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Fake Olive Oil is Not a Victimless Crime

Earlier this week, 60 Minutes featured a story on the "Agromafia", an Italian term for organized crime related to food. Among other items, the story focused heavily on adulterated extra virgin olive oil. As several of the experts and commentators noted in the piece, the adulteration of olive oil has been going on for many years. So, if this is nothing new, why all the fuss now.

The reality is that the extra virgin olive oil industry is very immature. Although olive oil has been produced for food consumption for at least 2,000 years, we are still learning about the best ways to produce, preserve, and consume extra virgin olive oil. Until recently, there hasn't been much information available to consumers about how to choose an olive oil. Although many grocery stores may have dozens of varieties of oil on their shelves, very rarely will anyone be able to tell you about the differences among them. Ask about the various wine offerings, though, and you'll get plenty of guidance. 

This information vacuum has been perpetuated and exploited in the U.S. by large olive oil companies. Everything, right down to the naming conventions for olive oil, has been manipulated to ensure market share is maintained and profit maximized. The 60 Minutes piece shows just how easy it is to, as they say, "produce a genuine fake olive oil". And, as noted, up to 80% of the extra virgin olive oil on store shelves in the US is fake. 

Although Italy produces some fantastic olive oil (I joke with my Italian in-laws that the trees were put there by Greeks), the fact is that Italy is a net-importer of olive oil. That is, they consume more than they produce, even in a good year. As a result, much of the good quality oil is consumed in-country, while the lower-grade oil is blended with even lower-grade products and exported. In fact, if you find a good quality Italian oil in the U.S., it is likely that the oil in the bottle is Greek

The issue of olive oil adulteration has long been viewed as a "victimless crime", with enforcement extremely rare. As the recent scandals and busts in Italy indicate, the issue is gaining some attention. Authorities have a tough road, though, since the profits in selling fake olive oil exceed those of illicit drugs.

As producers of authentic extra virgin olive oil, we can state with certainty that this is not a victimless crime at all. The health benefits of olive oil are widely known, but these benefits are for extra virgin olive oil. Buying a lower grade olive oil is little better than buying generic vegetable oil. Consumers have been conditioned for years to buy a bottle of extra virgin olive oil for $8 or $9 and have become accustomed to the cost (and taste). Although these are almost certainly fakes, convincing consumers that a true extra virgin olive oil may cost two or three times that amount takes time and effort (and some taste tests). We can attest that $9 for a bottle barely covers the cost of production and importing. Consumers and honest producers alike are impacted by olive oil fraud.

So, what is the lesson to be taken from this most recent national story on olive oil? Eliminate some of that information gap by learning to look at the back of the bottle. You should be able to easily determine the source of the oil and the harvest date. If those two items are missing, obscured, or confusing, there's probably a reason. Good producers have nothing to hide, which is why we post our annual chemical analysis reports right here on our blog. 

A Spartan Oil label clearly identifies the harvest and location of production.

Let us know if this was helpful. We're very much committed to helping consumers get the information they need to purchase quality extra virgin olive oil. Feel free to contact us any time with questions.

November 18, 2015

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Virginia's Finest Designation for Spartan Oil

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services awards a special designation to products produced and processed in Virginia that meet certain criteria. 

We are very excited to announce that we have received this amazing designation for Spartan Oil. According to the VA's Finest website, "Only Virginia products that meet or exceed quality standards are eligible for the Virginia's Finest® program."

 VA Finest logo

We're honored to be included in this exclusive group of products. 

New Gift Options, including Gift Baskets

Are those jingle bells we hear in the distance? 

The holiday season is upon us and Spartan Oil is ready with some amazing gift options. Our fantastic gift options range from the newest member of the Spartan Oil family (200ml Spartan Oil Organic Bottle) to our Premium Gift Basket (8 premium food items). Check out the list below for options.

    

In addition, we've added holiday delivery options for our gift items. Just select the relevant holiday and we'll deliver prior to the day. If you're wondering about ordering deadlines for holiday delivery, check out our updated shipping information page. 

October 29, 2015

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Spartan Oil Organic - Available Starting Today!

We're really pleased to offer a new option for Spartan Oil!  Starting today, you'll have the option to choose an Organic option for Spartan Oil. The olive oil is a product of organic farming practices and the oil is certified by EU-recognized entities. The price for a 200ml bottle of Spartan Oil Organic is $12. A refill option will be available in the future.

