O-Live Or Let Die The Best Olive Oils  —  I’ll cut to the chase first because when I do an article like this, I get the e-mails asking me as to what do I use?  So here goes, when it really counts, extra fancy dinner, for Pesto or with any butter substitute, I  use Segesta, which is a Sicilian olive oil from Castle Imports on the web.  I discovered it when interviewing the head chef on a Princess Cruise I was doing an article about gave me a bottle after I had commented about its taste in the Pesto and swore I would never use butter based oil again.  

The cruise was the best we had been on, we have had our share of cruise bummers, especially on some of the super ships you need a vacation after.  I could not stop appreciating the entire trip.  The food even in the non-formal dinning areas was the best,  experience noted,  

I am critical of food obviously and this was top drawer.  The Princess Cruise, Panama Trip out of Ft. Lauderdale,  best ten days on a ship I ever had,  the staff, and I almost pesto’ed myself to oblivion.

The chef recommended it for it’s flavor, and aroma for dipping and Pesto.  Several sizes. And it is available from

Moderate Usage And Cooking  - I also like California Olive Ranch for Cooking and Whole Foods, Premium Extra Virgin  both great quality and as we have a store five miles and ten minutes from me. They carry both.

Cheaper Pompeian or Bertolli for frugal use as frying or general use in catering

Whole Foods Market’s 365 Everyday Value® and Whole Foods Market™ Single Origin olive oils are 100% extra virgin olive oils. All of our imported 365 Everyday Value® and Whole Foods Market™ Single Origin olive oils are certified by the North American Olive Oil Association. 

For our domestic olive oils, the 365 Everyday Value® 100% Californian Unfiltered Olive Oil and 365 Everyday Value® California Small Batch Olive Oil are both made by America’s largest grower and processor of olive oil. These olive oils feature a full traceability program with the ability to track where every olive came from, even tracing it back to the farm where it was grown.

Our 365 Everyday Value® and Whole Foods Market™ Single Origin olive oil program includes third-party facility audits, batch testing and random sample testing. As part of this program, each batch of extra virgin olive oil is evaluated and tested for applicable chemical criteria—like pH levels, fatty acid composition and pesticides—to ensure they meet or exceed our strict requirements and sensory characteristics before it is bottled. 

This program also includes periodic, random sample tests after the olive oil has been bottled. Additionally, the North American Olive Oil Association performs independent testing at a third-party lab to verify that imported oils are in compliance with the International Olive Council standards.

History  —  Olive oil is a staple commodity found in homes, restaurants, and religious institutions all over the world. Known for its versatility, it can be used as a meal, skin treatment, fuel for lamps, and much more.   The biggest claim to fame, however, is olive oil used for enhancing foods. Primarily in Italian and Greek cooking, olive oil is essential when it comes to making a meal complete.

The oil comes from the fat of the olive. Despite the constant grouping with vegetables, olives are actually a stone pit fruit, similar to a cherry or plum. You can think of olive oil as a cold pressed juice from a fruit.   The process of extracting the oil from the olive is called pressing and it is done at an olive mill. Olives must be pressed at the right maturity; young green olives make for a bitter oil while overripe olives are rancid. That is also the distinction between green and black olives. Green olives are simply immature black olives.

Facts  —  The cold press is a method that does not use chemicals to artificially heat the olives to extract more oil. Of course there are degrees of cold press ranging from gentle to total destruction.  There are two ways of pressing olives: cold pressed or mechanically pressed. The cold press is a method that does not use chemicals to artificially heat the olives to extract more oil. The term cold is a bit of a misnomer; they are not pressed cold, but rather at temperatures lower than 81 degrees. 

Only olives that have first undergone this cold press process can be labelled as extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil, or EVOO, also means that is has less that 0.8% acidity, and it has been flavor tested to ensure quality. The price of EVOO will be reflected in the quality as well. EVOO should be used as a finishing oil, and not wasted on deep frying items.

Fine, or virgin olive oil, has an acidity of less than 2%. Also, it has been heated by chemical means to extract more oils at a higher temperature, however, doing so alters the flavor profile and can destroy the natural aromas as well. Virgin olive oil will be compromised of lower quality olives and may contain a flavorless profile.

The organic food trend has everyone running for the fair trade olive. You must, however, keep a vigilant eye when purchasing your oil, as some may be mislabeled. The prime example is oils that say Imported from Italy, which can be skewed in such a way to distract you from knowing the oil was actually produced in Turkey, Spain, or Morocco. The International Olive Council (IOC) ensures that oils are labelled appropriately. Although the United States does not adhere to the IOC, they have their own council with comparable rules.

