With so many food items to choose from on supermarket shelves, it's becoming increasingly difficult to ensure that only the healthiest and highest quality products end up in our shopping carts.
According to a Nielsen study, 59% of consumers around the world have a hard time understanding the nutrition labels on food. Manufacturers use misleading phrases on their packaging to make food appear healthier than it actually is, duping many consumers into buying inferior quality products.
But it doesn't end there. Some foods are actually not what they appear to be at all!
Food fraud is a surprisingly common problem, with many everyday food items falling prey to this deceptive practice.
Some of the most commonly faked foods include seafood - cheap, low-quality seafood is often packaged to appear premium, Parmesan cheese - pre-grated Parmesan cheese can be bulked up with fillers such as cellulose, and honey - which is commonly diluted with less-expensive sweeteners like corn syrup.
In today's post we'll explore the topic of fake food by looking at two of the most commonly faked oils - extra-virgin olive oil and virgin coconut oil.
We'll show you the warning signs to look out for when buying these oils, and give you the information you need to make sure you choose a genuine oil, packed full of the health benefits you're paying for.
Fake Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is one of the most faked food products on the market. Because of its relatively high priced compared to many others oils, unscrupulous manufacturers and dealers flood the market with counterfeit extra-virgin olive oil in a bid to increase their profits.
In 2010, researchers from the University of California-Davis tested olive oil sold in stores and found that 69% of imported "extra-virgin" olive oils were deceptively labeled.
Extra-virgin olive oil is made by crushing olives to extract their juice. For an oil to qualify as "extra-virgin," olives must be from the first cold pressing of ripe olives, and no chemicals can be used in the process.
The Researchers found that most of the oil samples tested failed to meet these standards. Common quality issues included samples that were oxidized, mixed with low quality olive oil, or diluted with less expensive oils such as canola or sunflower oil.
So what's the upshot of all this? If you buy fake olive oil, you're really being cheated twice. First, the inferior oil is worth much less than you paid for it, and second, it lacks the health benefits of genuine extra-virgin olive oil.
Real extra-virgin olive oil has a wide range of health benefits. These include lowering cholesterol levels, guarding against obesity and type 2 diabetes, and protecting against skin cancer.
If you're not buying real extra-virgin oil, you're missing out on many of these fantastic health benefits. Fake olive oil is often heavily processed, and loses many of its healthy properties.
With so much fake extra-virgin olive oil in stores, it pays to be vigilant while you shop. Here are a few pointers to help you select a genuine oil ...
What to Look out For
Avoid oil sold in clear bottles
Light damages the oil, so choose a product in a dark bottle.
Look for a stamp of approval
Seals from the California Olive Oil Council (COOC), Extra Virgin Alliance (EVA), and UNAPROL - the Italian olive producers association - verify that the oil is of a high standard.
Look closely at the terminology on the label
Words like "natural", "pure", "premium" and "virgin olive oil" can often indicate a low quality product.
Don't buy the cheapest oil on offer
Half a liter of good quality oil should cost around $10. Top quality oil can sell for up to $25 per half liter. If the price is too low, it's a sure sign of poor quality.
The benefits of coconut oil are becoming more widely well known, leading to an increase in its popularity. As the demand for coconut oil increases, many retailers are looking for ways to drive down the price in order to sell more of the product.
The end result is that good quality virgin coconut oil is becoming difficult to find. Cheaper versions of the oil are commonplace on supermarket shelves. They are often low quality, and lack the health benefits of genuine virgin coconut oil. The harsh reality is that the coconut oil you purchase to help with Fido’s allergies or ear infections may actually be doing more harm than good.
There are two major types of coconut oil available to buy - "virgin" coconut oil and "RBD" coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil (unrefined) is processed naturally and retains its coconut flavor and smell. RBD (refined, bleached, and deodorized) coconut oil often comes from inferior or sun-dried coconuts (copra), and has therefore been chemically processed to remove impurities. This also removes its natural flavor and smell.
Because virgin coconut oil is processed naturally, it retains the maximum amount of vitamins and nutrients possible - making it the very best choice for the health-conscious shopper.
Genuine virgin coconut oil has many health benefits for pets and humans. These include the power to boost the immune system, support brain health, aid the digestive system, and fight infection.
The problem with cheap or fake coconut oils - whether labeled as "virgin" or "RBD" - is that they're often very low in healthy nutrients, usually as the result of being made from coconuts that aren’t fresh, or from old copra. Low quality coconut oil may also contain heavy metals such as arsenic, copper, iron and lead.
