if they don't mind some thawing time and clouding.

Selena Wang of the UC Davis Olive Center says, "we usually see that oil is no longer good after four to six months after opening." That suggests to me a strategy of buying smaller bottles throughout the year instead of buying in bulk.

Detailed olive oil information sources


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