EVOO  —  As mentioned before, EVOO is the highest standard followed by virgin olive oil. Virgin oil is still good quality and it is of better quality than refined or blended oil. The oil you decide to purchase should be reflected in its use. For example, an extra virgin oil would not be appropriate for deep frying foods, nor would a pomace oil to dress an expensive salad.  

Rachel Ray calls her Olive Oil EVOO but when th Olive Oil Association DNA tested it was not, like we have said Politicians Theologians and Chefs have lots in common.  Truth is sometimes a hidden ingredient 

Whichever one you purchase, keep in mind that oil has a relatively short shelf life. Use within the first six months of purchasing it for optimal taste. Oil differs from wine, which gets better with age. Also, be careful of spoilage. Olive oil is very delicate to light. The oil on the table of your favorite chain Italian restaurant may already be spoiled from the harsh overhead light.

Many consumers are attracted to olive oil for the health benefits. The Mediterranean diet has been praised time and time again for this reason. It became a huge fad in the 1950s in America; however, most Americans were misinformed. 

The Mediterranean diet in Greece was for the poor and not an option; they simply could not afford to buy meat. As the economy improved in Europe, the Mediterranean diet began to include fatty meats and sugars. Currently, most Europeans want to mimic the American diet, which is high in sugar and fats. 

The irony is palpable.It was found that even 7 of the biggest olive oil makers in the USA, mix their items with cheap oils to get more profits. Namely, one of the products we regard as healthiest and a remedy for longevity has been corrupted.

Apparently, even 70% of olive oil sold in the USA stores is fake.  This is similar to the 2008 practice in Italy. This meant seizure for 85 oil farms that mixed some percentage chlorophyll with sunflower and canola to the olive oil.

The oil was mixed, colored, perfumed and flavored too, and these things made the Australian government investigate their oils.  The results were awful. After that, not one brand named extra virgin olive oil got the 2012 certificate of approval. These scams made the University of California to study 124 imported brands of extra virgin olive oil and discovered that more than 70% did not pass the test.

Carapelli, Mezzetta, Pompeian, Mazola, Primadonna, Colavita, Sasso, Antica Badia, Star
Whole Foods (365 Spanish Blend), Felippo Berio, Safeway, Coricelli, Bertolli **** 

In America, more than $700 million a year is spent on olive oil, but unfortunately, it is not really olive oil because of olive oil fraud. Most of the olive oils on the market are cut with cheap vegetable oils.

The results from the Consumer Report’s found that only 9 of the 23 olive oils from Italy, Spain, and California tested, and passed as being extra virgin olive oil even though all of them claimed so on the label. AND: “More than half tasted fermented or stale.”

International standards for extra virgin olive oil are mostly unenforced.  Although the term ‘extra virgin’ is generally understood to denote the highest quality of olive oil, industry representatives report that the current standards are easily met by producers and allow olive oil marketed as ‘extra virgin’ to represent a wide range of qualities. This lack of enforcement has resulted in a long history of fraudulent practices (adulteration and mislabelling) in the olive oil sector.” – United States International Trade Commission

A study at the UC Davis Olive Center found that 69% of the imported EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) sold in California supermarkets did not qualify as extra virgin.  Tests indicate that imported EVOO often fails international and USDA standards.  A bottle labeled EVOO may not be olive oil and instead be a seed oil which is made to smell and look like olive oil by adding a few drops of chlorophyll and beta-carotene making it part of the olive oil fraud.


These Are Excellent  —  Suitable for Salad or Cooking

 —  So What Should I Do?   —   

Al Jacobs says first, most of the time , you get what you pay for,  If uncertain or dubious pass.  And order one of these.  California EVOO with the checkmark is both excellent and reasonable — On Amazon --

