At Thanksgiving, my sister (thank you!) alerted me to the massive fraud going on in the olive oil business. I did a bit of investigating, and discovered a few things I knew, and a few I didn't. Since I've only recently come to appreciate extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), I don't know much, though from research into other products (such as honey) I know that "made in..." or "imported from..." on the label doesn't necessarily tell you the source of the important ingredients.
I didn't know that when buying EVOO you should look for a harvest date on the bottle. Not a "best buy" date, but a harvest date. I'm so used to super-processed oils that I didn't think about olives as fruit, and the importance of freshness to minimally-processed oil. Then I noticed that the bottle of EVOO in my pantry had no harvest date at all.
I'm still using oil from that bottle, hoping its likely adulteration won't poison me. But I did find a brand in the grocery store that not only has the date, but is more local as well, being from California. We'll see how it tastes—not that my palate is good enough at this point to tell the fake from the real thing. But it is one of the brands that passed the test (California Olive Ranch).
Last night a 60 Minutes report confirmed the problem and provided a credible explanation: the Italian Mafia has found a lucrative, legitimate business they can leverage by nefarious means into huge profits. Nor is olive oil the only food they have their dirty fingers in. The show is definitely worth watching (under 15 minutes), if only to see the olive oil experts testing the wares. But if you're in a hurry, you can read the transcript. And here's an extra that was not part of the show: How To Buy Olive Oil.
Ohh, looking at that bread drizzled with fresh olive oil ... now I'm hungry.