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Fraudulent findings

Your olive oil likely wasn’t made from olives

Fraudulent olive oil industry deceiving consumers by selling fake olive oil posing as authentic, Italian extra-virgin olive oil. (Photo by Ashley Orzel/The Press)

Fraudulent olive oil industry deceiving consumers by selling fake olive oil posing as authentic, Italian extra-virgin olive oil. (Photo by Ashley Orzel/The Press)

Imagine you’re a craftsperson who put your life’s work into creating a beautiful piece that everyone can enjoy. Not only have you spent time cultivating the idea, but you’ve also put your blood, sweat and tears into its creation.

After numerous long days and restless nights, your product is now ready to be released to the public. It’s in the stores. You’ve done it. You’ve found success as a craftsperson.

Only, someone else comes along and creates a knockoff of your work. They brand their fraudulent product as yours, but you had no part to play in its production. It’s sold at a fraction of the cost, and you see none of the profit.

That’s enough to make anyoneís blood boil.

Unfortunately, this happens every single day in our modern society, and we all contribute to this fraudulent activity, often without being cognizant of it.

According to an article by Business Insider in 2012, only four per cent of olive oil exported from Italy in 2007 was pure, Italian olive oil.

What constitutes the other 96 per cent?

The majority consist of a mix of olive oil and other unknown vegetable oils, which allow producers to sell it for less money while still calling it “olive oil,” when, in fact, it isn’t.

Clearly, that means these fraudulent olive oil producers are able to sell their product at a sliver of the price that true, extra-virgin olive oil would regularly cost. This causes true producers to lose revenue, and in turn, they increase their prices further and further in an attempt to make up the lost income.

Obviously, society can’t continue in this fashion.

And, if you think that this only happens in Italy and could never happen west of the Atlantic, think again. A report by 60 Minutes in January 2016 estimated that between 75 and 80 per cent of olive oil found on American supermarket shelves is, in fact, fraudulent.

Something needs to change.

Eva Rendle, a journalist and National Geographic young explorer, recently went on a three-month investigative project, in which she toured through Spain, Italy and Greece while working on small, olive oil producing farms.

“I got really close to these farmers – I knew them, they were my friends. I just saw how much they were struggling in this market,” said Rendle.

According to her, while the majority of bottles of olive oil cost roughly $5, it actually costs between $15 and $20 just to make a true bottle of olive oil.

“I just cared really deeply about their cause. And, I’ve always been really interested in food and food systems and I felt that olive oil was a space that we’re especially disconnected [from],” said Rendle. 

And she’s right. In today’s society, we’re increasingly concerned about where our food comes from, and ensuring that everything we consume is ethically sourced. But clearly, the olive oil industry is forgotten about in our modern world.

“It’s sort of been left out of the entire farm-to-table conversation, so I thought there was room to educate people.”

So yes, while it may be more expensive, in turn making it more strenuous to purchase true olive oil on our petty student budgets, it’s a cause we should all support.

The farmers who toil daily to make olive oil are craftspeople. You wouldn’t buy fraudulent chicken, so why should you buy fraudulent oil.

Check your oil
How to taste test your olive oil to ensure it’s pure

  • Step One: Pour the oil into a wine glass.
  • Step Two: Cover the cup with your hand and swirl it to release
    the aroma.
  • Step Three: Remove your hand and smell the oil.
  • Step Four: Sip the oil. Ensure it coats your entire mouth, and swirl it around. It should feel very smooth.
  • Step Five: Swallow the oil. If it’s true olive oil, it will burn, a lot. If it’s a mix, it may burn slightly in the back of your throat, but not to the extent of true olive oil.
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