Investigators have gathered evidence indicating that the biggest olive oil brands in Italy — Bertolli, Sasso, and Cirio — have for years been systematically diluting their extra-virgin olive oil with cheap, highly-refined hazelnut oil imported from Turkey. [1]

A 1996 study by the FDA found that 96 percent of the olive oils they tested, while being labeled 100 percent olive oil, had been diluted with other oils.  A study in Italy found that only 40 percent of the olive oil brands labeled “extra-virgin” actually met those standards.  Italy produces 400,000 tons of olive oil for domestic consumption, but 750,000 tons are sold.  The difference is made up with highly refined nut and seed oils. [2]


“In 1998, the New York law firm Rabin and Peckel, LLP, took on the olive oil labeling misnomer and filed a class action suit in the New York Supreme Court against Unilever, the English-Dutch manufacturer of Bertolli olive oil. The firm argued that Bertolli’s labels, which read “Imported from Italy,” did not meet full disclosure laws because, even though the oil had passed through Italian ports, most of it had originated in Tunisia, Turkey, Spain or Greece. “Bertolli olive oil is imported from Italy, but contains no measurable quantity of Italian oil,” according to court documents.” [3]

Jewish groups interested in the purity of oil as Kosher have also discovered themixing of olive oil with non vegetable oils. Extra Virgin Holy Land Olive Oil which is packed at the source presents little or no problems for kashrus.

[1] From an article published by Raymond Francis, author of the book Never Be Sick Again. Mr. Francis is an M.I.T.-trained scientist and an internationally recognized leader in the emerging field of optimal health maintenance.  He spent four months researching the scandal in the olive oil industry and studying olive oil chemistry and production methods.  Finding an olive oil he could recommend took several more months.

[2] Ibid.

[3] From a USA Today June 25, 2003, article. tilted “Add 1 lb. of veggies, olive oil” By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY

The FTC has taken action in numerous cases involving deceptive health-related claims about food products [see Bertolli I/ S.A., Inc., C-3396 (Aug. 17, 1992)(consent)] – Here is a sample adulteration case. See also, Excuse me, is it Virgin?”