Extra Virginity

The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil

Mueller, Tom

Book - 2012
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Extra Virginity
For millennia, fresh olive oil has been one of life's necessities, not just as food but also as medicine, a beauty aid, and a vital element of religious ritual. Today's researchers are continuing to confirm the remarkable, life giving properties of true extra-virgin, and "extra-virgin Italian" has become the highest standard of quality. But what if this symbol of purity has become deeply corrupt? Starting with an explosive article in The New Yorker, the author has become the world's expert on olive oil and olive oil fraud, a story of globalization, deception, and crime in the food industry from ancient times to the present, and a powerful indictment of today's lax protections against fake and even toxic food products in the United States. It is also an account of the artisanal producers, chemical analysts, chefs, and food activists who are defending the extraordinary oils that truly deserve the name "extra-virgin."

Publisher: New York : W. W. Norton, c2012.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 0393070212
Characteristics: 238 p. :,ill. (some col.) ;,25 cm.


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Apr 30, 2014
  • bibliotechnocrat rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

A survey of the world of olive oil. Mueller discusses the widespread fraud in the industry, in which poor quality oils are deodorized (with chemical processes), blended with seed oils, nut oils or soybean oils (highly dangerous for people with allergies), then labelled "extra virgin" and sold at such a low cost that honest producers are driven out of business.

The current cultural obsession with minimizing regulation (to promote business) means that inspections and punishments for "mislabeling" are minimal or non-existent. Ironically, this ploy to allow the market to take care of itself is leading me to distrust all olive oil labels, and even perhaps all products packaged in Italy - though this is not merely an Italian problem. Fakes are widespread throughout the Mediterranean, California and elsewhere.

The book covers far more than just the fraud story, however. Mueller discusses what makes a great oil, what tastes and sensations should be evident, how good oil reacts with other flavours - chemically altering the items it encounters. He talks about farming methods, milling methods, health benefits, and much more. If you're a foodie, you'll want to read this book.

Dec 31, 2013
  • stewstealth rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Gives the term "Big Oil" a whole new meaning. If you think you have been consuming extra virgin olive oil from your supermarket this book will give you pause. This was an enjoyable book to read as well as educational. Would highly recommend.

Nov 13, 2012
  • delfon rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is very much an overdue tome related to extra virgin olive oil and the various shenanigans carried on by some very big players.
However, we are treated to the health reasons for extra virgin olive oil, from cosmetic, to tissue, from well-being to heart and even alzhiemer redemption.
The best way to buy olive oil is to be able to taste it. Be prepared for a bitter, fruity and peppery taste for some -- the better quality oils. The supermarket varieties with their mild, gentle carasses and totally useless. Ibutrophen characteristics, are better. Sure was a surprise with the expose of pomace oil with its cancer causing ingredients, (hexane and others), the need for polyphenols, free radicals, squalene, hydroxytyrosol, secoridoid etc.

There is an Olive Oil tasting bar in Vancouver, vooc.ca/, which gets its oil (at this time of year) from Chile.
The mediterranean is not the only source.
Since the book is hard to get perhaps some can access the authors website while waiting at:

Its a worthwhile read, but, given the high levels of fraud in the sale of olive oil, its a real minefield to find a REAL honest supplier.

Oct 04, 2012
  • Drayjayeff rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Heard this guy interviewed on the CBC, and his book exceeded my expectations. Mueller’s an exceptional writer, and his volume’s a very exciting read ( a REAL page-turner). Don’t know if it will change my olive oil consumption (It might!), but it definitely opened my eyes.

Jul 26, 2012
  • Winnipeg1 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Fascinating! From new York Times book review: "...this book’s project, which is to demonstrate the brazen fraud in the olive oil industry and to teach readers how to sniff out the good stuff." Who'd have guessed how much we don't know. I learned not to be so quick to be smug when my knowledge beyond foodie magazines is pretty much a zero.


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