A cadre of chefs, restaurants and cooking enthusiasts with a mutual love of olive oil are accusing several companies of diluting the product with cheaper alternatives while still branding it as "extra virgin."
The group filed a complaint in Orange County Superior Court this week claiming that several retailers and olive oil producers, including such varied outlets as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Bristol Farms, have misled Californians for years about the actual quality of the olive oil on sale.
The slew of defendants also includes Gelson's Markets, Kmart, Target Corp. and others, who are accused of charging a high premium for imposter oil. The suit doesn't name several retailers such as Trader Joe's and Costco because, attorney Daniel Callahan said, their olive oil products aren't adulterated.
His firm, Callahan & Blaine of Santa Ana, also filed a class-action complaint last month against 99 Cents Only Stores alleging unfair and deceptive business practices and misleading advertising because the discount chain raised some prices to 99.99 cents.
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Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction preventing the questionable oil from being distributed and may also request hundreds of millions of dollars in restitution for "fraudulently obtained profits," Callahan said.
But with so many defendants, the case will probably plod along for two years before it makes it into court, he said.
The suit draws heavily on a July report from the UC Davis Olive Center that found that consumers shell out $700 million a year on olive oil, yet 69% of the imported oils sampled and one of 10 California-produced samples didn't meet international standards for extra-virgin olive oil.
Some restaurateurs, Callahan said, went so far as to throw out dishes that didn't taste right because of the suspect oil.
"This cost many of our restaurateurs a lot of money due to destroyed product — they were dissatisfied with their meals," he said. "And customers expected the taste of extra virgin olive oil instead of what they were getting."
Antonio Cagnolo, who owns Antonello Ristorante in Santa Ana and is a plaintiff in the suit, said he uses blind tastings to separate out musty, cheap options from the purer varieties of oil. He has just returned from Italy bearing freshly cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil.
But consumers aren't just duped by diluted blends, he said. They also get distracted by the attractive labels on bottles of so-called Italian olive oil and don't read the fine print noting that the olives are actually from Greece or Spain and the product is packaged in the U.S., he said.
"Definitely, people have all been buying something that's probably not real," he said. "Someone's lying. But I'm very fussy — I'm not going to let those guys take me by the nose, because I know exactly what I'm buying."
|・ History of Olives|
|・ Olive Oil and Its Color |
|・ Acidity of Olive Oil|
|・ Practical Advice on Choosing Olive Oil|
|・ Organic Olive Oil|
|・ Olive Oil in maintaining Good Health|
|・ How to Make Your Own Table Olives|
|・ Olive Oil Soap - Amalthia|
|History of Olives|
|The olive tree, indigenous to the Mediterraneanarea, |
seems to have been around for thousands of years.
A fossilized leaf of the olea noti family has been found at
Kyme on Euboea,
while evidence which proves the scattered spreading out
of the tree has been found in Provence in France and in
the countries of Northern Africa.
This extremely old piece of evidence fills you with awe for
the antiquity of this tree.
It originates from the islands of the Aegean,
Santorini and Nisyros,
where professor Evangelos Velitzelos discovered fossilized
olive tree leaves aged fifty to sixty thousand years old!
Experts on Palaeobotany believe that what was discovered
were leaves of cultivated olive trees.
An impressive archaeological discovery bears witness to
the relationship between the edible olive in cooking and in
| Archaeologists who carried out excavations on Crete, in the area of Zakros on the east side of the island, have uncovered |
olives aged 3500 years.
Discoverers have given a logical reason for this finding.
A short while before the disastrous earthquake which finally brought down the palace, during the pre-earthquake tremors
that had already started (a warning of the forthcoming disaster), offerings were made to the gods in the form of bowls filled
with edible olives.
It was judged that the most suitable placed for this offering was a well.
People then probably believed that by placing the offerings in the well, they would be closer to the powers of the Underworld,
the same ones that could cause such strong earth tremors.
When archaeologists uncovered the well, a bowl full of olives was found and they, too, had kept their skins after so many
years - they were not very big but shiny ones.
|Olive Oil and Its Color|
| Green Colored Olive Oil: |
This will probably have been made from green olives which have been collected
before having ripened and sometimes, the color is a result of other factors, too.
Usually, green-colored olive oil is more pepper-like in taste.
It can be used for cooking pulses and vegetables, game or meat, although it is a
matter of personal choice.
| Golden-Yellow Olive Oil: |
This probably comes from olives that had started to turn reddish or black.
It generally has a milder taste, more fruity and gives off a variety of aromas.
The smell may be reminiscent of fruit or vanilla.
