Italy Today

Oil? All that glitters is not oil

For six weeks, five members of the US House of Representatives will be touring Italy, Spain and Greece to verify what is contained in a bottle of oil. Death-knell for those sly extra-virgin producers suspected of also using deodorized oil, oil sediment and moldy or rotten olives. Are we about to see a super-scandal not unlike the one involving adulterated wine?

On January 31st the law safeguarding Italian-made oil came into effect. A collection of regulations involving quality and transparency along the oil supply chain. A complete revolution starting from the labels themselves which must include a "best consumed by" date no more than 18 months from bottling. And new quality control parameters and methods. In the meantime, the Italian growers' association, Coldiretti, has announced the creation of a team whose task is to expose extra-virgin olive oil fraud. Throughout Italy, inspections will be carried out in supermarkets and discount stores. The new law also includes heavy fines.

100 producers of quality oil are included in Terre d'olio (Cinquesensi, 224 pp, 16 euros), selected by the book's author and oil expert, Fausto Borello. A culinary guide with evaluations of organoleptic properties, together with a tour of olive-growing areas and their differences and histories. Among those included are producers already famous for oil (Frantoio, Leccino, Maraiolo) and those known in particular for their wine (Felina, Planeta) but now also making a name for themselves with this most noble of condiments.



The Festival

Three days dedicated to quality oil, held in Lucca February 15-17. Its name is Extra Lucca, the fair which brings together 50 top Italian producers. Workshops, debates and tastings open to the public (

95% of the oil consumed in America comes from the Mediterranean area

12-30 EUROS: is the price of a 1 liter bottle of excellent extra-virgin olive oil. The most esteemed is cold-pressed oil. There are many organoleptic differences depending on the zone of origin. In supermarkets and discount stores, extra-virgin oil is on sale for 4-6 euros per bottle. For lower-priced oils, some experts are dubious about provenance and label reliability.


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