Tag Archive for: mild olive oil

Olive oil test - Stiftung Warentest tests 28 olive oils and finds no polyphenols

The Mild Olive Oil Scam

Source:  stern
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“It’s all a question of price”.

Production is specifically targeted at the low-cost market. What ends up in the mass market are therefore often industrial, tired oils – high in calories, low in phenols and weak in taste. Here, the olives are not picked but cut from the tree – unless the farmer prefers to wait until the overripe fruits have fallen muddy to the ground, where he can sweep them up by machine. The fruits harvested in this way can often be seen standing in sacks by the roadside, sweating, rotting and decaying in the sun.
And the oil made from it? It stinks, and its free oleic acid content, evidence of rotten fruit, quickly exceeds the permissible limit of 0.8 percent per litre by far.

Will it be poured away, used in oil lamps or in varnishes? Not at all. There is the oil refinery. And there is Germany. Many consumers there do not know the typical fresh taste of olive oil, the sometimes grassy, flowery aroma that smells of artichokes or fresh hay, the slight bitterness and sharpness on the palate.

“And there is Germany.
Many consumers there don’t know the typical fresh taste of olive oil.”

It is also possible to sell oil to Germany that a chemist in a food laboratory has first removed the stink from and then freshened up by cutting it. The taste has adapted to the poor quality. For the German market, particularly mild-tasting oils are created and sold as high quality. It is as if Cindy aus Marzahn was presented as “Germany’s next top model” in Papua New Guinea.

In 2013, Germany imported 57 million litres of olive oil, almost three quarters of it from Italy. Many people think of the beautiful olive groves in beautiful Tuscany. But the oil that German customers buy does not always come from there. The Italian origin also serves marketing purposes. An Italian name on the bottle always pays off in retail. A look at the shelves at Rewe shows that. There you will find Carapelli-Firenze, Sasso, Bertolli, Pietro Coricelli. Sounds good. But it rarely tastes like it. How could it be otherwise, the production of olive oil in the whole of Italy does not even cover its own needs. If any Italian olive oil leaves the country at all, it hardly ever ends up in the supermarkets, but in specialised shops and not at cheap prices, because in Tuscany – where harvesting can be done almost exclusively by hand – olive oil can hardly be produced at a cost-covering price below twelve euros per litre.”

“In Spain – due to the subsidy policy of the EU – the biggest problem areas of olive cultivation are located. Especially in Andalusia, the landowners today operate huge olive monocultures. The suppliers of the AOV also come from here, including companies that are subsidised with public money. Of course, there is also high-class oil in Spain. But it is as expensive as anywhere else and reaches the specialised trade at best. Of course, Spanish oil could theoretically be marketed as such – but it has no reputation. Italian oil does.

Spanish bulk oil, like that from other countries, is transported by ship across the Mediterranean to the port of Livorno. It then continues its journey by tanker across Tuscany until the trucks dump their cargo into one of the tanks on the farms of companies such as AOV in Monteriggioni.”


Pan-fried mild olive oil for the German consumer

„We are only as far along with olive oil as we were with wine thirty years ago“

The free market for olive oil is not functioning properly. The connoisseurs are frustrated: Many customers do not understand the simplest things – that a good oil tastes bitter and grassy, and not mild and buttery. But the people who buy in the supermarket want the oil to be mild.

“We’ve only got as far as we did with wine thirty years ago,” moans Richard Retsch, a connoisseur, namely the head of the gourmet and taster association “Deutsches Olivenöl Panel”. He says on the sidelines of a big novelty tasting in the exhibition halls of Nuremberg: “The discrepancy between expert and mass taste is huge.”

Yet the experts have long since precisely defined what has to be good and bad. There is a questionnaire on which the gourmets note down all kinds of characteristics of the oils. Stingy, muddy, musty, aroma of wet wood, rancid: if only one of these notes can be tasted, the olive oil fails outright. Then it must no longer be called “extra virgin”. That is the highest quality class. The state requires such tests: at least eight experts have to do the taste test, and a number of laboratory values have to be correct, then an oil is also “extra virgin” or “extra virgin”.

For gourmets, that’s the least they can do. One of them, Richard Wolny, explains what flavours make an outstanding oil: “I can tell what the aroma is, whether the oil tastes like artichoke, green tomato, green banana, freshly cut grass.”

Demand for mild olive oil poisons the market

It is a big market. There are 3.3 million tonnes of fresh olive oil in the world every year. A farmer gets around 3 euros per litre for it, a little less in Tunisia and Greece, a little more in Italy. A bottle of pure, one hundred percent extra virgin oil costs the consumer at least 13 euros at the wine merchant or in online shipping. In the supermarket, you can get a litre for just over four euros – how can that work?

There are many figures on this market, but also many oddities. For one thing, the information on the labels is usually unclear. If it does not say that the olives are from the country of production, but only an Italian brand name, it is pretty certain that they contain blends. Italy harvests just about as many olives as its own population consumes – yet it is the world’s largest producer and also exporter of olive oil. Some of the oil or olives are imported beforehand, from Tunisia, Morocco, Greece, and – legally or not – relabelled.

The second oddity concerns quality standards. An oil sold as “extra virgin” does not have to be full and of the best quality. The mishmash is the rule. Large oil producers like Bertolli and Nestlé profit from consumers’ ignorance. After all, “extra virgin” is a category characterised by many taste features, mechanical pressing and a maximum content of fatty acids. However, it may well contain a high proportion of inferior oils. If a manufacturer mixes, say, 10 per cent excellent olive oil with 90 per cent tasteless, chemically refined third-rate olive oil, the end product still tastes “extra virgin” and passes the test.

“Unblended, the litre should cost at least 13 euros”.

A large part of the oils sold by Rewe, Aldi, Lidl and others are likely to be such blends. “Otherwise they would have to cost at least 13 or 15 euros per bottle,” explains an industry expert. That is easy to understand, since the producer already receives 3 euros for the litre.

Where there is a lot of confusion, independent experts have an important role to play. Stiftung Warentest is one of them. Most recently, it surprised in January when it published an olive oil test in which the mass producers were described as premium brands and the quality producers were downgraded to “pure taste winners”.