Fraud is Rampant in Olive Oil Sales: A Look at Getting True EVOO

Fraud in the olive oil business is making headlines around the United States and the world, thanks mostly to publicity surrounding Tom Mueller’s book “Extra Virginity,” which focuses on the adulteration of olive oil and big money that goes along with the scams.

At the same time the problem has blown up in Italy – the second largest supplier of olive oil in the world – where investigators have found that Italy’s top olive oil producers have mixed their oil with other, lower-grade oils and passed them off as extra virgin Italian olive oil. The problem in olive oil fraud is so serious that China initially blocked imports of Italian oil and now has customs officials investigating fraudulent oil.

“Mueller found that fraud was extensive, particularly adulteration and false labeling. The world’s largest former dealer in olive oil, one Domenico Ribatti, plea-bargained his way to 13 months in prison during the 1990s for passing off Turkish hazelnut oil, which he had refined in his own plant, as olive oil,” according to The Guardian. “Another prominent importer, Leonardo Marseglia – appropriately based in a town called Monopoli – has variously been accused of selling cheap non-European oils as Italian ones, fudging documents to shirk import tariffs and forming a criminal network to smuggle contraband. Marseglia has denied the charges.”

Mueller’s book was sold out on Amazon and the the book’s conclusions are hard to miss: Much olive oil sold around the world isn’t extra virgin olive oil – even if it is advertised as such. In other words: buyer beware. That extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) you just bought may have other types of oil in it and none of the health benefits that EVOO offers.

None of this is a surprise to us at Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company. Our mission from our inception is to produce world-class EVOO and teach people about olive oil. As we like to say “olive oil is an ancient food that deserves a place at your table.” But only if it’s good oil.

We know Mr. Mueller and have cheered him on since his groundbreaking article “Slippery Business” appeared in the “New Yorker” in 2007. The article exposed the criminal enterprise of fraud in olive oil and was roundly applauded by those interested in food purity and consumer safety.

The owners of Il Fiorello, Mark and Ann Sievers, educate the public about olive oil at their farm in Suisun Valley, which is right outside of Fairfield, Calif. They offer tastings that include how to find real extra virgin olive oil and tours of their state-of-the-art olive mill, which helps produce the oils that have won awards locally and internationally.

California is lucky in that it has a nonprofit advocacy group, the California Olive Oil Council, which has professional taste panels that help certify extra virgin oils in the state. Il Fiorello also works with UC Davis that has a world-renowned olive program. UC Davis did a study that found that 73 percent of the most popular imported olive oils failed international standards for extra virgin olive oil, according to a UC Davis 2011 press release.

“The United States is the third-largest consumer of olive oil in the world,” said Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center. “While there are many excellent imported and domestic olive oils available, our tests indicate that there are serious quality problems out there.”

Consumers can take steps to ensure they are getting true EVOO that is healthy rather than oils that are chemically changed or mixed with other oils.

 

· Olive oil is like other fruit juices: The fresher the juice the better. Look for the mill date on the bottle. Do not use oil that is two years or more past that mill date.

· Only buy oil in dark bottles, unless you plan on promptly using the oil. Light and heat damage oil, so make sure to protect it by keeping it in cool cupboards.

· Olive oil comes in many colors, from bright green to golden colored. Color is not a gauge for quality.

· If possible, buy olive oil from those who operate a mill or farm olives. You will find the freshest, most healthful oils on the farms.

 

The California Olive Oil Council has a list of its certified oils here.

Another good source for olive-related information is the UC Davis Olive Center, where you will find the university’s olive oil studies and other important information.

We at Il Fiorello are always open to questions about olive oil and offer tours and tastings at our mill. Reach us at (707) 864-1529.

Watch Our Video

TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Custom Milling

Bring us your olives to be crushed in our state of the art Italian mill.

read more...

Tastings

Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.

read more...

Il Fiorello Blog

Keeping you up to date on all things olive and olive oil.

read more...