  • 100% CALIFORNIA EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: Award-winning California Olive Ranch 100% California Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), crafted from olives grown exclusively in California. 
  • STAPLE IN YOUR KITCHEN: Features well-rounded notes of a floral, buttery and fruity taste. Versatile across multiple applications - use it for marinades, sautéing, roasting, grilling, frying, and even baking. 
  • DIET FRIENDLY: Our extra virgin olive oils are verified non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project, and certified kosher by Orthodox Union. It’s also Whole30 approved, certified paleo, keto verified, and vegan friendly. All oils at California Olive Ranch are certified "Extra Virgin" by Applied Sensory, passing both rigid chemical and sensory evaluations. 
  • COLD PRESSED OLIVE OIL: Made from cold-pressing olives to extract their natural oils. Other “light” or “pure” olive oil is made using excessive heat or chemicals which alter the taste and quality of the olive oil. We never use high heat or solvents in our EVOO, ensuring you get high-quality EVOO. 
  • HOW TO STORE YOUR OLIVE OIL: California Olive Ranch EVOO are in dark green bottles to help protect the integrity and life of the oil. We recommend storing it in a dark, cool place to keep it fresh. Unlike wine that can improve with age, olive oil is meant to be consumed within 30 to 60 days. 

Look for Identifiers of Authenticity — Unfortunately, to give it the smell and taste test, you first have to buy the bottle. But there are a couple of ways to identify imposters without spending any cash.

  • Buy only olive oil labeled “extra virgin.” Other words like "pure", "light", "authentic", or even "cold-pressed" are meaningless and have no official industry definition.
  • Pay attention to the harvest date. Olives are harvested once a year in late fall. If your bottle has a harvest date within the last 12-14 months, it is as fresh as possible.
  • Look for labels with specific details about the olives—not just the country, but the region they were grown in, the specific olive varietal used, flavor and tasting notes, and so on. Bottles with more specific information are less likely to have been diluted with fillers.
  • Look for producers that have third-party testing run on their oils and report important data, like polyphenol count and free fatty acid levels, which are important measures of quality. 
  • Look for a seal from a third-party certifier, such as the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) or the International Olive Council (IOC).

Finding the Real Deal

If you are on the hunt for authentic olive oil and want to experience the difference yourself, try an olive oil set from Brightland. We are committed to producing clean, high quality, authentic extra virgin olive oil. Our polyphenol-rich olive oil is always from the most recent harvest, with zero additives or fillers. Each oil is crafted lovingly from heirloom olives grown on family-run California farms, harvested early, and pressed within 90 minutes. Try it for yourself to taste the difference.

Shopping At A Specialty, Gourmet, Culinary Shop, Or A Reputable Market —
Careful sourcing is a priority and you can taste before you buy.   if you can find the same thing cheaper, shop there, vineyards produce different combinations and levels, same name, small print differentiates and varied bottling.  Low-lines and high-lines. But if the grocery store is your most convenient or only option, follow these additional tips.

Never buy anything that doesn’t say “extra-virgin” on the label - the phrase alone isn’t a guarantee, but without it, “you're always going to get a low-quality product,".  don’t bother with anything labeled “  virgin,” “light,” “  pure,” or just “olive oil.”  

Look for a “ harvest date” and an estate or mill name  --  basically, the more specifics, the better. “ typically only the better oils will have a 'pressed on' or 'harvest date,’.  

If a label calls out the name of the producer or estate, or the variety of olive used, it’s very likely genuine.  If you see the free fatty acidity level, or FFA, listed that's a great sign.  Typically, only high-quality producers bother listing it. An excellent oil will have an FFA of 0.2 percent or lower, according to mueller.

Ignore the “ by” and “ bottled on” dates  --  the "best by" date is arbitrary and lacks any legal standard, and "bottled on" doesn't mean much.  “ It could’ve been in a tank for a year before it was bottled.”

Look for a third-party certification seal  --  in particular, the European union's protected designation of origin (PDO), Italy's DOP, or the “ COOC certified extra virgin" seal from the California olive oil council for California-made oils. (the council has its own standards and certification program that’s stricter than the IOC's.)

If you see EVOO made in Australia or Chile, buy it  --  it's going to be fresh and legit. Australia has the most stringent standards and a highly advanced testing system, and neither country mixes in carryover oil from the previous harvest. 

Don’t fall for fancy packaging and a high price tag  —  cheap is a red flag, but expensive doesn’t automatically mean quality, either. 

Trust your senses  —  Fake olive oil might taste greasy, rancid, flavorless, or just not pleasant.  good olive oil—real olive oil—should smell and taste green, bright, peppery, earthy, grassy, or any combination thereof.  “ If it tastes good, it’s probably good," says Olmsted.

Designations And Definitions Of Olive Oils  —  Virgin olive oils are the oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea L. ) solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions, particularly thermal conditions, that do not lead to alterations in the oil, and which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration. Virgin olive oils fit for consumption as they are include:

Extra Virgin Olive oil:  Virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams, and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in the IOC standard.