We will offer the both the Organic and Conventional versions of Spartan Oil. It's important to note that the conventional and organic oils are of equal quality. In fact, the taste characteristics are nearly identical. The organic is slightly more fruity and the conventional is slightly more pungent. Truly, the only difference between the two versions has to do with the actual paperwork and certification--the olive varieties, the farming, and the trees are very similar.

We understand that consumer choice is paramount and some consumers are making the effort to go completely organic with their food consumption. Whichever you choose, you can be confident that the product is of the highest quality.

Spartan Oil: One Year Anniversary!

Spartan Oil Turns 1!

My, how quickly a year goes by.  We have so much to celebrate, and we want to celebrate with you!  We’re about to give away a bunch of olive oil, including a year’s supply of Spartan Oil, but first, let’s review a few highlights of our first year.  So much has happened:

There's so much more, including: A cute video of a 3 year-old explaining olive oil production, many recipes (including our now-famous Spartan Fried Eggs, and many health-related articles. And the maps

Check out the contest!

To celebrate this milestone, we're gonna make the second year of Spartan Oil very memorable for one lucky winner. There are also daily winners during the week, too!

We're also offering a special 15% discount code during this time period, too. Use ONEYEAR15 during checkout.

 

 

Spartan Oil Anniversary Promotion!

 

September 09, 2015

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Exactly what does "Extra Virgin" mean?

If you are like 75% of Americans, you have some level of confusion about olive oil. Based on many conversations, one of the most confusing things about olive oil is the naming--olive oil, virgin olive oil, pure olive oil, lite olive oil, first cold pressed olive oil, and extra virgin olive oil.

Thankfully, we've got just the thing to de-mystify the names. 

First and foremost, what exactly does it mean when olive oil is labeled "Extra Virgin"? Olive oil that is labeled "Extra Virgin" must meet certain standards. The standards are becoming more and more complex, which will help eliminate lower grade oils from being labeled "Extra Virgin", but will create additional confusion for consumers. The basic standards, however, have been in place for some time and are a good way for most consumers to understand extra virgin olive oil. To be called, "Extra Virgin", olive oil must meet the following basic criteria:

  1. The acidity level of the oil must be no more than 0.8%. Acidity can vary from year-to-year, but most high-grade extra virgin olive oils will have an acidity level below 0.5%. Spartan Oil acidity is typically around 0.3%. 
  2. The oil must be extracted solely through mechanical means. In other words, no chemical additives or heat can be added during the extraction process; doing so degrades the nutritional quality and flavor of the olive oil. 
  3. The oil must be free of taste or smell defects. It should have naturally fruity, bitter, and pungent taste qualities. 

Many times, you'll see the term "first, cold-pressed" on a label. This is somewhat redundant since, technically, all extra virgin olive oils are the result of the first cold pressing. 

All other varieties of olive oil, including "lite", "light", "pure", "virgin", and "refined" are lower-grade highly-refined oils that have had the health-conveying nutrients processed out. While there is some research indicating that a refined olive oil is slightly better than other refined vegetable oils, it should not be confused with an extra virgin olive oil, which has a myriad of health benefits.

Our recommendation is simple--stick to extra virgin olive oil for all of your food. Check out our previous blog post on cooking with olive oil from more ideas and tips.

If you found this post helpful, please consider sharing with your friends. We appreciate it! Also, we'd love your feedback in the comments below!

August 23, 2015

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Ultra Premium (UP) EVOO Standard

Spartan Oil compares very favorably to the most stringent olive oil standards currently being proposed and adopted throughout the world. 

If you do a quick comparison of the UP standards to the 2015 Spartan Oil Chemical Analysis, you'll notice that Spartan Oil blows away all of the standards except for one--free fatty acid, which is commonly referred to as "acidity" in the olive oil world. There are multiple factors that play into acidity measurements, including olive variety and harvest time. Spartan Oil includes several olive varieties, including some which have a naturally higher acidity, especially as the harvest season reaches the latter stages. This is not an indicator of a lower quality oil. As a matter of fact, the peroxide and UV absorbance measurements, which are indicators of rancidity, show that Spartan Oil is an exceptionally fresh and high-quality oil.

Here's a quick comparison chart:

Standard IOC Limit UP Limit Spartan Oil
Free Fatty Acid (% oleic acid) < 0.8 < 0.3 0.37
Peroxides  < 20 < 9 4.22
UV Absorbance (K232) < 2.5 < 2.0 1.697
UV Absorbance (K270) < 0.22 < 0.20 0.132