The Olive Oil Controversy

Soon after my extensive food allergies diagnosis, I visited a nutritionist.  At the time I was eating mostly fruits and vegetables and rice, but I was still sick.  Fearful I was developing even more allergies, I kept a food journal.  After reviewing the very short list, the nutritionist asked me what type of oil I was cooking the veggies in.  I assured her I was using olive oil (absolutely no soy, corn or vegetable).

Oil tasting, BAIA October 2006 Wine Tasting, C...

Turns out not every olive oil is created equal.  Who knew!

The one I was using contained soy oil (I consider soy to be my worst allergy).  According to the nutritionist and the research I later conducted, counterfeit extra virgin olive oil, fake EVOO, can be found on most grocery store shelves.  Read this July 2010 report by UC Davis Olive Center and this Natural News article.  I find it maddening that while I only buy 100 percent extra virgin olive oil, I might still be drizzling corn or soy oil on my salads–and getting sick!  Peanut, canola, sunflower, safflower, and hazelnut oils have also been found in olive oils.  While my reactions are not life-threatening, what about those who have anaphylaxis symptoms?

Of course there are many safe and tasty olive oils out there.  If I had read all the reports about adulterated olive oil before we travelled to Italy a few months ago, I would have been wary of tasting the olive oil and I would have missed some wonderful meals, like this one:

Fortunately, at that time of our trip, I assumed all olive oil in Italy would come just from olives (and most probably do).  While my husband tasted the wine, I tasted the olive oil, usually dipping my fingers into the bowls since I couldn’t eat the bread.  Oh my!  The taste of real Italian olive oil is incredible.

Our trip to Italy introduced me to the variety of olives and how the earth and processing of the oil creates its flavor.

We came home with a case from Casa Emma Winery (the winery is in the photo above).  I’m not sure how to describe this oil, but it tastes natural and green and a tiny bit spicy.  Guests often ask me for my salad dressing recipe, and I tell them it’s the olive oil that makes the difference.

So how do you know if you are getting the real thing when the label “100 percent olive oil” isn’t foolproof?  Paying more isn’t always necessary;  I’ve never gotten sick from Costco’s Kirkland brand and use it regularly for cooking.  But I have to say whenever I’ve bought a more expensive bottle of olive oil, my stomach hasn’t paid the price.

Some experts say real olive oil will solidify after a couple of days in the refrigerator, so you can give that a try.  Most good olive oils come in dark glass, so steer away from clear bottles.  You can also go to tastings at one of the many olive oil stores; bring your own gluten-free bread.  Ask the staff to help you identify the taste of true olive oil.  If you are a connoisseur like me, research olive oils that have won competitions.  As an allergic foodie, I’ve given up a lot, but I refuse to give up my olive oil!