The truth about olive oil

Oil is well The packaging needs a close look  

Olive oil is significantly cheaper after a recent cut in import duty. The customer is spoiled for choice, but the labels on olive oil bottles can be quite confusing: ‘extra virgin', ‘virgin', ‘100 per cent olive oil', ‘refined olive oil' , ‘pomace olive oil', and so on. There is also the issue of quality. The following few lines might prevent you from spending a few hundred rupees on the wrong kind of oil.

What do the labels mean? The nomenclature derives from the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) standards. Virgin olive oils come only from the olive, by way of mechanical or other physical means, under thermal conditions that do not alter the oil in any way. Extra-virgin olive oil, which is the most expensive and the most flavourful, is the highest quality of olive oil, and it has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of no more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams (0.8 per cent). Plain ‘virgin olive oil' may have free acidity up to 2 per cent. Refined olive oil, also confusingly known as “pure olive oil”, comes from virgin olive oils by extraction with charcoal and other chemical and physical filters. It has a poor flavour and most nations do not consider it fit for consumption. Plain “Olive Oil”, even more confusingly, is a blend of refined and virgin oils.

Olive-Pomace oil come from the ground flesh and pits left after pressing, and processing involves use of solvents and other physical methods. The oil can be crude or refined. The stuff marketed as ‘Olive Pomace Oil' is actually a blend of refined olive pomace oil and virgin oils.

Food uses: Extra-virgin olive oils are ideal for dishes that do not involve cooking: salads, hummus, marinades, etc. Other varieties of olive oil may be used for cooking, but there is no justification — health wise or cost wise — for preferring them over sunflower oil for Indian cooking.

Olive oil begins to lose its antioxidants after one year; so buy it fresh. Oil made in Spain or Greece tends to be the most reliable in quality. A couple of years ago, Italy suffered a major embarrassment when some of its growers were found to be importing oil from African countries and selling it onwards as Made in Italy. North African countries such as Tunisia are now major oil growers, but there is no reliable data on what pesticides they use and what controls they have in place.

(The writer is a specialist in Internal Medicine)

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 1:14:53 AM |

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