TED Talk Tuesday – Eat olive oil, not lamp oil: Trevor Clements at TEDxBrookings

I am not sure how else to say this; not all olive oil is the same. As sad as that sounds we cannot even rely on what is put on the packaging. If you think I am spouting health guru nonsense check this class action lawsuit out. If you follow this link you will find a landing page that starts off with this:

The lawsuit contends that certain “Bertolli” brand olive oil products (the “Products”) were inappropriately marketed as “Imported from Italy” and/or “Extra Virgin.” It seeks a court order to preclude that marketing and to provide payments to purchasers. Deoleo denies any wrongdoing. It contends that the Products have always been truthfully marketed and labeled[1].

A Full breakdown of the case can be found here. Legal jargon aside, it all boils down to what I wrote above, not all olive oil is the same, this has been an ongoing problem because olive oil is a wonderful product that can really be good for you, if it is not laced with vegetable oils[2]. Fruit oils (coconut, avocado, and olive) are amazing for you, however, vegetable oils have been known to be easily oxidized and possibly harm us due to their inflammatory nature[3,4]. Remember, that many studies have linked chronic inflammation to things like heart disease and the like[5]. If you want a more in-depth book that goes into all of the crazy shenanigans that goes into the olive oil making business check out the book “Extra Virginity” if you want a more detailed description of the book you can also check out my book review on it. It was a really good read.

Now that we understand why fake olive oil can be bad, let’s learn a little bit about our speaker Trevor Clements. From what the TEDx description of the video, he is a founding partner of the Brookings, SD-based Coteau des Prairies Olive Oil Co. They operate out of an online store and wine boutique at the Pheasant Restaurant. Trevor is also a trained and dedicated purveyor of fresh, authentic extra virgin olive oil. The goal of this TEDx is to help educate consumers and promote product transparency especially considering the unregulated nature of the olive oil industry.

Here are my notes from the talk:

  • Scandal, corruption, and fraud…these are real problems in such a high demand industry.
  • Olive oil is in such high demand around the world because science just keeps confirming what even the ancients knew, that is it one of the healthiest natural commodities on the planet.
  • Profit-driven companies are… doing everything they can to make a buck off of every last drop of olive oil. Whether it’s good or bad.
  • Oils [that are] sometimes “refined” for consumption is an oil that’s called “Lampante”. Lampante is the Italian word “Lamp oil”, which is deemed not fit for human consumption. And it’s sold to you as Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  • The process of refining, or deodorizing an oil involves taking rancid olive oil and boiling it with chemicals so that the putrid smells and the off flavors are burnt off.
  • The smoke point of this oil is so incredibly low because it’s been subjected to this kind of treatment.
  • There’s lots of misleading hype in the oil industry. Meaningless words appear on labels such as “Cold Pressed” Or oils being labeled as “Extra Virgin” when they’re really not.
  • Some olive oils have been found to be tainted with canola oil and other filler oils.
  • [Big oil brands] profiteering relies completely on product adulteration, dishonest marketing, and the unsuspecting consumer.
  • The [elemental] enemies of olive oil are heat, light, oxygen and time.
  • The grower wants to make some money, so he’ll let the olives over ripen to get a higher yield. And he might even press them a second time.
  • Next, somebody buys the bulk of the olive oil.
  • All along the way, this oil sits in warehouses and semis without temperature controls.
  • The oil is then deodorized with heat and chemicals before being put into clear glass bottles, which sit under fluorescent light… until you buy it. Because the label says “Extra Virgin Olive Oil”
  • Olive oil is good for you. There are however many important variables in ensuring that the olive oil that you’re consuming is the good stuff.
  • Olive oil is essentially a fresh fruit juice. With its own natural preservatives.
  • Some people falsely believe that olive oil only comes from a certain region. Good olive oil only comes from a certain region.
  • But, in actuality, it’s ideal to source from both the Northern and the Southern Hemispheres. That’s because the harvests are about 6-months apart.
  • What’s important also is that the olives are picked at the proper state of ripeness.
  • Then the oil should be kept in that bulk for as long as possible. As each breakdown potentially exposes it to more and more oxygen.
  • You know, olive oil expiration dates are pretty much pointless.  Instead, the crush date should be provided.
  • And the oil should be bottled for purchase in UV light-proof bottles.
  • The best purveyors will actually list the varieties of olive, the country of origin, the date of crush and maybe even the olive oil chemistry.
  • So what I’m hoping that you take away from this today is that olive oil is incredibly healthy for you but in its fresh and authentic state. Don’t fall for the marketing hype or the big brand fraud.
  • Find a purveyor that can tell you where the oil was from and how it was produced. Better yet find one that will actually let you taste it and smell it before you buy it.

Those are my notes on Trevor’s talk. I really like that he was shining a light on the, oftentimes, corrupt olive oil industry. Because when we become knowledgeable about olive oil, it becomes easy to spot fakes. Also, like he said, actual olive oil is quite healthy, however, it is the crap that they add to this healthy oil that makes it subpar.

If you want a good site to learn more about olive oil as well as a buyers guide to help you get the best oil available to you, check out: http://www.extravirginity.com/, it ’s a quality site and it is from the same person I referenced earlier, who had the “Extra Virginity” book. You can also check out the UC Davis site, where they also have tips for buying and other resources.


[1]: http://www.oliveoilsettlement.com/index.html

[2]: https://www.leagle.com/decision/infdco20170224b25

[3]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18842776

[4]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4990724/

[5]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5488800/

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