What Is Olive Oil Fraud?

What Is Olive Oil Fraud?


This isn’t a story about olive oil. At least, not entirely. This is the story of an inspiring, creative man who fell in love with the bounty of nature, culinary delights, Carrizo Springs, and a vision for authenticity in the olive oil industry. No, it’s not a scene from Eat, Pray, Love (though it’s romantic enough to be). It’s the love story behind our olive oil, a unique love story that led to the creation of this brand by the Henry's. This story is truly about the love of challenges and bringing transparency to the reality of being in the agriculture industry.

Our dear friend, a British citizen now holding dual citizenship in the United States, recently emailed us about olive oil fraud and the authenticity of our olive oil. We told her this was a massive challenge in the agricultural industry. A recent bout of sickness had her bedridden when she found out that her favorite olive oil was the cause of her illness. I was honestly surprised to hear that her favorite olive oil, sold at Erewhon, had been removed from the shelves due to the inability to clarify the brand's ethics and production practices. Perhaps they were perfectly practicing, as the oil never seemed to upset her IBS, but what was curious was that her new choice of oil immediately affected her system.

She was shocked to learn that 70% of all olive oil was fake. Her stomach started hurting after almost every meal she bought, dined at, or cooked. After eliminating the usual tummy-twisting subjects like cheese and bread, it turned out that olive oil was the culprit.

While researching, she discovered that a large portion of the olive oil consumed in the United States is either rancid, of poor quality, or contaminated, which amounts to fraud within the industry. This made her reflect on the olive oil market and how consumers often need clarification about the quality of the products they are purchasing. 

Many people struggle to find an olive oil brand that genuinely excites them. This realization sparked an idea in her mind – perhaps there was an opportunity here, and we were the answer!

After many back and forths, we complied with our expertise to ensure she was never bedridden by oil again. 

This is what we said: 

Adulterated olive oils may contain a mixture of low-quality vegetable oils such as soybean, sunflower, palm, or canola. The quality of olive oil can deteriorate during various stages of commercial production. Moldy olive oil can result from crushing olives with dirt and mud. Old or rancid olive oils often have a wax crayon-like taste and are caused by improper storage and exposure to light, heat, or air. Larvae can contaminate olive oil, resulting in a grubby or dirty taste. When olive flies lay eggs in developing olives, the larvae feed on the pulp and become part of the processed oil.

Like wine, Olive oil has a vibrant flavor with depth and nuance. To determine its quality, taste the olive oil straight by pouring some into a spoon and thinking about the flavors and taste. If it tastes like nothing or has a plastic-like flavor, it's likely rancid. On the other hand, if it tastes fresh green and has a peppery finish at the back of your throat, it's likely the real deal (extra virgin olive oil). The best way to ensure quality is to purchase from a producer or importer you know operates with integrity and transparency. If that is not possible, follow these rules:

  • When buying olive oil, choose a dark bottle because it can deteriorate when exposed to light. Look for the harvest date, not just the bottle date. The harvest date indicates when the olives were picked, and the oil was made, helping you determine the oil's age.
  • For extra virgin olive oil from North America, look for the most recent Fall Harvest with an 18-20 month timing. For example, if it's June 2023 and you find EVOO harvested from Nov 2022, that's great. However, if it's still Nov 2021, it could be better.
  • Texas Olive Ranch oils are all from the November 2022 harvest, which is current.

It's essential to pay attention to the taste when detecting rancid or fake oil. Be cautious of labels that say "pure," "light," or just "virgin" olive oil, as "pure" and "light" indicate that the oil went through processing, and "virgin" rather than "extra virgin" means lower quality. While most commercial olive oil producers don't consistently switch to the most recent harvest, we ensure the highest quality, freshness, health benefits, and flavor in Texas Olive Ranch olive oil. Our olives are carefully hand-picked, processed in the mill within an hour of picking, and stored in temperature-controlled rooms after being filtered 90 minutes later. Our oils are sourced from the freshest harvest available, as the olive harvest occurs only once a year. We package our oils in UV-protected opaque glass bottles to maintain their integrity.

She responded:

How are you making a difference and pushing the olive oil industry forward? 

We said: 

Texas Olive Ranch was founded with a passion for better, more honest food production and a strong belief in the land and its offerings. The company aims to transform the American olive oil industry by creating high-quality, custom-blended extra virgin olive oil that nourishes the body, heart, and soul. Despite hearing that "no one cares about taste or packaging" in the industry, The Henry's are committed to crafting a brand that celebrates bold flavors and thoughtful, design-centered packaging.

One of the biggest misconceptions about working in the olive oil industry is that it's all fun and glamorous when, in reality, that's only about 5% of it. Most of the time is spent solving problems and dealing with the messy side. People often need to realize that the reality differs from what they see on Instagram.

Our best advice is to do your research…