Not so virgin: the fraud of the olive it on top of a lush green salad, prepare a bowl to dip warm slices of bread into, or sip a teaspoon on an empty stomach- just some of the uses for olive oil. 

This century old ingredient promises beauty and overall health.

Recent scientific studies also confirm the health benefits of olive oil, a main staple of the Mediterranean diet. 

Lucky for us (who live in developed countries), we can find this golden liquid packaged inside glass bottles and aerosol cans (but please, whatever you do, don’t ever buy olive oil in a spray can, you will regret it!) on supermarket aisles.

With so many wanting to lead a healthy lifestyle, the demand for continued production of olive oil is high, especially for the oils exported from Italy. Being naive believers in packaging and marketing, consumers happily buy up olive oil that says ‘Natural’ and ‘Made in Italy’. If you fall prey to these deceitful schemes, then watch out!

Recent studies showed that “70% of cheaper extra virgin olive oil sold is a fraud.” And labels that say ‘Extra Virgin’ and ‘Made in Italy’ are legal even if the product wasn’t produced in Italy. This means that 69% of olive oil sold in the USA is doctored.

Big brands, such as Filippo Berio and Bertolli, make customers believe that their product is made in pristine olive fields of Italy. However, most of the time, their olives hail from diverse corners of the world like Tunisia, Turkey, Greece and Spain. 

So, how can this be possible? Unfortunately, the FDA in USA and the EU don’t test olive oil due to high costs. Big brands, hungry for profit, utilize these loopholes to make loads of money without ever getting caught. It’s like taking part in trafficking illegal drugs but never being held responsible for the crime. 2010, UC Davis carried out a study of olive oil. Results showed that 69% of imported and 10% of California-based oils labeled ‘Extra Virgin’ failed International Olive Council (IOC) and USDA standards for extra virgin olive oil. Luckily a small percentage of products did pass the test and these brands should be applauded for selling quality goods. Corto Olive, California Olive Ranch, Kirkland Organic, Lucero and McEvoy Ranch Organic all sell real olive oil.

It’s unfortunate to see big companies finding loopholes to make money by advertising false products to their consumers. It’s also alarming to see government agencies failing to protect consumers from these frauds. This is why, more than ever, it’s important that we share our knowledge with each other. The power is in our hands. I hope this post has been helpful!

Happy eating!

End of Apple Pie?

Screen shot 2014-04-15 at 1.45.13 PMHello!

My name is Hokuma and I’m addicted to sweets. I love baked goods: apple pies, fruit tarts, pumpkin pies, apple turnovers… the list is long. Sometimes, I would wonder whether I was the only person in the world with such a big sweet tooth addiction, but an article I read a few days ago helped me see otherwise. The article was posted on the facebook wall of a very prestigious organization, Oxfam in Azerbaijan.

The article came from a well known news agency in Azerbaijan. It highlighted a new report by the Alliance for Food Security, an organization established in 2012, which aims to aid the development of agriculture in Azerbaijan. This program will help the population seek access to nutritious foods between 2008-2015 through public and private partnerships.

Nizami Garayev, a member of the organization, mentioned findings from a new report that paints a rather worrisome picture of Azerbaijanis and their diet. Regarding fruits and berries, people in Azerbaijan consume only 47 kg of food as opposed to 80 kg worldwide, with fish they consume 5 kg as opposed to 8.3 kg worldwide, and dairy, 209.2 kg vs. 360 kg. When it comes to meat, I was happy to see that Azerbaijanis consume only 27.8kg per year, while the world consumes 70 kg. (Being a vegetarian and an environmentalist, this seems like a positive so, GO AZERBAIJAN!)

Ok, so Azerbaijanis eat less than average, but what does this have to do with my own personal story and addiction to sugar? Here comes the answer, the area where Azerbaijanis excelled above others was in the consumption of baked goods! Azerbaijanis consume 133.8 kg instead of 120.5 kg of bread, and other baked treasures.

DSC_0463There…that’s it! This is the static that showed me that I am Azerbaijani and I shouldn’t take such things to heart. I have a sweet tooth, I loved baked goods, but it’s in my DNA. Plus, you always hear people say that those who like sweets tend to be kind people. I can confidently say that many Azerbaijanis are caring and considerate! Especially some of my relatives that live in Qax and make their own honey. They are the sweetest bunch of people you could ever meet!

And knowing that in recent years, food fraud has increased, I have no doubt that the farmers in my family (small, family owned farm), are the future of a sustainable agriculture. Food and taste matters too much for us, and quality is always important. You won’t see any added sugar in the honey they produce.

The same can’t be said for Americans. While many Americans consume  490 million pounds of honey a year, only 149 million pounds are produced in America. The rest was shipped from miles away, and who knows what additives were placed in it. But this problem doesn’t stop at honey. Other ingredients, such as meat, seafood and juices, are laced with ingredients which are foreign to the product. The beef you are eating could be horse meat, and that tuna, could actually be escolar. Food fraud costs the food industry anywhere between $10-15 billion. Combating it is not easy!

One thing I believe the world can learn from Azerbaijan is the need for moderation. True, not eating enough is never healthy, but eating too much is also a problem. With rising portions in America, it looks like eating more doesn’t mean better health. But, it does show that the drive of our ancestors to consume more food (which influenced the development of our current civilization) is still very relevant to our present lives.

But we can’t continue eating more, we need to eat enough to live, not live to eat. If you want to learn more about the history of agriculture on Earth, then check out this great video. As for me, I finally understand where my sugar craving comes from, and that helped me embrace the truth! I am Azerbaijani – I love sweets!

With much love!