Moisture and impurities in coconut oil varies greatly from brand to brand – from as low as .01% for an excellent virgin coconut oil, to as high as .2% + for unrefined coconut oil, and even higher for partially refined oil. The MCTs in coconut oil - specifically the Lauric Acid component - varies greatly as well, some lower than 40% and some as high as 56%.
Just as with olive oil, many coconut oil products are deceptively labeled. The packaging of the oil may use words such as "virgin", “extra-virgin”, "natural", or "pure", but the contents could be far from it.
Common quality issues include coconut oil that has been blended with cheaper oils such as vegetable oil or palm oil, RBD coconut oil, improperly filtered oil, and coconut oil made with low-grade coconuts.
So, what do you need to know to make sure you choose a virgin coconut oil that's safe, natural, and packed full of the wonderful health benefits that make it a true "superfood"?
What to Look out For
Choose an oil packaged in glass
Plastic packaging is a sign of a low quality oil. The best quality virgin coconut oil is packaged in glass. The reason for this is that plastic can affect the taste of coconut oil and cause toxins to leach into the product. Plastic packaging may also be improperly sealed, making the product prone to spoiling. Glass is the best option as it seals in the healthy nutrients in the coconut oil and keeps the product fresh.
Check the taste and smell
Genuine virgin coconut oil has a fresh, “sweet”, distinct coconut aroma, and a mild coconut flavor. It should taste fresh, never rancid, or “sharp.” Avoid oils with a burned or roasted smell or flavor, as it's a sign that the oil has been processed using heat - and has lost some of its healthy nutrients. If the oil has a “waxy”, oily scent along with a barely discernible coconut aroma it’s a sign that it may have been mixed with an RBD coconut oil or vegetable oil. As we mentioned before, RBD coconut oil has no smell or taste because of the way it's processed.
Look for an oil that's cold-pressed
True cold-pressed coconut oil has NEVER been heated during manufacturing. This process is more difficult, and yields less oil, but the end product is far superior to low quality coconut oil. Be particularly careful when choosing a cold-pressed coconut oil. The labelling on some products may claim the oil is cold-pressed, but often heat has been used in earlier stages of the manufacturing process. Which brings us to our final point ...
You Get What You Pay For
The low price of the coconut oil should tip you off. Unfortunately, consumers looking to purchase "bargain" or inexpensive coconut oil are supporting deceptive practices. Stores continue to buy low price oils because they sell, and consumers have become addicted to the lower prices. This has serious effects on the market of high quality, authentic virgin coconut oil that is naturally more expensive.
Just like olive oil, when it comes to coconut oil, price does determine quality. An inexpensive coconut oil is going to be of inferior quality, mixed with RBD coconut oil, palm or vegetable oils, tainted with residual contaminants, and lower in healthy nutrients than a more expensive product.
Purchase your coconut oil from a company that cares
The best way to make sure you're buying the healthiest virgin coconut oil is to seek out a company that’s passionate about the oil they produce. Unless you buy your coconut oil directly from a coconut oil producer, the harsh reality is you may not be getting what you think you're getting.
More than 95% of coconut oil brands in the USA are private label, coming from multiple sources, and even multiple countries. There are many multi-national commercial and government issues at play, such as lax government agency oversight, lack of industry standards and certifying agents, and corrupt food inspection agencies, both in the U.S. and overseas. Sadly, relying on labels that claim “cold-pressed”, raw, extra-virgin, and even the USDA Organic seal does not guarantee quality or authenticity.
For years, the founders of CocoTherapy - coconut growers and coconut producers for over three generations - have warned about adulterated and mislabeled coconut oils, finding it frustrating that consumers, retailers, and government regulatory agencies are turning a blind eye to the widespread fraud.
The most serious problem is the fraud committed against the consumer, especially those purchasing virgin coconut oil to address specific health concerns.
CocoTherapy virgin coconut oil is a therapeutic oil, produced to address chronic or acute health issues. We are committed to producing the very best authentic virgin coconut oil on the market.
Our coconut oil is cold-pressed below 115 F, using only 100% organic, non-GMO and non-hybrid coconuts. All the coconuts used to produce our oil are tree-ripened for 12 months and sourced from our family coconut farm in the Philippines.
This results in the highest quality virgin coconut oil that has the highest lauric acid content possible - the "super Ingredient" responsible for so many of the oil's amazing health benefits. CocoTherapy coconut oil also has a high percentage of beneficial Medium Chain Fatty Acids (lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid), containing at least 64%.
Although packaged and marketed for pets, CocoTherapy coconut oil is human-grade and can be shared and used by the whole family, both human and animals alike.
Interested to find out more? Click here to read all about the CocoTherapy difference.
By Richard Rowlands