“Ask Matt Caputo” is an ongoing feature where Matt answers commonly asked questions from the market. This week, he discusses the mislabelling of EVOO found in many grocery stores.
Q: I heard that most Extra Virgin Olive Oils found in grocery stores are mislabeled. How so?
A: Last week, 60 Minutes had a big exposé on how 70 to 80% of the olive oils found in U.S. grocery stores are mislabeled, meaning they are not real Extra Virgin grade.
Although it was “breaking news,” this is not new news. Tom Mueller first broke this story in a 2007 New Yorker article titled “Slippery Business.” But even before then, we knew something was not right in the industry. We were seeing incredibly vibrant-green colors in olive oils that tasted flat, stale, and worse.
After years and years of blind taste tests, I can identify between dozens of oils and name the brand and region of production (I’ve even been able to impress my wife, Yelena, with this skill). I’ve learned to put a lot of faith in my nose and palate.
Over the years, any oil whose flavor, aromas, and textures did not add up to the claims on the label were discontinued at Caputo’s. We always eagerly analyze samples for quality before putting products on our shelves.
We do not stop at blind taste tests, however. We wanted to make certain, so in cases where the price seemed too good to be true, we sent the oils in for professional taste tests to Agbiolab where they conduct many gustatory, chemical, and other scientific tests on olives and olive oil. At no small expense, we have had them run a full spectrum of tests—a tasting panel, UV light test, chemical analysis, etc.—on oils we were curious about.
When a study came out by the UC Davis Olive Center that tested 40 popular brands of olive oil showing how the vast majority of them failed the tests to be called Extra Virgin, we were proud—but not surprised—that Caputo’s did not carry a single one of them.
The moral of the story: Even the less expensive Extra Virgin Olive Oils on Caputo’s shelves are the real deal, and those that are more expensive have been selected for a reason and will be worth every penny. The only thing to decide upon is whether you would like a grassy Sicilian, a thistly Tuscan, or a more complex Umbrian oil.
We keep samples open, so patrons can taste each to ensure they are going to enjoy their purchase. So come on in!
Disclaimer: While Matt Caputo is a Certified Cheese Professional and specialty food fanatic, he is not a medical professional, doctor, or certified nutritionist. Please consult with your doctor or other qualified health care professional before making any healthcare decisions, diagnostics or treatment decisions based on Matt’s answers.