SA Olive speaks out over newly uncovered olive oil fraud

Liquid gold, as olive oil enthusiasts call their favourite gastronomic ingredient, has once again caught the limelight –- this time due to dubious practices of certain restaurants parading seed oils as Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Well known TV programme Carte Blanche (show of 9 September 2010 and you can see the video/read the transpcript here) recently reported on these fraudulent practices where consumers are being mislead regarding the quality and origin of the supposed olive oil they are served. 

SA Olive, the voluntary association representing the interests of the SA olive industry, is not happy. Says SA Olive chairman, Andries Rabie, “Our industry cannot afford consumers to doubt the quality of South African olive oils and the trustworthiness of our labelling. Similar deceptive practices have reared their ugly heads in South Africa before, and for this reason SA Olive instituted the Member of SA Olive Commitment to Compliance Scheme (CTC) back in 2005 as the first step in establishing control over the labelling procedures of local products.”

SA Olive pulls together olive growers, olive oil producers, table olive producers and olive tree nurseries in order to promote the industry but also to protect the interests of the consumers of this healthy product.

Participation of SA Olive members to the CTC scheme is voluntary and self-regulating. Their commitment to the initiative is shown with the “Member of SA Olive” seal on their bottles. Producers whose products bear this seal of authenticity confirm that the content is 100% locally produced and made in accordance with the SA Olive Code of Conduct and Practice based on international standards. Furthermore, those who subscribe to the CTC scheme label their products in an honest and comprehensible manner and indicate the freshness of the oil by clearly displaying the year of harvest on the label.

“A knowledgeable consumer is a satisfied one,” says Rabie. “It is vital that consumers are able to discern between the various kinds of olive oils available.” He explains that Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a natural, unrefined olive oil with a free acidity of below 0.8%, no defects and a fruity characteristic. For a local olive oil to be classified as Extra Virgin it has to undergo strict testing, which includes a chemical and organoleptic analysis, handled by a tasting panel convened by SA Olive in Paarl every consecutive week.

By comparison, Virgin Olive Oil is also a natural unrefined olive oil but with a free acidity between 0,8% and 2% and with minimal defects.

Olive oils which are flawed and unfit for consumption need to undergo a refining process during which they are deodorised and bleached. The result is a tasteless, almost colourless product called Refined Olive Oil.

Olive Pomace Oil is a solvent extracted from the solid press cake residue. It cannot be classified as or called Olive Oil, specifically not as Pomace Olive Oil which one often sees on labels. It should in fact read ‘Olive Pomace Oil’.

“Consumers are right to demand that the olive oil they are served is pure,” says Rabie. “The natural antioxidants in Extra Virgin Olive Oil make it so much healthier than olive oil that has been refined. The refining process, which other vegetable oils, such as canola oil, have to be subjected to in order to be fit for human consumption, destroys the valuable antioxidants as well as the gorgeous flavour components, minerals and vitamins.”

For further information contact SA Olive at tel (021) 870 2900, fax (021) 870 2915, e-mail [email protected] or visit

Download the TRADE STANDARD APPLYING TO OLIVE OILS AND OLIVE-POMACE OILS from the International Olive Council here (pdf 157 kb).