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Shopping for olive oil

(article, Culinate staff)

Several years ago, olive-oil expert Jim Dixon reported on the confusing state of olive-oil labeling for Culinate. Then journalist Tom Mueller published an entire book on the scandalously oily industry. Now, according to a new report from the University of California at Davis, things haven't really cleared up; shoppers are still just as bewildered as ever when it comes to figuring out olive oil.

The university's olive-oil pros came up with six tips to help shoppers snag a better bottle, including looking for the country of origin (not just where it was bottled), when the olives were harvested and pressed (fresher is better), tasting the oil as soon as you get home (and taking it back if it's rancid), and buying domestic. After all, California (and even Oregon) has a healthy, well-regulated olive-oil industry, with certification through the California Olive Oil Council. 

Of course, the fact that the the UC Davis study was produced by the university's olive center raised a few hackles. But the problem remains: olive-oil fraud does exist, and the labeling can be misleading for the average consumer.