This is the oil usually chosen by chefs especially when cooking fish.
But all these points are matters of personal choice.
Good extra virgin olive oil can be used for many purposes, even for sweets or cakes.
In traditional Greek cooking, only olive oil is used for this baking and the oil is
generally of a very high standard.
|Acidity of Olive Oil|
| The degree of acidity in olive oil |
indicates the oleic acid content.
It is believed to be edible, according to
the International Olive Oil Council, when
the acidity does not exceed 3.3 degrees.
|・Acidity 0.1-1.0 Extra Virgin Olive Oil |
Exceptional quality olive oil. Particular natural flavor and taste.
・ -1.5 Fine virgin olive oil
Olive oil with excellent smell and taste
・ -3.3 Semi-fine virgin olive oil
a virgin olive oil with good taste and smell
|Practical Advice on Choosing Olive Oil|
| Good olive oil has a pleasant taste and smell. |
In general, virgin olive oil extra should always be chosen.
If the level of acidity is mentioned, make sure it is low.
International agreement states that extra virgin olive should have an acidity level between 0.1 and 1.
Recently, some bottles have included exact information regarding this matter (i.e. 0.5 or 0.8).
This is a good sign which gives the consumer the choice of a high quality oil or a poor, blended olive oil.
Organic Olive Oil
| Recent Greek olive oil producers provide an oil which is |
rich in organic characteristics.
Olive oil extraction is done under strict conditions of
processing, where only mechanical pressing is permitted
with no heat in the press nor other techniques which might
affect its characteristics.
In countries of the European Union (including Greece, of
course), organic products are strongly protected by law and
are carefully checked by quality control organizations.
|Olive Oil in maintaining Good Health|
| The study of the Seven Countries, which was organized by Anzel Keys towards the end of the 1950s greatly surprised the |
international scientific community.
The Cretans, whose food floated in oil, were found to have the best health in the world.
Cancerous diseases were rare, in fact much less frequent than all the areas studied and perhaps in all the world, and
cardiovascular diseases were almost unknown on Crete.
|How to Make Your Own Table Olives|
| If you can find black olives of the Kalamata variety, try this traditional Greek recipe. |
These olive fruits are large and are gathered when they are deep black but before they are wrinkled. Select firm and
Incise the olives lengthwise in two places with a sharp knife without touching the stone.
Place them into a large clay or plastic vase with enough water to cover them for about 12 days changing
the water daily until they are no longer bitter.
Prepare brine with 1 litre water and 100 grams salt for every kilo of olives,
put the sweetened olives in the brine and leave them for two days.
Then drain them and soak in vinegar where you have added a little water (4 parts of vinegar to 1 part of water)
for another two days.
Finally drain them again and store in glass or clay jars covered with olive oil. Season with bay leaves or oregano, if desired.
|Olive Oil Soap - Amalthia|
| Soap is regarded today, even after the tremendous expansion of |
synthetic detergents, as the perfect cleaning product.
This is due to the fact that it is not toxic, acts effectively when used
with soft water and doesn't pollute the environment.
Natural green olive oil soap is produced from residue oil of high acidity
while white soap is produced from pure olive oil.
Among all the olive oil soaps that are being distributed in the market
today, one should take a careful look at the 100% natural handmade
olive oil soap developed by Mr. Vassilis Myriokefalitakis, a goldsmith in
By carefully planning the perfect mix of olive oil taken from his olive
tree plantation along with wild onions and fresh herbs (all organic
products), he successfully discovered a pure natural soap that can be
used for all purposes.
Originally, one would wonder why a certain soap is used to cleanse
one's body, while another kind is used for shampoo, another one for
facial cleansing, etc.
If a certain kind of shampoo is too harsh to wash one's face, wouldn't it
damage the hair as well?
| The soap created by Mr. Myriokefalitakis, AMALTHIA, has a unique diversity in that its use is not |
limited to a certain body part.
Surprisingly, it can be used to clean one's face,
as well as hair, body, shaving cream, and any other parts that require cleansing.
Findings have shown its amazing effect such as prevention against hair loss, cure of skin rash, dandruff,
dry skin and other dermatological diseases.
A good example that vividly shows Amalthia's effects was conducted where two tomato trees were planted in a vase with
a mixture of water and Amalthia and another one in a mixture of water and baby soap
(soap that is said to be the most delicate).
As one would expect, the tomato tree planted in the baby soap mixture died out in a couple of days, while the one in the
Amalthia mixture lasted to the extent that tomatoes grew on the tree and they were perfectly edible.
This biodegradable soap does NOT contain any artificial color or perfume, and will return to the ground as a natural fertilizer.