The pure facts about extra virgin olive oil
CHOICE reveals the not-so good oil
Testing by CHOICE of 28 brands of extra virgin olive oil sold in Australian supermarkets has found that half don't meet widely accepted international standards.
The consumer group says there needs to be a mandatory Australian standard for all olive oils labelled "extra virgin" to ensure they meet basic purity and quality requirements.
Of the oils that failed the CHOICE test, most were imported from Italy and Spain. Nine of the top ten tasting brands were Australian and rated silver or bronze medal class according to Australian Olive Association show judging criteria.
"With the absence of any mandatory standard in Australia you have to trust that oil labelled "extra virgin" is the real deal. This means it’s been mechanically extracted from quality olives without the use of heat or chemical processes and has low acidity. Unfortunately this isn't always the case," says CHOICE spokesman Brad Schmitt
The tests were designed to check for signs of fruit damage, poor harvesting methods, poor storage before and after processing and bottling and whether there had been any bleaching or deodorizing or deterioration due to ageing. They involved chemical and sensory testing against International Olive Council standards.
"A number of producers insisted their oil met extra virgin requirements at the time of bottling but our test results found they weren't extra virgin at the point of purchase," says Schmitt.
"Extra virgin olive oil deteriorates with time and exposure to excessive heat, oxygen and light so this suggests the blame could lie with less than ideal storage conditions after the oil has been bottled."
The "good oil" survey concluded that price doesn't always equate to quality. Topping Choice's What to Buy list of recommendations is Coles Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil at less than $12 a litre, followed by Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil Fresh & Fruity ($14.65/litre) and Woolworths Select Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($13.98/litre). The dearest product retailed at more than $26 a litre.