To make a wise choice.
We're constantly on the lookout for an evo oil that is a good compromise between cost and quality, although increasingly we only look at the cost and choose olive oils costing just over three euros per litre. In this search, and before information systems such as the Nutriscore or Nutrinform battery become compulsory at EU level, it's increasingly important to be able to read labels and interpret their information. Label space is limited, there is a lot of information and parameters that could be indicative and discriminating in the choice are not shown because they are optional or because they would not be easily interpreted by the consumer. Who knows if, thanks to modern technology and a simple QR code, in the future we'll be able to have all the space necessary to make available what a consumer would like to know!
Reading time 4'
What we should find on a label.
The indications that must be compulsorily included on an olive oil label are:
a) the designation of sale (extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, olive oil, olive-pomace oil)
b) the designation of origin (only for extra virgin and virgin: the state in which the olives were harvested and the state in which the mill that pressed them is based)
c) information on the category of olive oil (for extra virgin olive oil: superior category olive oil obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical means)
d) the net quantity (this must be indicated by a numerical value and followed by the unit of measurement chosen)
e) the date of minimum durability (this is the date until which the product retains its specific properties under appropriate storage conditions)
g) the special storage conditions (this is information on the correct storage of the olive oil, which must be kept away from light and heat)
h) the name or company name and address of the commercial responsible for the product
i) the batch (the set of units packaged on the same occasion)
l) the nutrition declaration (information concerning energy value, fat, carbohydrate, salt, fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals)
m) the harvest year if certain conditions are met (only for extra virgin and virgin olive oil and may only be shown if the olives come 100% from the same harvest year)
o) the location of the packaging firm.
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The nutritional declaration.
One of the information that should be of most interest to us is the nutritional declaration, which concerns the energy value, fats (saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated), carbohydrates (sugars, polyols, starch), salt, fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.
It’s mandatory to indicate:
- the energy value to be expressed in kJ and kcal
- the amount of fat and saturated fatty acids, in grams
- the amount of carbohydrates and sugars, in grams
- amount of protein in grams
- the amount of salt in grams
The mandatory nutrition declaration may be integrated with an indication of the amounts of one or more of the following elements:
- monounsaturated fatty acids, in grams
- polyunsaturated fatty acids, in grams
- polyols, in grams
- starch, in grams
- fibre, in gr
- mineral salts or vitamins.
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About nutritional: three fundamental parameters.
Olive oil contains high quantities of active ingredients including oleic acid, which is the predominant monounsaturated fatty acid, polyunsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic acid and linolenic acid, which belong to the Omega 6 and Omega 3 family of fatty acids, polyphenols, hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, oleuropein and oleocanthal, which are also responsible for the characteristic bitter and spicy taste of olive oil, phytosterols, vitamin E-tocopherol and squalene, which have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Although optionally and only partially listed on labels, total oleic acidity, peroxides and total polyphenols are three fundamental parameters that give an idea of the chemical composition and are the basis to define an evo oil. Oleic acidity is expressed in grams of oleic acid per hundred grams of olive oil; an olive oil can be defined as extra virgin if this value is less than 0.8%, although a good evo oil should not exceed 0.1-0.3%. This value rises when there are lesions on the drupes caused by fly larvae, over-ripening or too violent plucking. The olive oil acidity also rises if the olives are stored for a long time in unsuitable containers before pressing, in which the drupes are crushed by the mass above them, and if the fiscoli, which act as a diaphragm and serve as a filter, are not perfectly clean. The quantity of peroxides indicates the oxidative state of the fats, is synonymous with degradation and ageing and is the quantity of active oxygen per kilogram expressed in milliequivalents (meq/kg); a desirable value is below 10-12, while the regulations set the limit at 20 above which the olive oil is defined as lampante. Peroxides per se have no taste or smell but give rise to organic compounds which are responsible for the rancid smell, the typical odour that indicates that an olive oil is damaged. Peroxides are formed as a result of the action of oxygen in the air, which is why it's important that contact with air is kept to a minimum during the milling and storage stages. Polyphenols are a very important component of olive oil. They are very important antioxidant substances for the human organism and are also responsible for the good preservation of olive oil over time because they protect it from the oxidative action of the air. The amount of polyphenols present in olive oil is influenced by a large number of factors, such as the cultivar, agronomic practices, climate and milling techniques, which can strongly influence the number of polyphenols.