Sep 302013

Today National Public Radio’s segment, Morning Edition, discussed foods with health claims. Olive oil was among them.

If you click on the NPR logo below you will be directed to an article about the segment, select Listen to the Story and you will be able to listen to the audio program featuring olive oil. The transcript to the audio is printed here beneath the button.



It’s MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I’m Steve Inskeep.


And I’m David Greene.

We’re sorting out some health food claims this morning, like kombucha. Is this fermented brew really good for you? We’ll find out in a moment. But first, olive oil. The truth: not all oils are created equal.

NPR’s Allison Aubrey reports on what you need to look for to make you’ve got the good stuff.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: If you pay any attention to health trends, you’ve likely heard about the Mediterranean diet. This is a pattern of eating that includes lots of vegetables, grains and fish – not so much meat – and generous portions of olive oil.

MARY FLYNN: Olive oil is a very healthy food. I consider it more medicine than food.

AUBREY: That’s Mary Flynn. She’s an associate professor of medicine at Brown University. And she says the evidence that olive oil is good for your heart has never been more clear. She points to a big study published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine, where researchers in Spain had men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who were at risk of heart disease follow one of three diets. Some ate a low-fat diet. Another group ate a Mediterranean diet with nuts. And a third group ate a Mediterranean diet that included nearly four tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil per day.

FLYNN: So, they could compare the three diets: Was it nuts, was it olive oil, or was the low fat diet as beneficial?

AUBREY: And what researchers found was that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil cut the risk of heart attack and strokes by about 30 percent. Researchers even stopped the study early, since the benefits were so clear.

TOM MUELLER: The fact is, there are a huge range of different health benefits of real extra-virgin olive oil.

AUBREY: That’s Tom Mueller. He has spent the last six years investigating and writing about olive oil. He says olive oil is good for two reasons. It’s mostly unsaturated fat, and extra-virgin oil – which is the highest-grade and least-processed form of olive oil – contains a whole range of other beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. But here’s the catch: Unfortunately, it turns out that more than half of the extra-virgin olive oil imported into the U.S. has been shown to be sub-standard.

MUELLER: It’s quite often just very low-grade oil that doesn’t give you the health benefits and doesn’t give you taste of that extra-virgin should give you.

AUBREY: In fact, a study from UC Davis found that 69 percent of imports tested failed to meet a USDA quality standard. And Mueller says, in some cases, the oil is just too old. By the time the imported olive oil reaches us, it’s often been shipped from place to place, and sometimes not stored well. And even if it isn’t noticeably rancid, many of the heart-healthy compounds have degraded or fizzled out.

MUELLER: Extra-virgin olive oil is fresh-squeezed olive juice. It’s a fruit juice. Therefore, freshness is a critical question.

AUBREY: Mueller says the FDA used to police olive oil imports to ensure producers were meeting quality and freshness standards. But those efforts have fallen off. So where does that leave those of us who want to get our hands on the healthy stuff? Well, for starters, Mueller says look for brands that carry a harvest date on the bottle. California Olive Ranch oil – which is sold in lots of chain supermarkets nationwide – has a date clearly stamped on the back of the bottle.

I met up with Gregg Kelley of California Olive Ranch at a Safeway grocery store.

GREGG KELLEY: So this is a harvest date. Every single bottle produced by California Olive Ranch includes the date the olives were harvested to produce the oil in the bottle.

AUBREY: And he says the olives were pressed very quickly, so the oil is really fresh.

KELLEY: The most important thing for consumers to remember when they’re purchasing extra-virgin olive oil is it is not wine. It does not get better with age. So olive oil never gets better than the day it was produced.

AUBREY: Now, as long it’s properly stored, the freshness will hold in the bottle, at least for a while. Some bottles now carry an expiration date. But as soon as you open the bottle and expose the oil to oxygen and light, it will slowly start to degrade. So Tom Mueller says don’t make the same mistake his family made.

MUELLER: I grew up with terrible oil. I grew up with a huge tin in my grandparent’s cabin, and that was olive oil for me. And it was moldy and fusty, and it was there for years.

AUBREY: Many factors determine how quickly an olive oil goes bad. But studies suggest once you’ve opened it, you should consume it within four to six months.

