Customer Review

192 of 203 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic battle between first-class quality and commodity pricing, November 29, 2011
This review is from: Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil (Hardcover)
There is no other fruit with a deeper history than the olive. With the publication of Extra Virginity, Tom Mueller has taken it to its bitter end and brings it back again. A book filled with twists and turns that would shame the best mystery writer, Mueller tells a riveting tale about an age-old staple. He explores both ends of the spectrum - the dark, devious world of adulterated oil that has plagued the industry for centuries and a new host of characters from chemists to chefs who are trying to take extra virgin olive oil to a higher level.

It is a story of two opposites: first-class quality doing battle with worldwide commodity pricing and big-money subsidies. Mueller, best known for his 2007 exposé on the world of adulterated olive oil in The New Yorker magazine, spent the last four years delving deep into the subject. When the stakes are as large as a rapidly growing, $1.5 billion business in the U.S. alone, it's understandable that Mueller would uncover an undercurrent of shady dealings.

He introduces readers to a cast of characters from around the world. From "hero" archetypes like Paolo Pasquali of Villa Campestri in Tuscany, a former philosophy professor, who spearheads a new system to protect oil from tree to table to villainous players like Domenico Ribatti, whose illegal activity eventually led to a plea bargain in Italian court. Even Mark Twain gets a mention.

Kudos to the well-deserved acknowledgement of Mike Madison's long years of diligence as a small-scale producer of first class oil. I was only disappointed that there was so little mention of many other ardent, honest and ethical growers in California who are toiling to see extra virgin olive oil gain its rightful place on the shelf. I hope Mueller gets to meet some of them before he completes a sequel.

Caroline J. Beck, The Olive Oil Source
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 28, 2011 4:37:34 AM PST
How frequently is olive oil adulterated with soybean oil by some producers? I am allergic to soybean products, and I had an adverse reaction after consuming some allegedly extra virgin imported olive oil.

Posted on Jan 2, 2012 4:20:58 PM PST
C. Gilbert says:
A study (UC Davis/Australian Oils Research Lab collaboration)
evaluated the quality of extra virgin olive oils sold in California. Most of the tested imports proved to be of poorer quality, either oxidized or adulterated, while most of the tested California oils scored well. Page 8 of the report carries the chart comparing the brands. I've made my list to inform my next shopping trip!
The report downloads as a pdf from here

If the address doesn't show up in this comment, go to olivecenter dot ucdavis dot edu and follow links to the report.

Posted on Jan 7, 2012 8:59:14 AM PST
J. Burgess says:
I lived in Tunisia in the early 1980s. It was well known at the time that Tunisian oil was being shipped (clandestinely) to Italy to be repacked as Italian oil. The Italian government knew it; the Tunisian government knew it.

Also in the early 1980s, the adulteration of rapeseed (canola) oil in Spain led to 160 deaths, so it's not just the baby EVOO that's at stake.

I think the only thing we can take away from this is that unscrupulous merchants will be unscrupulous.

Personally, I prefer the Spanish or Arab oils over those from Italy. The American oils I've tried don't have the greenness of either color or taste that I prefer.

Posted on Feb 7, 2012 1:20:45 PM PST
Liquid Gold says:
Loved the book, but would like to have seen a little more mention about the spectacular oils that come from all growing countries in both hemispheres. I am sure there is more to come, as more people become aware of what fresh and authentic are supposed to taste like. The Fraudsters do not like to 'be outed'. Keep an eye on Extra for more on the good and the bad guys.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 7, 2012 1:28:33 PM PST
Liquid Gold says:
More often than you would care to know. Much of what is labelled 'Extra Virgin Olive Oil" has never seen an olive. Canola, and Soybean oils are chemically treated and dyed to look like olive oil, labelled as such, and sold in Grocery stores all over North America. Substandard Olive Oil is also Chemically treated to remove the smell and taste of 'rancid' and labelled as the good stuff. North American Testing facilities are found only in California, at the UC, Davis Campus. Regulations are in place for fraudulent oil and labeling, but no one enforces them. Sad.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 6, 2013 5:53:53 PM PDT
Thank you very much!
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