Necessary general knowledge on Olive Oil.In the project below, made those necessary general knowledge of olive oil, to be aware of each of us as consumer. Completed fifteen years ago, but even today,not without validity timeliness and usefulness who from the beginning had.

“A familiar … stranger”

Introduction: Olive oil! Staple food for Man, source of wealth and well- being indicator. However, carrier of many doubts on the part of the consumer with regard to its quality, as well as a Trojan horse for fraud and profiteering many times against him, especially in areas like Northern Greece, where experience in olive oil production is not sufficient.

This attempt does not aspire give solution to the problem which would definitely be the full knowledge of this wealth by consumers. It just aims to achieve two things. First, to give some seminal knowledge and a “guide” for each one who would be further interested and second, to flutter the dovecotes, not so much for those we ignore, as mainly for those we know wrong.

The writer calls for understanding about the “generalizations” or “specializations” the reader realizes but they are the result of the effort for a whole science – olive oil – to be concentrated on some pages, but also to address to a “diverse” general public as well.

kladiFor the record, we could only mention, that olive as a tree, fruit and oil, has very close bonds with Greece and Greek people and this relationship goes back in the mists of time. In modern times, the olive tree (literally a Mediterranean tree), holds an important part in the economy of our country, which is the third country in the world in the production of olive oil, with a percentage of approximately 12%, while it is the second in the production of table olive, however, it is the first country in the consumption of olive oil per capita.

Over the last thirty years, either the imported nutritional habits or incorrect information, contributed to the fact that part of the olive oil consumption to be replaced by various seed oils dynamically entered the Greek cuisine. Of course, the global interest in olive oil is now a given fact, mainly after the recent scientific studies and publications concerning the beneficial role in human health. Having negated wrong or even rough scientific views of the past, olive oil now occupies a prominent place in a healthy diet, not only as a natural product of proper nutrition but also with its contribution to many diseases being prevented.

  1. It is a product of high biological value. This is due to:

    1. Its balanced composition in fatty acids.
    2. The presence of natural antioxidant substances in excellent concentration
    3. The content in squalene, which plays a special role in the metabolism of human body
    4. The ideal relation between vitamin E and polyunsaturated fatty acids it contains. This applies mainly to unheated virgin olive oil, during the production thereof temperatures do not exceed 25 degrees Celsius. Higher temperatures destroy many of its components (volatile), as well as vitamin E.
  2. From a nutritional perspective, a gram of olive oil gives 9,3 calories, as many as any other fat of animal or vegetable origin and not more, as it may be a false perception that has been formed.
  3. The digestion degree (assimilation) of olive oil from the body is considered IDEAL (approximately 98%)
  4. The virgin olive oil maintains the magnificent tasty & aromatic ingredients it contains even when on olive tree, providing a distinctive flavor making it stand out from other vegetable oils.
  5. It has the highest resistance in temperature (it does not decompose at least up to 210 degrees Celsius), thus it must be preferred for frying. Generally, during cooking and frying under the influence of high and lasting temperature we have oxidation of any fat matter. Intense oxidation is associated to the creation of peroxides and peroxide decomposition products, which in great quantities have a negative impact on the liver, heart and arteries.

    Even a more intense oxidation leads to the creation of acrolein which is believed to affect the central nervous system and causes edema and injury to liver cells. Olive oil oxidizes much less and in longer time than seed oils. During cooking it is preferable to be added at the end.

  6. According always to the surveys of the last twenty years, the monosaturated oleic acid, which is the main component of olive oil ( ̴ 80%), reduces ldl –cholesterol (bad) while increases hdl- cholesterol (Good).

Generally, in terms of prevention, the consumption of olive oil acts beneficially against atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases. As a factor of metabolism balance and growth of the body, it constitutes a key component of a child’s diet. However, – unlike a mistaken view that curiously has prevailed – olive oil is good to older ages. It is a natural shield against osteoporosis, while at the same time decelerates alterations of the cells membrane that lead to natural aging. It also acts as a safeguard in the digestive system, reducing the likelihood of ulcer creation. It combats constipation, and finally helps the treatment of biliary diseases.