Virgin Olive Oil:  Virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 2 grams per 100 grams and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in the IOC standard.

Ordinary Virgin Olive Oil: Virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in the IOC standard.This designation may only be sold direct to the consumer if permitted in the country of retail sale. If not permitted, the designation of this product has to comply with the legal provisions of the country concerned.

Laminate - Olive Oil Not Fit For Consumption As it is, designated laminate virgin olive oil, is virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams and/or the organoleptic characteristics and other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in the IOC standard. It is intended for refining or for technical use possibly in machinery as a lubricant —  


NOTE:  Consumer Reports (September 2012 issue), published results of a taste test of 138 bottles of extra virgin olive oil from 23 manufacturers. They found that olive oil produced in California exceeded those from Italy.  California University has recently undertaken a study on 124 olive oils and found that over 70% of samples failed the tests.

FAILED:    Mezzetta     Carapelli     Pompeian     Primadonna     Mazola     Sasso     Colavita     Star     Antica Badia     
Whole Foods  (Their Bargain import)    Safeway     Felippo Berio     Coricelli     Bertolli ( depends) ***  Rachael Ray  ****

PASSED:     Corto Olive     Lucero      McEvoy Ranch Organic      Omaggio     California Olive Ranch   
Bariani Olive Oil  L
ucini     Ottavio      Olea Estates     Cobram Estate     Kirkland Organic     Rallis Olive Oil     Bragg     Nunez de Prado   
Whole Foods 365 Brand Extra Virgin   Napa Valley Naturals     Bariani     Texas Olive Ranch     Texas Hill Country     Trader Joe’s California Estate

Errata  —  ***   Bertolli Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil  – It is made from organic olives and produced using organic farming standards. This oil was on our list of not being approved but we have now learned that was incorrect.  Here is a statement from the company: “Our olive oil exceeds the rigorous and exacting standards of the International Olive Council (IOC) and European Union (EU). As proof, in 2017 alone, we achieved global recognition for the quality of our products, winning 4 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze awards at multiple prestigious international olive oil competitions.”  (Their more expensive line)

****  A 2010 study by the University of California, Davis tested 19 popular olive oil brands — including big names like Bertolli and Colavita — sold in the US  using chemical and taste tests to find that nearly 70 percent of the bottles labeled “extra-virgin” didn’t meet the parameters to be labelled as such.  

Even Rachael Ray, the Food Network star credited with bringing the acronym “EVOO" into the popular vernacular, was found to be hawking mislabelled extra-virgin oil.  Just like most of her endorsed junk kitchen products.

Florida May Be In The Olive Oil Business  —  As the partners at River Run planned their Florida company’s future business back in 2014, they found themselves searching for new avenues to explore. Mike Casey, managing partner of River Run Olive Oil.  Their interest was piqued by California’s burgeoning olive oil industry and wondered if producing olives in the Southeast United States might be possible.  Google River Run High Springs Florida for their new business.

The Casey couple’s research led them on a journey across the country to explore operations in Georgia, California, Texas and Arizona. Based on their own independent research, they understood that Central Florida’s latitude was fortuitously situated for olive growing. After learning under the guidance of growers, they set out to determine more specifics on the conditions in their own areas.

River Run Olive Oil was born. With Connie’s help, and the education they gleaned from consumers, growers, and chefs, the new company set a plan in motion to begin their own plantings.

Casey continually emphasized the South East olive oil industry’s nascency, stating that it has only been in existence for roughly 6-7 years.  For a crop that’s been grown for millennia, this is but a blip in time. “There’s a lot of varying degrees of knowledge,” he said, explaining what sources were most important in embarking on the ambitious project.

REAL TRUTH - WHATS GOOD AND HOW TO TELL  —  It’s not possible to tell how pure the oil is just by looking at it. However you can do your own simple test at home: store the bottle in the fridge and, if after 30 min it gets solid, it means it is pure and has monounsaturated fats. If it stays liquid, then it’s cut with other cheaper oils.   As there are other ways of cutting the oil (for example mixing new oil with old oil from the previous years) this test would not guarantee the product we are using is a good quality oil.

Also many of these companies are like Fuel Oil Cracking Plants where they make several grades from one supply of “crude”.  Many brands market a range of oils. Bertolli’s olive oil has been tested and found to contain contamination—this is likely the product in the clear plastic bottle found at supermarkets everywhere. 

