Most of us probably don't give much thought to buying a bottle of olive oil. It's just like picking up any other cooking oil, isn't it? It's all the same, so the best thing to do, clearly, is just buy from whoever is selling it cheapest.
Well, not quite. Olive oil comes in different grades — like the popular extra-virgin, for example — and even within a particular grade, quality can vary widely. And there are many factors which influence the level of quality of an oil, including everything from the type of olive (or olives, in the case of blends) used to make the oil and when it was harvested, to how it was handled during processing and shipping, and even the type of bottle in which the oil is contained.
These days, too, with all of the cases of food fraud surfacing, it's understandable to be concerned with the provenance of one's ingredients. It is hurtful to us as consumers not to know whether we are really getting what we pay for. Olive oil, unfortunately, has been one product that has been in the spotlight with respect to food fraud for some time. A widely cited study of supermarket extra-virgin olive oils led by Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center, found that 69 percent of the oils tested were flawed and did not meet the criteria for the extra-virgin grade. And the practice of "watering down" olive oils with cheaper vegetable oils is also a major problem. Disturbing, to be sure, but certainly there must be a way to fight back.
Check out the slideshow above for some simple tips and advice on buying olive oil.