The important properties of olive oil have been made officially known, especially in the three international conferences (LUCCA- ITALY/ 1969, TORREMOLINOS- SPAIN/ 1975 AND KOLYMPARI – CRETE/1985), held under the auspices of the International Olive oil Council (I.O.C. ) and the E.U. More recent surveys “are engaged” among others with the improvement of olive oil test methods and its protection from adulteration, as well as the biological value of fine quality virgin olive oil.

Beyond the biological and nutritional value of olive oil compared to other vegetable and animal fats, it is of great importance that the consumer knows the key criteria defining the quality of olive oil and the constants established by the I.O.C.

The organoleptic characteristics (smell and taste), acidity, oxidation, and color, each alone and together, are key factors for evaluating the quality of olive oil. The scientific analysis capabilities and registration of these factors, mainly through modern methods, spectrometry and chromatography, cleared the misty, not only around the adulteration of olive oil but also the evaluation and quality ranking.

  1. The acidity or hydrolytic rancidity, is the main and most reliable criterion of quality evaluation and classification of olive oil. Based on this it is divided into edible olive oil (up 3.3% acidity) and industrial (acidity greater than 3.3%). The hydrolysis takes place minly before the export of olive oil from the fruit and is influenced by the variety of olive, the soil, the climate, the microorganisms, the cultivation conditions. Increased acidity, means alteration in taste and certainly degradation of its commercial value.
  2. Oxidation or oxidative rancidity or commonly rancidity occurs mainly after oil extraction and modifies the organoleptic characteristics. The oxidation products give unpleasant taste and odor, degrade the quality of oil in large quantities are considered toxic. Mainly, by oxidation essential for the body polyunsaturated fatty acids and the fat soluble vitamins of the olive oil are destroyed. For rancidity several factors, among them, oxygen, temperature, light, metals, and acidity are implicated.
  3. The color of olive oil constitutes an important quality indicator. Unripe fruit gives green color, ripe one gives golden and overripe gives intense dark color. Of course the color is more affected by the variety of olive, but also by the method of treatment during olive oil export.
  4. The testing of taste and smell is definitely the most basic and final qualitative evaluation criterion. It is performed by qualified people, but the failure to avoid the subjective factor is a disadvantage not yet solved.

On the basis of certain criteria and characteristics the International Olive oil Council has ranked olive oil in various categories (1985).

Olive oil is suitable for consumption only when it is of good quality that is, when it comes from a healthy fruit, reaped at the appropriate time and has been maintained in excellent condition up to oil process. When these conditions are not kept, the olive oil we get has high acidity and is of degraded quality, thus, it must go through a series of chemical treatments in order to achieve its refinement and become inedible. Of course during the process of refining a series of good ingredients such as flavorings and vitamins are destroyed.

Based on the above, we have two categories of olive oil:

  1. The edible virgin olive oil namely the nature olive juice which has not undergone chemical – thermal treatment, but has only been extracted with natural and mechanical means which do not cause alterations in the quality characteristics and his acidity does not exceed 3,3%.
  2. Refined olive oil coming mainly from the non – edible olive oil (greater than 3,3%) and whose acidity is lower than 0,3% by refinement.

    The virgin- suitable for consumption includes the following types:

    1. Virgin olive oil or extra. It has impeccable taste and odor and acidity 0-1% (0 up to 0,8%, after 2003)
    2. Virgin olive oil, or fine. It has excellent taste and odor and maximum acidity 1,5%,
    3. Virgin olive oil ordinary or semi fine. Good taste and odor and up to 3,3% acidity.

The first two types are placed unaltered on instant consumption, while the third is used for mixing with refined olive oil which in various proportions they give us the known type of the original or pure or coupe or – plain- olive oil. (Pure olive oil).

Approved types of I.O.C. of coupe olive oil to be placed on the immediate consumption are:

  1. Olive oil 0-1 %
  2. Olive oil 1-1,5% ( Repealed 2003)

From this general ranking and from what has been described above, it is easy for someone to distinguish easily the superiority of extra virgin olive oil.

DSC_5713The need for production and standardization for even a superior quality products, has expanded the efforts of science and production and we now have with remarkable results two superior types of virgin oil on the consumer’s hands.

  1. The UNHEATED or of cold pressure, which preserves its organoleptic characteristics, due to the low temperatures used during the various stages of its production.
  2. The ecological or organic, which during the various stages of olive grove the use of chemical factors of tree and fruit growth, as well as pesticides are avoided.