Now, oils with the highest levels of heart-healthy compounds tend to be pungent and peppery. And Mueller says if the oil stings the back of your throat a little, that tells you that those beneficial polyphenols really are there. I got the chance to experience this during a tasting of fresh imported oils at Greg Bonaduce’s(ph) olive oil shop in Brooklyn.


AUBREY: Mm-hmm.

BONADUCE: This is an organic Coratina, and it was grown in Peru, and it was just crushed in April.

AUBREY: We did feel that tickle, and it made us both cough.

BONADUCE: That pungency…


BONADUCE: This is definitely a two-cougher.


AUBREY: And Mueller says that’s what you’re looking for.

MUELLER: Once you have that taste, you get used to the little bitterness and the little pungency, you never go back. It’s a completely different experience.

AUBREY: And the healthy one, too.

Allison Aubrey, NPR news.

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May the sun shine through your branches.

Sep 042012

At the beginning of the summer I finished reading Tom Mueller’s book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, a book I began in December when it was published. I took it slowly, reading and re-reading chapters. It was a like a good meal and I wanted to savor it.

I found Extra Virginity intriguing and the treatment of the subject compelling. There was a lot going on in each chapter. I wanted to absorb and analyze as much as possible so I could better understand the world of olive oil production and trade. I’m not saying that Extra Virginity gave me all that insight, but it helped.

If you haven’t read it yet – you must.

This summer my husband, Tom, completed Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden, From 9/11 to Abbottabad by CNN National Security Analyst, Peter Bergen. While Tom was reading Manhunt he sent me an email with a link to an article on CNN‘s website featuring an excerpt from the book. The excerpt catalogued some of the things Bergen saw as he walked through the bin Laden compound: Medications, Just for Men hair dye, a chicken coop, a vegetable garden, a bread oven, and “large empty cans of Sasso olive oil.”

I found the olive oil entry the most interesting, not just because it is the brand of olive oil that may have been in the digestive tract of Osama bin Laden at his time of death, or because the author bothered to mentioned it, or that some of the other “finds” when combined with olive oil would make a tasty meal, but because Sasso was also mentioned in the book I had just finished reading.

Here is some of what I know about Sasso olive oil. It is a brand sold by Deoleo, a large food company formerly known as Grupo SOS. Two of Grupo SOS’s brands Bertolli and Carapelli are prominently featured in Extra Virginity as failing chemical and taste evaluation tests. Those tests found that both brands were selling as “Extra Virgin” – olive oils which were either low-quality olive oil or not olive oil at all.

Sasso is mentioned in Extra Virginity as a brand that sold olive oil purchased in bulk from olive oil supplier Domenico Ribatti. Ribatti was identified by European authorities as the ring-leader of a large, multi-national, fake, olive oil scheme featuring hazelnut oil sold as extra virgin olive oil. Ribatti was forced out of business but the taint of olive oil corruption lingers on.

It is interesting to note that Sasso is sold in India and the location where bin Laden was found to be hiding, Abbottabad, is only 20 miles from the border of India. The courier that bin Laden employed to communicate with his cohorts, the same guy who’s slip-up led to finding bin Laden, also picked up supplies needed for the residents of the compound. To communicate with the bin Laden network the courier would turn on his cell phone once he was a good 100 miles from Abbottabad. For years this guy drove great distances in Pakistan, which isn’t very big, trying not to use his cell phone in the same place. I didn’t read the book and forgot to ask my husband if the courier crossed into India, but I would put money down that he did.

As details of the bin Laden killing come to light maybe there will be articles in the future entitled, Antioxidants in olive oil found to destroy terrorism or International killer slips-up in puddle of olive oil.

May the sun shine through your branches.

Mar 242012

I just read two articles regarding the alleged International Olive Council’s (IOC) intention to remove sensory evaluation from qualification for extra virgin olive oils from IOC member countries. The first article is from Tom Mueller, the author of Extra Virginity: the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil entitled Vanishing Viginity? and the second from the Olive Oil Times entitled Non-Member Chemists Kept Out of Olive Council Meeting.

Let me give some unvarnished advice from someone who is familiar with and loves brutal public relations and political campaigns (same thing really). If what is alleged turns out to be true – this is a gift. Take it and spin the hell out of it!!!!!

