Q. I saw a report about how common it is for olive oil to be adulterated, and that makes me wonder how you can recommend extra virgin olive oil for Pesach even without special certification. What am I missing?
A. From time to time, questions are raised as to the authenticity and kashrus-status of extra virgin olive oil. These are primarily based on a study done by the University of California at Davis (UCD) in July 2010, as reported by a journalist named Tom Mueller. The cRc has considered these concerns and does not deem them significant enough to affect our recommendation that extra virgin olive oil may be used for Pesach and year-round without hashgachah. Many other hashgachos have independently come to the same conclusion. [Other oils and other forms of olive oil, require certification both for Pesach and year-round use.] The reasons for this are as follows:
- There is a certain amount of government oversight that product is properly labeled.
- UCD did a follow-up study in April 2011 and noted that the adulteration they are seeing falls into three categories – (1) oil which has oxidized due to heat, light or age, (2) intermingling of refined olive oil, and (3) oil with low quality due to overripe olives, improper storage, and similar issues. Issue #2 poses a small kashrus concern, but the others do not.
- UCD acknowledged that it is very rare for other oils to be mixed into extra virgin olive oil.
- Others have raised significant questions regarding the unfavorable aspects of the UCD reports:
- A group which filed suit against olive oil companies based on the UCD study, withdrew their lawsuit because they could not replicate the results (https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/518490/ucdavisstudyfails.pdf).
- NAOOA (North American Olive Oil Association) reports that in their repeated tests of retail samples of all types of olive oil, they have occasionally found adulteration, but it has consistently been in brands that have less than 2% of national retail market share.
- NAOOA further stated that, “U.C. Davis was only able to arrive at its much-publicized failure statistics through crafty combination of results from chemical tests rejected by the International Olive Council (IOC) and sensory analyses done by panels that stand to benefit from promoting domestic production. The tests used are referred to as PPP and DAGs; they’ve been considered and rejected by the IOC because of failure to produce consistent, reliable results.”