Olive oil shopping tips
Tom Mueller, who spoke on the “60 Minutes” report about the extra virgin olive oil fraud and authored the best-selling “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil,” is a top expert with lots of advice.
He suggests avoiding bargain prices because producing genuine extra virgin oil is expensive — anything less than $10 a liter is probably an inferior oil, he says. He also points out the California Olive Oil Council (cooc.com) has a list of certified oil producers and its own taste panel.
And the respected University of California Davis Olive Center offers these tips: Insist on a harvest date. Quality producers will indicate on the container when the olives were harvested. Look for the most recent harvest, which is typically November to December in the Northern Hemisphere and May to June in the Southern Hemisphere. A “best by” date often is two years from the time the bottle was filled, not when the olives were processed, and therefore is an unreliable indicator of quality.
Choose a good container. Heat and light are the enemies of freshness. Containers are made from dark glass, tin or even clear glass largely covered by a label or placed in a box.
Look for a quality seal. Producer organizations such as the California Olive Oil Council and the Australian Olive Association require olive oil to meet quality standards that are stricter than the minimal USDA standards. Other seals may not offer such assurance.
Keep cool and dark. Exposure to heat and light will diminish freshness and shorten the shelf life of olive oil.
Use it. To enjoy extra virgin olive oil at its best, buy in a container size that can be finished in about six weeks or so. Freshness will diminish with time.