Food Adventures

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Olive oil business

Recently, there have been several articles on the fraud in the olive oil industry and what that means to you as a consumer. There was this New Yorker article:

It discusses some disturbing practices in the olive oil industry. It claims that “in 1997 and 1998, olive oil was the most adulterated agricultural product in the European Union” and that olive oil fraud is a major international problem.

I personally found this newsletter by Silvestro Silvestori, the owner of the Awaiting Table cooking school ( in Lecce (Puglia, Italy) much more useful: it summarizes some of the major problems in the olive oil industry, but also provides suggestions for what we can all do to make sure we do not unwittingly contribute to the disturbing practices described:

While it is disturbing to know that I might have unwittingly contributed to the less-than-ethical practices in the olive oil industry, what touched me was this other newsletter by Silvestro describing the effect of those practices on the people who have spent their lives growing olives and making olive oil:

Those of us who enjoy food tend to idealize the process of producing olive oil (and other agricultural products). While sitting at our computers and trying to meet another work deadline, we dream of green olive groves and the happy people who tend them. But, as Silvestro’s newsletter makes clear, the lives of the people who produce (or used to produce) this wonderful product are filled with hard work and some unpleasant choices. Come to think of it, it’s surprising there are still as many small olive oil producers as there are. I know I will think of this next time I decide what olive oil to buy.

p.s. You might also find this newsletter, which describes the process of making olive oil and some of the things that can go wrong, useful:


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