5 Ways to Tell if Extra Virgin Olive Oil is Fake

Olive Oil
While you might think that extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is always the best choice, this isn’t necessarily true! The term extra virgin refers to the quality of oil and not the process of production; in fact, anywhere from 10-70% of all EVOO on the market doesn’t meet the USDA’s standards to be labeled as extra virgin. To ensure you get the most out of your EVOO, here are five quick and easy ways to tell if your EVOO is fake!

Smell it

Use your nose to check for a rancid smell, which may indicate that your olive oil isn’t pure or hasn’t been stored properly. Pure EVOO should smell of fresh olives. If it doesn’t, don’t buy it. You can also see if your olive oil has gone bad by adding one drop of lemon juice; adulterated EVOO will immediately begin to cloud and smell unappetizing. If you can find real-deal extra virgin, use it within six months after opening and store in a cool dark place like a pantry. Exposure to light, heat and air causes EVOO’s healthful benefits to break down and become harmful.

Check the label

This may seem like a no-brainer, but double check that what you’re buying is, in fact, extra virgin olive oil. There are several versions of olive oil on supermarket shelves and sometimes it can be confusing which ones are real and which ones aren’t. The label must say 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil on it. If you see anything less than 100%, like light or pure, steer clear. Some bottles might even have fake descriptions such as extra light olive oil or aromatic oil, which means they don’t meet extra virgin standards and should not be consumed. You also want to look at where your EVOO comes from. If it’s produced outside of Europe, there’s a high chance its fake. EVOO is produced by specific methods throughout certain regions of Europe—the U.S., Australia, Argentina, and Chile aren’t among them.

Ask experts

Not sure how you’d determine if your extra virgin olive oil was fake? You don’t have to be an expert on olive oil. Instead, ask experts who do know what they’re talking about! The International Olive Council (IOC) has a website that outlines all of their standards and regulations regarding olive oil—including their method for determining whether or not olive oil is authentic.

The testing process

Extra virgin olive oil is one of Italy’s most valued products, and while there are no regulations on how much of it needs to be present in a bottle, every bottle should say extra virgin or 100% Italian. First things first: look at the front of your bottle. If you see labels like bottled in Italy, bottled in EU, or other terms that could mean your extra virgin olive oil was made anywhere, throw it out. Next up: read what’s on back. In order to legally claim extra virgin, an oil has to have .8 percent acidity (this makes sense—the lower the acidity, the more complex flavor). If it doesn’t mention acidity levels, again, toss. Finally—and most importantly—taste test.

Last Step!, Taste it!

The best way to determine whether or not you’re using a quality EVOO is by tasting it. The fresher your oil, and thus the riper your olives were when harvested, the less bitter and more flavorful your EVOO will be. Additionally, low-quality oils have a more acidic taste. To ensure that you’re picking up on these subtleties in flavor, take a small spoonful of olive oil and swirl it around in your mouth for 30 seconds before spitting it out; repeat with two other samples of olive oil (one from Italy and one from Spain). By doing so, you can easily differentiate between fresh EVOOs with high levels of monounsaturated fats.

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