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I love using olive oil because of it's health benefits. I've been told that all I needed to look for is the "extra virgin" label. It means that the oil comes from the first press of olives, ensuring that the oil contains antioxidants and omega 3 and other health benefits. However, I just learned that it's not the end of story. It takes a closer look at the back of the bottles for us to find out about the product's quality.
First, we need to look for the harvest date. It should be within two years. Olive oils degrade fast so they shouldn't be allowed to age as wines. I always look for thick and dark bottles to make sure that the product inside isn't exposed to light - another variable that will degrade the olive oil. I cringe whenever I see olive oils sold inside clear bottles. Yes, poorly bottled olive oils do exist in the market.
Next, there should be a seal from a third party body that tests for the oil's quality, such as COCC from California. Usually, products bearing a harvest date has a seal in the label as well.
Quite a number of olive oil products undergo several steps of processing before they reach our shelves. If the label indicates that it was made from different countries before eventually getting inside the bottle, chances are, the oil has already degraded in quality during shipment. It's better to have the product manufactured from one country only.
After buying the brand of your choice, check immediately at home if it smells off. You may also taste it to see if its fresh. If it stings the back of your throat a bit, then it means there are polyphenols present in the oil. You can always return the product if your dissatisfied with it.