SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Olive oil is olive oil, correct? Not exactly.

On the market, 80% of extra virgin olive oil, EVOO, on American shelves is fake, according to FORBES, containing blends of vegetable, soybean, palm and canola oil.

“There’s so many fake olive oils because of profit. Like with other products, if a company can mass produce an item for the lowest cost for a higher profit, they are going to do it,” said Chef Alexander Mack from A.M. Diverse Cooking.

It is more expensive to produce real EVOO because it requires more time and attention to detail. The process of cold-pressing olives requires more olives to produce and yields less oil.

“I was in Greece, and we have very good friends in Greece, and all they have is orchards of olives,” said Helen Hall, the owner of Le Cafe Gourmet.

“He was doing his way but he was being undersold because everyone else’s was cheaper. But it was cheaper because it was mixed — I don’t know how they did that.”

Why are there so many fake EVOOs? Well, you can thank the Italian mafia for that, which controls most olive oil production and market.

Harvested fresh olives in sacks in a field in Crete, Greece for olive oil production
Getty Images

Owning a third of the olive fields in Italy, the mafia imports low-grade olive oil from countries like Greece and Spain, then sells and labels this oil as EVOO. In Italy, there is a specific task force that oversees food production and confiscated 2,000 tons of fake EVOO in 2016.

Real EVOO is a miracle liquid fat that has been shown to have health benefits such as:

  • Reduce the risk of chronic diseases
  • Fights inflammation and bloating
  • Protects blood cholesterol from oxidation
  • May help to prevent strokes
  • Protective against heart disease
  • Not linked to weight gain
  • May reduce Type 2 Diabetes
  • Anti-Cancer properties
  • Antibacterial
  • Prevent signs of skin aging
  • Slows aging

“Labels are your best friend and if you don’t see a batch date, bottle date, or a date when the olives were harvested, then, my friend, you aren’t buying authentic olive oil,” said Mack.

How to know if it’s a fake

Check where the extra virgin olive oil came from. Real olive oil should come from one source and be shipped directly.

Be cautious when you see that the oil has multiple places of origin because that is a telltale sign.

“Another tell is if the label says ‘Extra Olive Oil’, then it’s more than likely it. Avoid labels that say, ‘Pure’ or ‘Light’ olive oil,” said Mack.

You should also look for a label that says free fatty acidity, FFA; the lower the score the better. EVOOs should be around FFA<0.8.

The U.S. doesn’t have a food production task force, so look for third-party certifications like the California Olive Oil Council or North American Olive Oil Association.

“Real olive oil should smell fresh, have hints of grass, and hints of fruit smell. Authentic olive oil should have a bright and a hint of peppery bite which comes from the polyphenols within the olives,” said Mack.

“But, you have great companies who protect the quality over mass producing, and that, my dear, friend is an olive branch I’ll take any day.”