Olive oil. We use it to cook. We use it for its antioxidants and overall health benefits. It’s also used regularly for making soap.
With so many of us using olive so often, it bears pointing out that we’re not always getting what we think we are. In the world of organic and natural, there are products that consistently make it hard to trust their quality. In the case of olive oil, it’s difficult to guarantee authenticity. The olive oil industry has a past worth investigating and annual revenue of over $1.5 billion that encourages deception.
How Much Isn’t As Advertised?
It’s been reported that nearly 70% of the extra virgin olive oil sold in the world isn’t what it says it is. It lacks authenticity. It is either cut with cheaper carrier oils or it is imported and relabeled. Often, Spanish extra-virgin olive oil gets passed off as Italian, simply by putting a new label on the bottle.
Just last week, an operation in Italy and Germany confiscated 150,000 liters of low-quality oils, resulting in 20 arrests. Low-quality oil is consistently being passed off as “fine Italian oil,” making the fake olive oil industry a booming business for scammers. It is believed the scammers in Italy and Germany profited by as much as $9 million.
The Problem Is American, Too
The U.S. isn’t immune to fraudulent activity. In 2007, storage units in New York were busted for counterfeit olive oil. The facility held 10,000 cases of what appeared to be extra-virgin olive oil, when in fact, the bottles contained mostly soybean oil. Additionally, according to the University of California Davis, nearly two-thirds of the extra-virgin olive oil found in California grocery stores was not what it claimed to be.
How do we know, then, what’s real and what’s fake? There are a few ways to test whether or not the olive oil you purchased stands up to its claims of authenticity. First off, despite popular belief, color isn’t actually an indicative property for determining quality.
Tips for Smart Buying
A factor you should take into consideration is the packaging. The best oils are contained in darker glass bottles, which prevents the oil from going rancid from sun exposure. Additionally, pay attention to the labels on the bottle. Definitely ensure that there is an expiration date visible somewhere on the bottle and watch out for phrases like “packed in Italy” or “bottled in Italy.”
An Olive Oil Workaround
If taking precautionary measures seems frustrating and your heart isn’t set on olive oil for soap-making, sunflower and safflower oils are a great alternative! Olive oil produces good quality soap because it contains 80-82% oleic fatty acid, which contributes moisturizing ability to the lather. Both sunflower and safflower oils contain 81-85% oleic fatty acid. From a soap making perspective, there is no functional difference substituting sunflower and safflower for olive oil. The final, high-quality soap product is unchanged and there’s much less concern about authenticity.