The highest quality olive oil is Extra Virgin Olive Oil, considered superior because it is obtained from the best olives and exclusively through mechanical procedures, resulting in an oil with excellent organoleptic properties and great value for our health. But unfortunately not all olive oils authorized for human consumption are Extra Virgin. For this reason, there is even a European regulation on olive oil that aims to guarantee quality and transparency in the marketing of different types of olive oil depending on the extraction process, acidity and other parameters obtained through physical-chemical analysis in an authorized laboratory.
Furthermore, in the case of the highest quality oils, their organoleptic parameters (smells and flavors) are also evaluated by a tasting panel made up of expert technicians.
Extra virgin olive oil
It is extracted exclusively by mechanical procedures with a maximum acidity level of 0.8%. This parameter is obtained through a laboratory analysis, and is directly related to the amount of free fatty acids in the oil, which are produced mainly because the whole olive is not in its optimal state of health, as occurs with olives collected from the ground olives, chopped olives, fermented olives, etc. Therefore, the lower the acidity, the higher the quality of the fruit and the olive oil produced.
However, acidity is not the only parameter that is taken into account to determine its quality, since it is influenced by other determinants such as the peroxide index, K270 or waxes.
But what do these parameters mean? Well, to simplify, the peroxide value is the amount of active oxygen in the oil and that gives us an idea of its degree of oxidation or rancidity (bad taste). In the case of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, this parameter cannot exceed 20 meq/kg (milliequivalents of oxygen per kilo). Along the same lines, the K270 index indicates the degree of oxidation produced by alterations, contamination or improper handling of the product. On the other hand, there are waxes that become olive oil due to the presence of leaves or dirt, due to a high extraction temperature or due to inadequate storage. In short, after an exhaustive analysis, you can know if an Extra Virgin Olive Oil may have been adulterated or has defects that may call into question its extra virginity, as the OCU has already demonstrated in the controls it carries out to detect fraud. that are so common with this product.
Therefore, when buying Extra Virgin Olive oil, it is a quality plus that it is certified by the Regulatory Council of an authorized Designation of Origin. In addition, it has a testing panel of expert tasters, who carry out a demanding organoleptic analysis to detect defects in the extra virgin oil, not revealed by the physical-chemical analysis. This human analysis is essential to detect qualities of the oil such as fruity, bitter or spicy, directly related to the presence of organic compounds and unique natural antioxidants such as vitamin E, oleocanthal or squalene, which make Extra Virgin Olive Oil be superior in a product. of capital importance for our health.
Virgin olive oil
Virgin Olive Oil is extracted in the same way as Extra Virgin, with the difference that its acidity level is usually above 0.8%, and cannot exceed 2%. That is, its free fatty acid content is usually higher, mainly because the olive is in worse condition.
However, it may be the case that from the previous physical-chemical analysis parameters are obtained that meet all the requirements to be an Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and yet, an organoleptic analysis carried out by an expert tasting determines that it does not meet these requirements. , and therefore must be marketed as Virgin Olive Oil. That is to say, a Virgin Olive Oil basically differs from an Extra Virgin, in that the Virgin Oil has defects in its flavor or smell. However, in principle an oil of this type has sufficient quality to be consumed without fear, since it is still olive juice, even if the olives with which it was made are not of optimal quality. For this reason, it is usually used more for cooking than for raw use, because its flavor is usually milder and it contains fewer organic compounds and natural antioxidants that are beneficial to health. lampante olive oil.
Lampante Olive Oil
It is the juice resulting from poorer quality olives, normally from the last olives of the campaign, collected from the ground or already in the fermentation process, and which results in an oil with an acidity greater than 2% and multiple defects, which make it Not suitable for human consumption. Therefore, this type of oil is taken from oil mills to industrial refineries to produce other types of oils and byproducts. However, recent OCU controls on several olive oils present in well-known supermarkets and hypermarkets have brought to light the fraudulent use of this product in containers labeled as virgin or even extra virgin.
“As an anecdote, comment that “lampante” comes from lamp, because in ancient Rome this oil was used as “energy” to illuminate and feed slaves as a sign of their “generosity.”
Olive oil (refined + virgin)
This is where we begin to see some confusion among consumers, since there is a commercial category of Olive Oil (without more) or with the nicknames of mild and intense, and which actually contains a mixture of Virgin Olive Oils with refined oils. obtained from defective oils. (Lampantes) through chemical or thermal processes with a maximum acidity level of 1.5%. However, during these processes, the acidity and the rest of the physical-chemical parameters can be manipulated to drastically reduce them, even below the values of an Extra Virgin. However, this type of dry olive oil usually tastes nothing and has lost much of the organic compounds and natural antioxidants present in higher quality oils. Therefore, it is important that we know what we are buying, paying close attention to the content of the label and not letting ourselves be fooled by its marketing.
Remember, the olive oil that they sell us as “mild” or “intense” is refined olive oil, no more and no less.
It contains a mixture of Virgin Olive Oils and oils obtained through chemical processes from the solid residue of the olive, called bagasse, with a maximum acidity of 1.5%, making it suitable for human consumption. However, here we are faced with a case very similar to the previous one, with the difference that part of the oil used does not come from the refined Lampante Oil, but from the oil that is extracted through industrial refining of the solid residue resulting from the mechanical extraction process in the oil mills, popularly known as Bagazo. This dark mass is stored in special warehouses during the olive season, which is then collected and transferred to the oil mills, to the factories where it is processed to extract olive oil from Bagasse and other by-products commonly used in cosmetics. As we said, Bagazo olive oil is considered suitable for human consumption, and in fact it is usually a very common product in the kitchens of our bars and restaurants, since it fulfills its greasing function in griddles, fryers and even raw, a low cost. , but obviously without those beneficial health properties that superior quality Extra Virgin Olive Oils have. Furthermore, as it is a less dense and more processed fat, it permeates food much more and burns more easily, so it tends to add more calories to dishes, and can even cause digestive disorders if it is reused inappropriately.