Olive Oil 101

What Is Olive Oil?

Virgin olive oil is the only grade accepted by USDA as "olive oil." The FDA defines olive oil as follows: "Olive oil is the edible oil expressed from the sound, mature fruit of the olive tree." Refined or extracted oil is not entitled to the unqualified name "olive oil."

Crude lampante is made from olives that are spoiled or insect infested. It must be chemically refined before it can be consumed. The resulting oil, after refining, is known as A-refined, or Refined-A olive oil. It is not, strictly speaking, "olive oil." It is used as the primary ingredient for a new product that is sold as "Pure Olive Oil."

Most consumers do not understand that the reason why “pure” and “lite” olive oil are milder tasting is that they are actually mixtures of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil. (The most common mixtures are 90% refined and 10% virgin for “pure”, and 95% refined and 5% virgin for “lite”.) The refined portion has no flavor, color, or aroma, and serves to dilute the organoleptic characteristics of the small amount of virgin olive oil that it’s mixed with. The same amount of virgin olive oil mixed with virtually any refined seed oil will taste the same. Refined olive oil is to virgin olive oil as “fruit drink” is to fruit juice.

Virgin olive oil is ready for consumption immediately after crushing. Because it is produced from sound ripe olives there is no need to refine or clean the oil.

The virgin olive oil category includes the higher grade known as extra virgin olive oil. There are many different grades of extra virgin and virgin olive oil. Virgin oils are categorized and graded in two ways, one is chemical and the other organoleptic (taste).

The refining process strips the oil of impurities, as well as flavor, color, and aroma. The essential polyphenols and antioxidants that constitute the essence of olive oil are destroyed in the refining process. Refined olive oil is a colorless, odorless, tasteless fat that has much more in common with seed oils like soy, corn, and canola.

PURE or 100% PURE OLIVE OIL is a MIXTURE of at least two completely different oils: refined olive oil and virgin olive oil.

This article has been republished with permission from Delizia.

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