There really is no substitute for extra-virgin olive oil, something that I’m sure every foodie would attest to. However finding decent olive oil is getting harder and harder for me at my local supermarket. It wasn’t always this way. Up until several months ago they carried several foreign brands in convenient 250ml containers. Sure they were a little pricey but I considered the expense worthwhile for health and taste reasons (and boy could I make a bottle stretch! ). However lately the supermarket has now switched to carrying olive oil in much larger sizes, up to a gallon, and the smaller bottles have pretty much disappeared except for one by a local distributor ‘Regal’.
When I first saw olive oil in a Regal container I was quite suspicious – plastic, local, olive oil … the equation didn’t add up. Still, the label said Extra-Virgin, the price was right, and the alternatives were non-existent. I picked up a bottle and carried it home. When I opened it I was pleasantly surprised as it indeed smelled and tasted like the real thing. If the saga had ended here all would have been peachy, but as you can tell it didn’t.
The second time that I bought Regal Olive Oil I was confused, it no longer had the vibrant floral scent, and though the texture was right the taste was non-existent. What had happened?
On my most recent trip to the supermarket I again saw that Regal was the only option for smaller-sized olive oil bottles. Heavy hearted I decided to give them one more try. Maybe that bottle had been a fluke. One part of my mind noticed that the bottle now had a red label (instead of green) but I paid it no mind.
When I got home and opened the bottle, again I noticed something was off. No scent, no flavour. And this time I read the label closer and immediately noticed that it no longer said extra-virgin olive oil. Instead that phrase was replaced with a single word, Pomace.
What was Pomace? Was it a region? A pressing style? Curious I looked it up … and man was this the final straw
Olive Pomace Oil is the last dregs of the olive oil pressing process, ‘enhanced’ by petroleum solvents…yum
[The] designation “olive oil” cannot be applied to olive residue oils. An olive residue oil, by definition, is obtained by treating the olive residue, called pomace, (which is the substance remaining from previous pressings) with solvents. It may be classified as “refined olive-residue oil” or “refined olive-residue oil and olive oil”. These classifications are suitable for human consumption.
Olive-Pomace Oil is a blend of refined olive-pomace oil and virgin olive oil fit for consumption as is. Once again, however, in no event whatsoever may it be called “olive oil” according to the International Olive Oil Council rules.
I would like to say that I would never recommend olive-pomace oil to anyone. It has a very poor quality ranking in the list of oils.
Certified Olive Oil Consultant
How does Regal dance around this? Well first of all not only do they flagrantly continue to push the product as ‘olive oil’ they then go on to assert on the label…
“Regal Pomace Olive Oil is made exclusively from selected olives after the first pressing. These oils are meticulously blended by skilled craftsmen who have mastered the art from generation to generation to produce its own unique taste.”
Sounds positively picturesque doesn’t it! Compare that to the truth of how olive pomace oil is made:
Olive presses are unable to extract a residual 4% olive oil from the olive pulp. A process of “hexane extraction” is able to chemically extract most of this oil, which is then refined. Used primarily to make soap.
On a more alarming (and scary) level olive pomace oils also can carry a health risk because of the petroleum solvent process. In 2001/2 the New Zealand Food and Health Safety authority had to recall olive pomace oil from several manufacturers. The samples had to be sent to the UK for carcinogenic testing as such testing was not available in New Zealand. Now if that testing is not available in New Zealand I seriously doubt it is available here. This is a country after all that still can’t get its act together on DNA testing so I can’t see olive oil as having made its way to the front of the bureaucratic line. So once again we, the populace, are left to blind faith?
As far as I am concerned Regal has no business selling (possibly toxic) olive sludge to an unsuspecting (and overtrusting) populace as ‘olive oil’. Let alone pricing these dregs at extra-virgin prices. I am not amused. Even though it may mean having to trek over to a gourmet specialty store I won’t be endorsing this type of trickery, and I suggest that you spread the word and do the same! Here is a link to the Consumer Affairs Division online complaint form.
ETA: Since originally composing this my most recent trip to the supermarket showed the return of my favorite small-sized bottles of Carbonell extra-virgin olive oil, and the Regal Pomace Oil was gone! Let’s hope this is a permanent move. Yay!