Not so virgin: the fraud of the olive

saynotofoodwaste.oliveoil.health.fraud.consumer.power.knowledge.olives.1Drizzle 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.

Isaynotofoodwaste.oliveoil.health.fraud.consumer.power.knowledge.olives.3n 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!
Hokuma

Skipping for change

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 4.34.07 PMIn the wealthy city of Washington, DC, to join the top 1% you’ll need to earn 555K. With so many of us in the city making money, it seems we’d have more to give to others. Yet homelessness is increasing. Spend a few minutes in front of the World Bank and the IMF, and you’ll find a number of huddled individuals earnestly waiting for the 5 o’clock food donation. For them, a small warm meal on a chilly winter’s day can go a long way.

Looking at facts, it’s clear that income doesn’t determine how much you give, then what does? Scientists are saying it depends on our time. Daniel Goleman shared this idea in his TED talk on compassion. He said that: “What turned out to determine whether someone would stop and help a stranger in need was how much of a hurry they thought they were in…”

DC is a busy and stressful city. Here, competition and work is high, and free time is almost non-existent. In a matter of years the use of ‘busyness’ as an excuse for ignoring world problems, especially the poor, became a norm. Despite this, scientist say we were programmed for kindness, and deep inside we know that small acts translate to big changes.

Begging in ParisThe other day, I saw a homeless man begging for money. People around him scurried by, shaking their heads and moving to the other side of the street to avoid him. Their actions made him visibly upset, and he would say: “I’m a veteran. I fought for your freedom!” Hearing his words and seeing the way he was treated, I was compelled to stop. Without having any money to give, I reached for a red apple in my bag and extended it to him. He thanked me and shyly pointing to his missing teeth said he can’t chew it. Still, he thanked me for stopping, for trying to help and most importantly, for recognizing his presence with a smile. This interaction didn’t last more than a few seconds but it filled the both of us with goodness.

Of course, being good isn’t easy. It takes motivation and good company. Knowing that a problem exists isn’t more likely to make us address it, we must pay attention to it. Nowadays, with smart phones and constant commitments, it’s easy not to notice. Sometimes we ignore the signs of a problem around us and claim we’re too busy to commit. We feel it will take too much time, and while we truly want to help, we just can’t at the moment.

Yummp_hk_lunchboxFor those feeling this way, here’s an idea. What if we carve into our schedule a moment for caring? I’m talking about a commitment once a week, or once a month, to skip a meal and instead donate the money or the food to someone in need. The benefits are threefold: A) your small action will help a person in need, B) you will place yourself in the shoes of someone who skips a meal due to personal finance, and C) your actions will inspire others to notice. For me, I’ve been bringing this movement to life by taking any food left on my plate to go.

Carrying a doggie bag is a commitment, but when I hand its delicious contents to a person in need, I’m always greeted with a smile and appreciation. Making a difference doesn’t require much. A small step is all it takes.

Would you agree?
Hokuma

Party and Give Back

Dalai Lama said: the meaning of life is to be happy! This aligns with findings of researchers who say: when you give back you receive joy. For concrete instructions, follow these 3 steps by engineers at Google. The list includes logging 3 moments of gratitude from your day, and will help introduce happiness to your daily life.

Living in a stressful city like Washington, D.C. can drain us of energy and fog our memories of joy. This is why we need to get out of our daily routines. Disco Soupes help us do just that! With all the positive feedback we’ve been getting, we asked one volunteer to share their experience from the event. This is what she had to say:

   “In August, my husband and I attended a Disco Soupe event to support Say No to Food Waste in Washington, DC. At the event, we cleaned and prepped vegetables to be made into soup for the hungry. The produce was donated to this event, rather than where it would have been heading – to a landfill.  It was older, bruised, vegetables that many of us would most likely throw away.  From this less-than-perfect produce, we processed over 600 lbs of vegetables that headed into soup pots, to be cooked and distributed to those who are hungry in the DC area.

The event taught us that good, edible, food can be harvested from not-perfect vegetables by simply cutting away the bruised parts. The communal process of preparing the vegetables with complete strangers also strengthened our belief that there are good people out there who care about taking care of others. It was uplifting to see so many people from different walks of life coming together to help those in need.

This event had a lasting effect on how my husband and I purchase and consume food in our home.  We used to do our food shopping once a week. We would buy all of our food on a Sunday and then, on the coming Sunday, throw away all the food we didn’t consume before we went shopping again. It was a dreadful cycle of over-consumption and waste.

Now, we shop more often and buy less when we go. Heading to the store two or three times a week allows us to buy more fresh food and to waste less.  We are much more aware now of the value of food, our consumption patterns, and are also finding clever ways to ensure all of our food gets used. Say No to Food Waste first inspired us, then educated and changed us, and today we are happier and healthier for it!

If you are curious about the event and wish to experience it for yourself, join us tomorrow at Bread for the City from 6-9PM. It will be an unforgettable evening of volunteering, giving, community building, and being happy! If you attended past events and want to share your experience send us an e-mail at: saynotofoodwaste@gmail.com.

Look forward to seeing you all tomorrow!
Hokuma

 Disco Soupe DC. Saynotofoodwaste.