May the sun shine through your branches.

Dec 152011

At last I am on vacation and blissfully alone. I’ve fired up the Kindle and am reading Tom Mueller’s new book “Extra Virginity: the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil”.

Here are a couple of my views from the beach, each in a cardinal direction – north, east and south. I left out west since a sand dune was in the way. I was comfortably sprawled on the sand and not inclined to get up.

Oh yeah, back to the book (TM’s EVtSaSWoOO). I am taking it slow and will let you know what I think when I’m done.

May the sun shine through your branches.

Dec 112011

Every day I read lots of material about the olive, some from books and others from the internet. Each week I share with you the articles, recipes, research documents, and other information I find on the internet. Most of it is very interesting and some of it inspires me to write an article or two of my own. None of these links are in any way my opinion or are endorsed by me. I am sharing.

Olive Links of the Week

Edible gifts can satisfy every taste
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For those of you who buy gifts for people who love to eat.

Locally Sourced Jordanian Olive Oil Factory Tour at Terra Rossa
Jen Maan in Amman blog
Jen visits a Jordanian olive oil processing facility. She has lots of great photos.

Boost your ‘good fats’ to help fend off diabetes
More on MUFAs and diabetes.

Sovena USA First Ever Lab to be Certified by International Olive Council in United States
PR Newswire
Largest US olive oil importers gets their lab certified by the International Olive Council.

Namibia: Local Olive Oil Takes Market By Storm
All Africa
Swakop River Olives entrepreneurs Eddie Angula and Wim van der Plaas are growing trees along Namibia’s Swakop river. Of interest is that they grew them from seeds purchased from South Africa. I don’t often hear of olive trees grown from seed.

VN Dalmia Offers an Olive Oil Reality Check
Olive Oil Times
India is marketing olive pomace oil to the Indian marketplace. If that is what the market demands then that’s okay. The key is truth in advertising.

Olive oils can prevent infantile diseases
Teatro Naturale International
According to many physicians and scientists, such as the pediatrician and neonatologist Giuseppe Caramia, extra virgin olive oils are important ingredients of preventive medicine.

Attack on olive oil consumption in Denmark
Teatro Naturale International
Denmark has a problem with obesity and is instituting a 7.1 % tax on each liter of olive oil. Is this ignorance or maybe a powerful dairy lobby?

Canton business offers imported oils, vinegars, gourmet foods
Watertown Daily News
Josie’s Little Pizzeria and Josie’s Olive Oil Company are selling California olive oils in Canton, New York.

Slick accents welcome on Oenotri’s dinner plate
Napa Valley Register
Oenotri’s restaurant in Napa has fresh extra virgin olive oils on the menu.

New Olive Pilot Crop Insurance Program Approved for Selected Counties in California
Insurance News Net
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) announces a new a pilot insurance program for table and oil olives in 12 California counties, beginning with the 2012 crop year. The sales closing date is January 31, 2012.

China could be strong S.J. farm market
Chinese delegation visits Lodi, California. China’s burgeoning economy and rapidly expanding middle class hold great potential for sales of premium San Joaquin County products – including wine, cherries, tree nuts and olive oil.

Critical Information for Olive Oil Decision Makers
The Olive Oil Times
The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in California’s Napa Valley will host a seminar on January 12th for industry professionals. They will receive the information needed to protect themselves and their customers by learning.what constitutes quality olive oil.

Banks squeeze oil industry
Weekly Times Now
Australian banks unwilling to make loans to olive oil producers. Dumping is to blame.

Olive oil producers feel price pain
Weekly Times Now
Lisa Rowntree of the Australian Olive Association weighs in on olive oil price wars.

Olive Oil’s Growers, Chemists, Cooks and Crooks
The New York Times Books section
A review of Tom Mueller’s olive oil industry expose, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil

Chosen Bites: A hearty dish!
The Jerusalem Post
Recipes for Sautéed Butternut Squash, Kale with Pasta and Mushrooms and Turkey Meatballs.

Dining Out review: Schnitz Ada Grill offers good value, good food
A review of the Schnitz Ada Grill in downtown Ada, Michigan.

May the sun shine through your branches.