27 April 2011 by Robyn Campbell

The truth about virgins…

When it comes to Extra Virgin Olive oil, the reality is not all oils are created equal. Nor are they ‘truthfully’ labelled. When the large international olive oil producing countries start labelling and selling more oil than they can practically produce, questions need to be asked…

Shenanigans in the lucrative global trade in olive oil aren’t news, but because the South African olive industry is relatively young, and no regulations or legislation exist to govern the import of olive oil, self-policing within the industry becomes vital.

With the quality, goal of informing local consumers about the true quality of available olive oils, SA Olive (SAO), the voluntary association representing the South Africa’s olive industry decided to conduct some independent testing and compare the quality of local and imported olive oils.

The market study comprised a random sample of 7 local and 23 imported Extra Virgin Oils (EVOs), (of which 23% were of South African origin). These were tested in an accredited international laboratory, using specifications of the International Olive Council (IOC).

The results confirmed what SAO and many other lovers of good quality olive oil already know: not all oils labelled as Extra Virgin deserves this prestigious classification.

Twenty six percent of imported oils were fraudulently bottled as Extra Virgin. Additionally, 66% of oils sampled showed 1 or other form of defect meaning they should not be given the Extra Virgin label. Of the 30 tested only 33% oils claiming to be Extra Virgin were in fact Extra Virgin.

Great news for South African olive oil producers and their customers is that none of the South African oils tested showed any sign of being tampered with. South Africa oil also achieved top honours in all the testing categories: chemical, organoleptic (tasting) and freshness tests based on IOC approved parameters.

The study also showed that the average price of all olive oils tested is R62.68 (US$8.66) for 500ml. The average price for those which can be classified as Extra Virgin is R65.19 ($9.07), for the same volume. According to Leonard Arangies, SAO’s manager ‘That’s a small difference to pay for some of the best olive oils in the world.’

You can find out more about the local olive oil producers who comply with SAO (and therefore IOC) standards on the SA Olive website. You can also look out for the ‘Member of SA Olive Commitment to Compliance Scheme (CTC)’ seal. A guarantee that you’re buying 100% South Africa Extra Virgin Olive oil.

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