Google Reviews

Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company
4.7
Based on 51 reviews
powered by Google
Town Traveller
Town Traveller
00:35 10 Feb 20
Friendly crew, amazing olive oils and delicious gelato
Joshua L. Tryban
Joshua L. Tryban
05:19 15 Oct 19
A nice balanced break from the wine tasting nearby. Come in the fall to see the mill working.
Tiina Lusi
Tiina Lusi
21:12 18 Sep 19
When most people go to Napa, you think of wine, but honestly, I'm so glad I did some more research and came across this hidden gem! It was an amazing experience, from the tour, to the videos of the milling process, the various produce and gardens they have, the oil tasting with and without food, it was amazing. Really makes you learn a new side of olive oil, how to appreciate it more and pair it/prepare with it accordingly. I really appreciated the personal tour from Ann, you could see and feel her passion for this journey and when you have someone like that in this position, it shines through to their team and products. Cheers to Ann and her husband Mark, along with their team, for creating an amazing place here. It was unforgettable and we are looking forward to ordering olive oil online (we couldn't bring it on to the plane, so ordering online is the next best thing!)
Zack Gallinger-Long
Zack Gallinger-Long
23:44 07 Jul 19
We learned so much about olive oil! The tasting flight was very eye opening and a lot of fun to do with friends. We were on vacation and had a great time when we stopped in here. I wish we had a place like this where we live.
Sharman Bruni
Sharman Bruni
16:22 02 Jun 19
First, I want to say that they have amazing employees, they are so warm and informative! I'm very glad I came here for my first olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting. The food pairing was a wonderful surprise and the gelato was delicious, unexpectedly with the olive oil on top. Seeing the plants and nature in the back was very therapeutic. I can't wait to come here again.
Caitlin Dinn
Caitlin Dinn
00:45 28 Apr 19
You definitely don't want to miss this hidden gem!!! My friends and I were lucky enough to receive a tour of the grounds from Mary, who is extremely knowledgeable of the entire olive oil industry and organic farming. It's absolutely incredible, everything served to us is made directly from their farm. Nothing goes to waste, from the skin of the olives to the food they feed to their chickens. It's truly something you don't see anymore!! Next, we had an unbelievable tasting with Gabe, who made the tasting a blast! Even if you've done an olive tasting before, this is a completely new experience. Come to find out, I have never bought REAL extra virgin olive oil!! From the minute you step in, you feel welcomed by the entire staff. You could spend the entire relaxing and playing games in the back terrace enjoying a glass or wine or beer (YES, THEY HAVE BEER!!) Truly not to be missed and is a great get away from the typical wine tour. Thanks again for welcoming us in!!
Joni Howell
Joni Howell
23:13 01 Mar 19
Had a wonderful time and was extremely informative! Their little shop let's you bring some goodies home with you.
Dmitriy
Dmitriy
21:44 31 Dec 18
We neglected to book in advance, but they were able to accommodate us for a tour and tasting on short notice. It was a delightful tour, with two hours of personal service for our group of three -- a great value for the price. I think they lose money on the tours and make it back at the gift shop.
Next Reviews

TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Custom Milling

Bring us your olives to be crushed in our state of the art Italian mill.

read more...

Tastings

Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.

read more...

Il Fiorello Blog

Keeping you up to date on all things olive and olive oil.

read more...

Google Reviews

Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company
4.7
Based on 51 reviews
powered by Google
Town Traveller
Town Traveller
00:35 10 Feb 20
Friendly crew, amazing olive oils and delicious gelato
Joshua L. Tryban
Joshua L. Tryban
05:19 15 Oct 19
A nice balanced break from the wine tasting nearby. Come in the fall to see the mill working.
Tiina Lusi
Tiina Lusi
21:12 18 Sep 19
When most people go to Napa, you think of wine, but honestly, I'm so glad I did some more research and came across this hidden gem! It was an amazing experience, from the tour, to the videos of the milling process, the various produce and gardens they have, the oil tasting with and without food, it was amazing. Really makes you learn a new side of olive oil, how to appreciate it more and pair it/prepare with it accordingly. I really appreciated the personal tour from Ann, you could see and feel her passion for this journey and when you have someone like that in this position, it shines through to their team and products. Cheers to Ann and her husband Mark, along with their team, for creating an amazing place here. It was unforgettable and we are looking forward to ordering olive oil online (we couldn't bring it on to the plane, so ordering online is the next best thing!)
Zack Gallinger-Long
Zack Gallinger-Long
23:44 07 Jul 19
We learned so much about olive oil! The tasting flight was very eye opening and a lot of fun to do with friends. We were on vacation and had a great time when we stopped in here. I wish we had a place like this where we live.
Sharman Bruni
Sharman Bruni
16:22 02 Jun 19
First, I want to say that they have amazing employees, they are so warm and informative! I'm very glad I came here for my first olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting. The food pairing was a wonderful surprise and the gelato was delicious, unexpectedly with the olive oil on top. Seeing the plants and nature in the back was very therapeutic. I can't wait to come here again.
Caitlin Dinn
Caitlin Dinn
00:45 28 Apr 19
You definitely don't want to miss this hidden gem!!! My friends and I were lucky enough to receive a tour of the grounds from Mary, who is extremely knowledgeable of the entire olive oil industry and organic farming. It's absolutely incredible, everything served to us is made directly from their farm. Nothing goes to waste, from the skin of the olives to the food they feed to their chickens. It's truly something you don't see anymore!! Next, we had an unbelievable tasting with Gabe, who made the tasting a blast! Even if you've done an olive tasting before, this is a completely new experience. Come to find out, I have never bought REAL extra virgin olive oil!! From the minute you step in, you feel welcomed by the entire staff. You could spend the entire relaxing and playing games in the back terrace enjoying a glass or wine or beer (YES, THEY HAVE BEER!!) Truly not to be missed and is a great get away from the typical wine tour. Thanks again for welcoming us in!!
Joni Howell
Joni Howell
23:13 01 Mar 19
Had a wonderful time and was extremely informative! Their little shop let's you bring some goodies home with you.
Dmitriy
Dmitriy
21:44 31 Dec 18
We neglected to book in advance, but they were able to accommodate us for a tour and tasting on short notice. It was a delightful tour, with two hours of personal service for our group of three -- a great value for the price. I think they lose money on the tours and make it back at the gift shop.
Next Reviews