How Do You Know Your Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is Really Extra Virgin?

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Mar 282013

Extra virgin olive oil typically sells at premium prices. With humans being human, it’s natural that some will sell lower grade olive oil at those premium prices to make as much profit as possible. All they have to do is call their lower grade oils extra virgin, and then charge those higher prices. Who’s going to know?

Well, at least 70% of extra virgin olive oil samples sold in California grocery stores don’t meet the international standards for extra virgin, according to a report by the Davis Campus of the University of California (UC Davis). This is their conclusion after analyzing 52 samples of 15 brands of extra virgin olive oil in 2011.

If you buy extra virgin olive oil based on price, like many of us do, you’re probably not getting the health benefits of extra virgin oil. You’re actually paying a high price for an inferior and perhaps an unhealthy oil.

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Extra virgin olive oil is the first, cold press of the olives. It’s mechanically extracted without the use of chemical solvents. Extra virgin also meets the highest standards of chemical quality. Cold press means that the oil has not been exposed to high temperatures.

If the first press oils don’t meet certain quality standards, it is then called virgin oil.

Additional presses of the olives yield additional lower quality oil. The last remaining oil extracted by heat and chemical solvents is a very low grade of oil called pomace oil.

Fraud occurs when sellers sell the virgin or pomace oils as extra virgin.

Why is Extra Virgin Olive Oil Healthier?

Extra virgin olive oil contains the highest quantity of a class of healthy antioxidants called polyphenols. The other grades of oil contain substantially lower amounts of these antioxidants.

How Do You Know That You’re Actually Getting Extra Virgin?

Your best bet is to look for either the COOC (California Olive Oil Council) or IOC (International Olive Council) marks on the label. The COOC gives their mark to high quality extra virgin olive oils from California, and the IOC from the European Union countries. Without these marks, it’s likely that you’re buying lower quality oils.

You should also consider buying oils in dark colored glass bottles, since light quickly degrades these oils.


It’s likely that over 70% of extra virgin olive oils sold in the United States don’t meet international standards for extra virgin. Large profits of selling lower grade oils at premium prices is just too tempting, especially when there are no government agencies checking olive oil quality.

The best way to ensure that you’re getting the highest quality extra virgin olive oil is to look for either the COOC or IOC mark on the label. You should also buy olive oil in dark colored bottles to insure the least amount of light degradation.

Other Sources:

WebMD: Olive Oil Buyer’s Guide
Apollo Olive Oil: Frequently Asked Questions
Recipe Labs: What’s the difference between extra-virgin and virgin olive oil?