The I.O.C. in an effort to combat fraud, among others suggested that olive oil “reaches” consumers in small packaging, that’s why it supported this packaging financially, as the large (containers of 16 liters, barrels etc ) favors the adulteration of olive oil. Moreover, the quick consumption due to small packaging significantly reduces the deterioration of quality, stemming from the influence of oxygen and other factors.

Thus the larger packaging proposed is that of 5 liters in a metal container. Furthermore, plastic and glass bottles of 1 litter are a common phenomenon. Less often bottles of two , half and a quarter of a litter, as well as tin cans of half, one, two tree and four liters.

Data which must be mentioned on the packaging of olive oil to facilitate consumer’s choice are mentioned below.

  1. Name of product. General,– e.g. olive oil—and special designation,– e.g. extra– .
  2. Acidity ( optional and subject to certain conditions, 2003)
  3. Net content (weight or volume)
  4. Legal name and address of the packaging unit or distributor – seller.
  5. Country of origin
  6. For virgin olive oils specifically, the indication of local origin is allowed under conditions (Country, prefecture, closer region).
  7. Expiry date. Indicated with “ to be consumed preferably before the end of…..” The duration of packing date- expiry date, does not exceed 12 to 18 months.

Commercial olive oil types lawfully placed on the Greek market are numerous and impossible to mention here. What must be emphasized is the need of absolute alignment of various olive oil packaging, standardization and trade units with the provisions of I.O.C. and the European Union, because the varieties of commercial types, in combination with the relevant “advertisement”, confuse consumers.

Instead of an epilogue we shall draw the attention of the consumer to some “assumptions” or “aphorisms” that would make their choice more conscious.

  1. We read carefully the listed elements of the packaging. Apart from the quality ranking shown, we ensure that we do not purchase a product with insufficient elements that undoubtedly want to hide something. Indicatively we can say that recently (1997) in our area street vendors placed on the market packaging of 5 liters, which instead of any data (name, address. Phone number) of the formulator – trader, there was just a number of a mobile phone. The content of the packaging (oil) no matter how much and wherever was not confiscated by the legitimate authorities reached many consumers’ kitchens.
  2. Generally, “ aphorism” also stems from the previous paragraph. We never purchase olive oil from street vendors. Inspection by control authorities is difficult and even impossible, as opposed to legally operating retailers ( grocery stores, super markets, speciality delis.)
  3. We avoid as much as possible large packs and we prefer those ensuring the shortest consumption time.
  4. We prefer standardized virgin olive oil to bulk- productive olive oil, since the latter has not undergone any basic measurements of its quality characteristics.
  5. We choose more natural – healthier types of olive oil that “suit” our gustatory- olfactory requirements.
  6. We always use – as far as possible- olive oil, when there is need for some fatty substance


Note: The article about olive oil is drawn up by Mr Michail An. Andreovits. He has a twenty years of experience on this subject with double position of scientific knowledge and commercial activity. He is a commercial agent with head office “laladiko” in the Industrial Area in Drama.


D. Papanastasiou (1966): Modern oil production – Technology of oils.

General State Laboratory (1976): Food & beverage code – formal methods of food & drinks examination.

Boskou D. – Sarapari (1977): polyunsaturated and health.

Makrakis – Kyritsakis (1978): rancidity of olive oil.

Koutsaftakis Mr. Other (1978): Comparative testing of centrifuges (decanters).

Kyritsakis – Roumpelaki (1979): Methods for determining the oxidation degree and endurance of fat oxidation.

A. Kyritsakis (1980): Minutes of the 3rd International Conference on the biological value of olive oil.

I. Dimopoulos (1982): food chemistry laboratory notes.

Man. Alygizakis (1982): processing and canning of table olives.

Kyritsakis A. (1984): technology laboratory exercises and quality control of fats.

K. Constantinou (1986): international trade of oil.

Syngelakis Ch. (1986): application of new methods of olive harvesting.

Kyritsakis A. (1988): olive oil.


1. "Institute Publications of Subtropical plants & olive, Chania".

2. "Olive oil Publications".

3. Magazine "Food & Beverage".

4. Magazine "Olive and olive oil."