Who among us doesn’t love olive oil? It’s versatile and delicious, making everything better, from our skin to our pasta. Extra-virgin olive oil is the most popular type and – especially among foodies – demand is only rising. We love to see more people discovering and enjoying something we adore, so it broke our hearts to learn that there’s actually a dark side to the oily business. It turns out that a lot of the “Italian extra-virgin olive oil” in the stores is neither Italian nor extra-virgin, and in some cases, it doesn’t even come from olives. (Seriously— there’s sesame oil out there pretending to be olive oil!) This report from 60 Minutes goes into the details of how in the world this problem could happen, but luckily for all of us olive-lovers, it also offers us some hope. If we know what to look for when we buy our olive oil, we can make sure we’re getting the real deal.

Before You Buy The Bottle

  • Find out where it’s made— and don’t trust the “Made In Italy” phrase. That pretty Tuscan-landscape label could be fooling you, so look closely at the bottle to make sure the olive oil was actually pressed in Italy, not just packaged there. It should come from a specific city (like Lucca, Florence, Siena, Palermo, Messina, etc.) in the olive-growing regions of Sicily or Apulia.
  • Go straight to the source. Feel overwhelmed trying to figure out which labels are telling the truth? Skip the stores and the middle men and shop online. More and more Italian producers are building websites and shipping straight to consumers.
  • Check the date. Remember that olives are fruit, and olive oil is, in many ways, juice. Would you drink fruit juice that was a few years old? We didn’t think so.
  • Buy American. California olive-growers make great local olive oils, and since it doesn’t have to travel as far or go through as many middle-men, it’s fresher, more authentic, and more affordable than the false types pretending to be from Italy.
  • Consider the price tag. Remember that you get what you pay for, especially when it comes to items coming from around the globe, and that olive oil is one area where price really does mean quality. At the very least, remember that the seven or eight dollar bottle on the bottom shelf at the grocery store is not extra-virgin and, most likely, not Italian.
  • Understand what “extra-virgin olive oil” really is. It comes ONLY from the very first pressing of each season’s olives, and is 100% pure. When it’s first-pressed, it actually has a color that’s an “almost luminescent green.”

Keep these tips in mind, and you can rest easy knowing that the extra-virgin olive oil in your kitchen is the real deal. Did you know any of these things before? How familiar are you with olive oil, be it Italian or Californian? If you want to learn more, check out the article over on CBS to see how this whole problem started.