This fall, companies who sell sub-standard olive oil to the U.S. won't be able to slip in under the radar as easily anymore.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has received complaints about olive oil that is labeled as "100% extra virgin" -- but is really diluted with other kinds of oil.
According to the Los Angeles Times , industry experts say that extra virgin olive oil is "oil that is cold-processed to prevent degradation of aromatic compounds and has higher levels of healthy fats and antioxidants." The International Olive Council in Madrid has standards of low acidity levels, 0.8 grams per 100 grams or less, for oil to fit into that category.
However, companies have been able to get away with masking cheap olive oil with a top-end brand name and selling it in the U.S. for high prices for one simple reason -- there is no law against it.
"The U.S. has been a dumping ground for cheap olive oil for years," said Vito S. Polito, a professor of plant sciences at UC Davis.
The biggest danger from unregulated olive oil comes from the chance of illness or allergic reactions caused by oil that is misrepresented as pure. When fish or nut-based oils make their way into the mix, people with allergies can have serious reactions.
The Food and Drug Administration relies heavily on tips from the public and trade groups to uncover problems in the olive oil industry, since the agency doesn't regularly test olive oils for adulteration, says an FDA spokesman.
Slashfood says that some people worry new regulations would be meaningless unless they are made mandatory.
So, how can you be certain the oil you buy is up to the new standards?
New regulations for U.S. imports would only apply to those with the federal seal of approval, so make sure you look for the seal to be sure you're buying the real deal.
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