When I was younger, I once asked my father why in the supermarket certain jars of peanut butter cost so much more than others. He pointed out to me that the cheaper jars of peanut butter used filler ingredients — peanuts are more expensive than sugar and corn syrup, and so the more filler there is in a jar of peanut butter, the less it costs the manufacturer per jar. Similarly, when you are dealing with vegetable oils, the way it should work is that you pay more for pure olive oil than you do for a blend of olive oil and other oils because pure olive oil is more expensive. Moreover, extra virgin olive oil (referring to the oil that comes from the first cold pressing of the olives) is even more expensive because of the quality of the oil that comes from doing this first cold pressing versus the subsequent oil that comes from further pressings and extraction methods.
It therefore came as a bit of a letdown to say the least when I discovered that there is a distinct possibility — one about which my brother warned me at least a year ago but I chose to ignore because the possibility was too painful to consider — that the olive oil that you (and I) are consuming marked as ‘Extra Virgin’ may be not only ordinary olive oil, but perhaps even a blend of olive oil and cheaper oils as well!
Since neither the U.S. Department of Agriculture nor the Italian equivalent really regulates the market, unscrupulous producers have developed numerous ways to adulterate extra virgin olive oil, according to Mueller. They cut olive oil with hazelnut or sunflower oil. They take musty oil made from rotting olives, deodorize it to remove the bad smell, and then add a bit of extra virgin oil to make it smell authentic. Then they slap fancy labels on glass bottles and sell it as extra virgin olive oil.
My brother told me at the time that I should consider the source when selecting extra virgin olive oil — and of course, if a price for a large container seems too good to be true, there’s probably a reason for it and it has nothing to do with dumb luck and everything to do with fraudulent oil blends in the name of a quick buck. Consider, too — instead of buying oil shipped all the way from Italy that may not be what it claims, buying extra virgin olive oil from California. You may pay more up front but you have a better chance of getting the good stuff.