The Olive Oil Controversy, Explained

About a year ago, a huge hubbub began when a group of chefs and restaurants in California sued 10 major olive oil companies for selling olive oil that did not meet the “extra virgin” claims on their labels. The story was highly publicized and you may have heard about it. Food Nation Radio Network decided to follow up and find out what happened.

Two UC Davis studies were conducted on olive oils from around the world. In both studies, UC Davis concluded that a majority of the oils tested did not meet international standards required to use the term “extra virgin”. How were the standards measured? It was a taste test.

The North American Olive Oil Association disagreed with their findings entirely and stood their ground. They alleged that a small group of domestic olive oil producers were attempting to discredit the olive oils NAOOA is largely responsible for importing into the U.S.

The law firm representing the disgruntled chefs and restaurants set out to verify the UC Davis studies with both chemical and sensory tests and were unable to do so. They asked UC Davis to provide expert witnesses for testimony in the case and they refused. The law firm subsequently decided not to pursue the case.

On an ancillary note, not long ago Food Nation Radio Network interviewed a professor from UC Berkeley about Prop 37 (the GMO labeling initiative in California) and his claims that GMOs are now considered the norm in this country and don’t need to be labeled.

It makes one wonder where their corporate grants come from. Just sayin’.


Last night, there was a delightful dinner at the local Flamestone Grill with a selection of dishes made with olive oils from Chile. The Chile Olive Oil council offered a few different varieties of their extra virgin olive oils for us to try. Having had the opportunity to try olive oils from all over the world, my favorites most recently have been from Spain (sorry, Italy) but these oils really stacked up against the best Spanish olive oils I’ve tasted. To follow are a few photos and the menu of the creations from Flamestone Grill all containing Chilean olive oils. If you’d like to make your own recipes at home with olive oil for a little something different, check out the website at Chile Olive Oil.

Black Pepper Tomato Pretzel Bread with a White Anchovies Aioli

Heirloom Yellow Tomato Caprese Salad

Fresh Tomato Tart

Olive Tapenade made in Molcajetes with Olive Oil-Rubbed Crostinis

Agave Soaked Chicken with Red Wine Bermuda Onions and Purple potatoes with a Burnt Sugar Olive Oil Dust

Goat Cheese and Arugula Stuffed Piadina

Cast Iron Seared Polenta Crusted Chilean Sea Bass with a Toasted Pepita Olive Oil Drizzle

Portabella and Goat cheese with a Porcini and White Truffle Cappallacci


Olive oil and Sea Salt Brownie (homemade olive oil peanut butter dust and caramelized marshmallow)

Olive oil Almond Sugar Cookies 

Olive Oil cake with Tangerines and Pecans

Elizabeth Dougherty has been a food writer for over 10 years, attended culinary school and holds a Bachelor’s degree, Magna Cum Laude in Hospitality, Business and Labor Relations from NYIT. She has been a talk show host of nearly 150 episodes of Food Nation Radio which airs each Saturday afternoon at 4 on WWBA AM820 News and  other stations. You can read her articles and hear previous shows on her podcast page on the Food Nation Radio Network website and on Facebook.