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June 3, 2019

This Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Right?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:13 am

One of our readers, Mark H., was shopping for olive oil in his local supermarket and came upon this product:

Fiero evoo blend

It looks like extra virgin olive oil. On closer inspection, under those words in smaller type it says “original blend.” What does that mean? Is it mix of various extra virgin olive oils, or some of it is extra virgin and some of it is something else?

The back of the bottle at least partially answers the question.

*MOUSE PRINT:

ingredients

The ingredients statement, which is required to list the contents in the order of predominance, indicates the product is mostly canola oil, followed by vegetable oil, and lastly extra virgin olive oil. A call to the company’s sales department revealed that the actual amount of olive oil in the product is “up to 15 percent.”

That revelation would probably come as a surprise to most shoppers because of how the product is labeled on the front of the bottle.

The Food and Drug Administration has regulations with relevant labeling requirements:

21 CFR 102.37

The common or usual name of a mixture of edible fats and oils containing less than 100 percent and more than 0 percent olive oil shall be as follows:

(a) A descriptive name for the product meeting the requirements of 102.5(a), e.g., “cottonseed oil and olive oil” or another descriptive phrase, and

(b) When the label bears any representation, other than in the ingredient listing, of the presence of olive oil in the mixture, the descriptive name shall be followed by a statement of the percentage of olive oil contained in the product in the manner set forth in 102.5(b)(2).

21 CFR 102.5

(b) The common or usual name of a food shall include the percentage(s) of any characterizing ingredient(s) or component(s) when the proportion of such ingredient(s) or component(s) in the food has a material bearing on price or consumer acceptance or when the labeling or the appearance of the food may otherwise create an erroneous impression that such ingredient(s) or component(s) is present in an amount greater than is actually the case…

In short, the rules seem to say the name of the product should not be misleading as to the amount of olive oil in the product, and the percentage has to be stated when it is a blend.

We asked the company, Terra Mia, some pointed question. Their President responded saying they are changing the label of this product this coming August when supplies of the old ones run out. We also requested a copy of the new one, but never received it.

In our view, since consumers rely on product labeling and this one so crosses the line, we filed a formal complaint about it with the FDA.

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6 Comments

  1. “up to 15%” ?!? Meaning 0.01% ? Or 0.00000001% ? Yeah, I’ll remember to *never* touch this brand.

    Comment by Leslie — June 3, 2019 @ 9:08 am
  2. The consistently shady business around olive oil has honestly turned me off from the entire market. I feel like I see more “fake” olive oils than I see real olive oils and the deception (like in this case) is pretty obviously intentional. At this point I just try to find alternatives if I can and take my time if I ever do have to buy true olive oil, looking for reputable brands online and reading the back of every label.

    I agree with your determination it definitely does not fit the naming rules outlined by the FDA for olive oils. Glad you made a complaint about the product, I doubt the company faces any fines, but hopefully it gets fixed.

    Comment by Joel — June 3, 2019 @ 9:59 am
  3. This is the most blatant example of the olive oil scam I have seen and would lead me to avoid any products from this company in the future. More commonly I will see the front label say “Olive Oil Blend” when the dominant oil in the blend is not olive. For me, that’s always a signal to look at the back label.

    Even nationally-branded products, like prepared salad dressings, practice a somewhat more benign version of this deception with labels that proclaim things like “Made with extra virgin olive oil”, even when it is not the primary oil in the product.Legal? Probably. Potentially deceptive. For sure.

    By the way, at our house we use a lot of extra virgin olive oil, so for routine uses we buy the 3- or 4-liter cans at our local Italian grocery store and rebottle the oil in wine bottles. That minimizes the head space over the oil and reduces oxidation that can lead to rancidity, especially if the bottles are stored in a cool place away from light. This saves a lot of money.

    We reserve the expensive olive oils for uses where their flavors dominate, like drizzling on crusty bread.

    Comment by JonK — June 3, 2019 @ 10:34 am
  4. Good work! A complaint to the FDA clearly is appropriate.

    I get my olive oil at Aldi. Here’s what it says on the label of my current bottle of Carlini brand:

    On the front: Carlini Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    On the back: Ingredient (note that it’s singular): EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (It goes on to note that it’s a product of Spain and Tunisia.)

    That’s it.

    Comment by Bill — June 3, 2019 @ 2:59 pm
  5. This shady unknown brand is not representative of all or even most oils on the market. A Google search turns up only a few references to it online so there’s no need for a massive boycott. I wouldn’t avoid all olive oils based on just this, although I would still read labels and learn the difference between 1st, second and 3rd pressing and what “cold pressed” means – Supposedly cold pressed oils are superior tasting, plus healthier because of the way the olives are processed. Speaking of Aldi their oils are OK but not the best value per ounce. I have gotten well known name brand organic EVOO at Costco and BJ’s for less.

    Comment by Eleanor — June 4, 2019 @ 12:31 am
  6. Yeah Bill. That is the last brand of Olive Oil I bought as well.

    Comment by richard Ginn — June 4, 2019 @ 11:50 am

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