Wednesday, July 27, 2016

More on Food Fraud as covered at FiveThirtyEight

Where I buy olive oil: Whole Foods. I wonder how good it really is! these days is posting frequent updates to their Presidential election coverage, and I've been looking at it often -- sometimes hourly -- to see their prediction. Today, besides the election, they are covering one of the topics I read and wrote about yesterday: food fraud!

"Most Of Us Are Blissfully Ignorant About How Much Rancid Olive Oil We Use" by Anna Maria Barry-Jester is even more severely scary about the low quality of most US-purchased olive oil than the book Real Food/Fake Food that I have been reading. Regulatory efforts try to ensure that bottles labeled "olive oil" actually contain oil that comes from olives, and that claims to be "extra virgin" are accurate. These efforts are in fact being stepped up by Congressional directives to the FDA.

The problem, however, remains that "most people in the U.S. can’t tell fusty and musty from pungent and fruity." The article explains:
"'We call the U.S. the world’s dumping ground for rancid and defective olive oil. We don’t know the difference,' said Sue Langstaff, a sensory scientist who consults for the beer, wine and olive oil industries, among others. Studies have shown that even frequent olive oil consumers in the U.S. don’t know what the extra virgin or cold pressed designations mean, let alone have the ability to taste the difference. And in blind taste tests, consumers often prefer lower-quality olive oils.

"Rancidity, for example, isn’t generally a sought after quality in edible products. And yet, when it comes to olive oil in the U.S., people like it. Why? Partly, because rancid olive oil is less bitter than the good stuff. But also, likely because it’s what many of us know and grew up with. It’s what we think olive oil is supposed to taste like."
The article's principal suggestion is that American consumers should inform themselves about the taste of wholesome, unspoiled olive oil by learning to recognize and name the flavors that should be present and also those that should be avoided -- footnotes to the article define quite a few of these terms, if you're curious. The conclusion: "For most of us, the first step to experiencing great olive oil is probably learning the language that defines it, and the flavor of those descriptors."


Kitchen Riffs said...

I've read this before that so much olive oil is rancid in this country. Really depressing. The whole food fraud thing is, in fact. Years ago we lived in Tampa, and one of the newspapers collected samples of grouper -- probably the favorite fish in that area -- from a couple of dozen local restaurants. Turned out most of them weren't grouper at all (they did DNA testing). Really depressing. :-(

Debra Eliotseats said...

I have been concerned about all that I've been reading about the olive oil industry. I can attest that last summer I made garlic confit and as soon as I refrigerated my batches, I could tell immediately that the olive oil wasn't pure. I was recently in Fresno and I so wish I had been able to visit some of the olive groves and had some shipped back from the source.

Cheri Savory Spoon said...

I heard about this before too. So sad that a country as big as ours has so many bad food issues. Good post Mae!

Jeanie said...

Very interesting. I've read a lot about the olive oil but to know that so much is actually rancid... ick!