At the same time, they may also have a higher end product that is truly extra virgin olive oil, and that one would be found at higher end grocers. It’s hard to keep track because companies keep modifying their products due to customer demand and also public outcry.

The world’s largest olive oil producer reported that its profits in the first six months of 2018 had decreased by nearly $58.4 million compared with the same period last year.  This strategy is not going to be abandoned even if, in the short term, it means loss of market share in markets such as the United States where value is being lost.  It was attributed the decline to a “price war” in the United States, a decrease in sales in Italy and a weakening dollar compared with the euro.

However, you don't necessarily need to go to a farmer's market or pay through the nose for quality, genuine oil. Some personal favorites, which do not cost an arm and a leg, are:  Lucini Italia (often available for sale at Whole Foods or Target )
California Estate Olive Oil from Trader Joe’s (if you do not have a Trader Joe’s - online.) The Trader Joe's California Estate Olive Oil, in fact, came out on top and won the "Best Buy" designation in a Consumer Reports taste test. At the time of writing, it is only $5.99 per 500 ml bottle.

Once you have found a good-quality oil that you like, be sure to store it properly -- in a cool, dry place away from light. If your favorite oil does not come in a dark or metal container, transfer it to a light-proof container as soon as possible, as light quickly degrades oil. Above your stove or on a sunny countertop are examples of bad places to store your oil. 

When oil has gone rancid, it might taste bitter or stale and have a stale, or plastic-y smell. Not only does rancid oil not taste good, it is not good for your health, as it contains free radicals, which can have the opposite effect of fresh, unspoiled extra-virgin olive oil -- since they can increase your risk of heart disease, and cancer. 

In short: favor domestic oils or oils from smaller producers, look for dark-glass or metal containers which protect the oil from light, read labels carefully, store oil properly, and trust your taste buds over marketing claims. 

Remember that a label that says ‘Packed in Italy' or 'Imported from Italy' does not guarantee that the oil actually originated from olives grown in Italy, nor is it any guarantee of quality. 

Words such as "pure," "light," or "extra-light" on an olive oil label do not indicate quality or lower fat content. On the contrary, they mean that the oil is a lower-quality, refined oil. These oils, however, can be perfectly fine for cooking and frying. In fact, using a really high-quality, truly extra-virgin oil for deep frying is a waste and can destroy the flavors and healthful components for which you bought it in the first place! I tend to use high-quality EVOO only raw -- for dressing salads or as a finishing drizzle on cooked dishes. 

THE ITALIAN OLIVE MAFIA  —  When it comes to knock-offs of Italian classics -- you probably think of fake Guccis or Pradas -- not food.  But last month, police in Italy nabbed 7,000 tons of phony olive oil. Much of it was bound for American stores. The oil was from North Africa, deodorized with chemicals and rebranded as more expensive Italian extra virgin. The scam was cooked-up by organized crime.

Mafia copies of fine olive oil, wine and cheese have fueled an explosion of food crime in Italy. It's estimated to be a $16 billion-a-year enterprise. The Italians call it “Agromafia"...and it's a scandal for a people whose cuisine is considered a national treasure.  The image of gangsters in the kitchen was too delicious for us to ignore. So we went to Italy, where we found elite food police hunting wise guys and signs Agromafia specialties are reaching the United States.

Leave it to the Italians to fight the Mafia with good taste. They can tell at first sip whether extra virgin has been diluted with cheap sunflower oil or canola.  Their skill is so respected, Italian courts will accept taste results as evidence. Tirro has 60 cops trained to do this too and 1,100 more conducting inspections and fraud investigations. On the day we visited headquarters, officers were monitoring wiretaps and live video from hidden cameras placed in suspected warehouses around Italy.

In the last two years, they have seized 59,000 tons of food. The Agromafia’s ingredients are poor quality and sometimes contaminated with solvents or pesticides.

While dinning out feel free to inquire about the brand of oil used in dishes and pesto.  There’s no shame in asking! The only way to improve what restaurants do is to educate them starting with the waitstaff  and to make it known that you care. 

Beware of a very low-grade version of olive oil called POMACE OIL —  It is the bottom of the barrel but can be used as fuel in a burner — or oil in an old car —  People have used olive oil with cotton or linen wicks to cleanse the air around them and to keep flames burning for light for thousand of years. Olive oil is 99% pure fuel; it does not produce smoke or soot and does not burn if spilled.