The Mediterranean diet is no longer localized. People for many years have holidayed abroad, and one of the things that they like to do is sample the local cuisine and bring it back with them. People also settle in new areas and bring the tastes from home with them, sharing them with neighbors, family and opening up eating establishments. To cater for these demands many companies start to import or produce foods for them. Olive oil is considered the basis of the Mediterranean diet, and together with the belief that it is a more healthy oil, the demand around the world is putting pressure on supply.

There are many olive oil connoisseurs who know what makes olive oil top quality and how to buy it. The majority of people, unfortunately, have no idea how to differentiate between different olive oils and are forced to be led purely by price, name or marketing. This has led to less scrupulous manufacturers to market substandard or misleading olive oil. In some cases they may add other less expensive oils to their olive oil without declaring it. This is rare and is of course illegal but it does happen. The most common issue is the definition of “extra virgin olive oil”. According to the International Olive Oil Council, “extra virgin olive oil is obtained only from the olive, the fruit of the olive tree, using solely mechanical or other physical means, in conditions, particularly thermal conditions, which do not alter the oil in any way. It has not undergone any treatment other than washing, decanting, centrifuging, and filtering. This excludes oils obtained by the use of solvents or re-esterification methods, and those mixed with oils from other sources.” But this definition has not been accepted widely yet and this allows manufacturers to mislead consumers.

Buying tips

Buy straight from the grower If you are on holiday, take the time to visit a farmer who grows his own olives and presses them, and bring back a really fresh and authentic bottle.

Look at the price – If it looks cheap there probably is a reason for it.

Read the label carefully – Does it come from just one place? What certifications does it have that lend to its authenticity? When was it bottled? Olive oil does go off and so the newer the better.

Look at the bottle – Don’t buy olive oil in clear bottles as colored glass can help to stop the light from spoiling the oil. Also consider how it has been stored because heat and light can damage the oil.
Education – Learn the market and become familiar with which makers are considered to be reputable and produce a quality product. There are a number of companies out there that you can rely upon. Just one example is Jahshan from Israel who have won awards and hold both kosher certification and an ISO 9001 certificate, which attest to their quality.

Buying olive oil can be tricky for the novice but by following these few simple tips you should be able to select a good quality product to complement your cooking.