04.Olive oil quality
The bad news for supermarket shoppers is that half the oils on test – most of which are imported from Italy and Spain – don’t meet the widely accepted International Olive Council (IOC) trade standard for “extra virgin” (see Jargon Buster and results table). The tests we used are designed to check for signs of fruit damage, poor harvesting operations, poor storage of fruit or oil before processing or bottling, refinement (such as bleaching or deodorising) or deterioration due to ageing or poor storage of the bottled oil.
A number of the producers of oils that failed presented us with evidence that the particular batch of oil we tested met extra virgin requirements at the time of bottling, but our test results found they weren’t extra virgin at the point of purchase. This suggests that ageing or less-than-ideal storage conditions and handling after bottling is often to blame. Extra virgin olive oil deteriorates with time and exposure to excess heat, oxygen and light.
FoodWorks and Aldi are taking steps to rectify problems along the supply chain, while Ollo and Red Island have strengthened internal production processes to avoid quality issues. But distributors and producers of other oils that failed our tests have not indicated they will take any action.