Flavoured oils are very popular and I can see why. Here you have an instant flavouring to perk up a quick pasta dish or give added interest to a simple salad. That’s really useful when you have rushed home from work and need to put together an interesting meal at speed. Other people who are not too keen on the taste of extra virgin olive oil but who want to have the health benefits also buy these oils.
However, there is a real problem with the olive oil labeling laws. Flavoured oils are not considered to be extra virgin as they do not consist solely of olive oil, there is another ingredient in the mix. So, they must simply be labelled as flavoured olive oil.
This in itself is not too bad. I had assumed that if producers used an extra virgin base then this could be listed in the ingredients. But this is not the case for all types of flavoured oil. Extra virgin oil may be listed in the list of ingredients if the oil has been infused with the flavouring or if a flavour extract is used. However, it may not be listed if the flavouring ingredient has been pressed together with the olives in the mill.
The problem here is that the latter “Agrumato” oil is the best kind of flavoured oil. It has real intensity of flavour and there is no danger of botulism which is possible if the oil is infused with contaminated items such as fresh garlic. This means that people looking for an extra virgin base will be steered to an inferior product and producers of the best product are being penalised.
Charles Carey at The Oil Merchant has a range of Agrumato olive oils from the Colonna estate in the Molise.