Canada’s Pressing Problem

Houston we have a problem! You have no rockets, and Canadians have no decent olive oil. That the two are related has only to do with time, as both took the same eons to be accepted by Canadians—while space travel slowly became a normal activity, olive oil crept into public acceptance due to its healthy attributes. Now, seemingly with a snap of the fingers, both are relegated to the garbage heap, no money for space, and no olive oil fit for human consumption available on store shelves. It’s shameful, especially when both had reached an apex, man was headed for mars and Canadians had embraced the wonders of freshly pressed olives.

What happened to the rockets is explained by U.S.politicians as a cost cutting measure, while the absence of a decent, healthy olive oil can only be attributed to the rise of International food conglomerates and their insatiable lust for profits. Unlike other vegetable oils, the ripe olive only needs pressing and bottling to be ready for consumption. Sounds easy, it is; and by employing this ancient process all the important nutrients are conserved: the antioxidants polyphenols and natural vitamin E.

Olive oil reduces cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and decrease the incidence of some cancers. Canadians know this through fancy marketing campaigns, with supermarkets responding by filling shelves with numerous brands. Problem is, what the Canadian consumer believes is on those shelves is not the reality, as the stuff in those bottles is so loosely related to the real thing, that it may as well be rocket fuel.

In 2007, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency randomly picked 45 brands of bottled olive oil from supermarket shelves for testing and found one-third had been cut with either sunflower or soybean oil. Historically, ripe olives are picked by hand so as not to damage or bruise with picked fruit placed into containers with holes for aeration and mold prevention. Before milling, twigs and stems are removed with the resulting paste pressed into oil usually within 48 hours. Then along came the conglomerates with big ideas to squeeze more profit from the ancient fruit. Shake it down ripe or not, ship in dump trucks and place into huge moldy piles to await processing by a continuous centrifuge that employs hot water to separate every drop. Antioxidant polyphenols are soluble in hot water and are lost during this process, which drastically lowers the shelf life from years to months.

Canada requires the words “virgin olive oil” to mean: that the olive oil is one hundred percent pure olive oil and a free oleic acid level of no more than one percent. No problem for the conglomerates, since all they must do is refine poor quality high acid oil with solvents to bring down acid levels.

While a few reader may remember the great tropical oil scandal of the seventies, wherein soy bean producers concocted a super successful campaign to convince consumers that tropical oils were causing heart disease, that is nothing compared to what European investigators are uncovering about olive oil. It may be the greatest food scandal of the twentieth century, as it appears that almost every conglomerate involved in the processing of olive oil has been cutting their product with highly refined hazelnut oil from Turkey.

Yes, Martha, your favourite brand of olive oil is not only nutritionally wanting, it is probably cut with cheap nut oils that may have something to do with your bouts of wheezing.

Yes, it is against Canadian law, but that apparently is no concern to the conglomerates as Europe has even more stringent consumer laws. When it comes to olive oil, it’s buyer beware in Canada, while those fortunate enough to have relatives in the old country would be wise to cultivate their friendship, as it appears Canadians must look to them for a supply of the “good stuff”.

-A.H. Jackson