Olive oil is facing a pandemic of its own

Never mind coronavirus – it seems there’s another pandemic affecting Europe’s olive groves.  The BBC reports:

Researchers say the economic costs of a deadly pathogen affecting olive trees in Europe could run to over €20 billion.

They’ve modelled the future worst impacts of the Xylella fastidiosa pathogen which has killed swathes of trees in Italy.

Spread by insects, the bacterium now poses a potential threat to olive plantations in Spain and Greece.

. . .

The infection limits the tree’s ability to move water and nutrients and over time it withers and dies.

In Italy, the consequences of the spread of the disease have been devastating, with an estimated 60% decline in crop yields since the first discovery in 2013.

. . .

As well as in Italy, the Xylella bacterium has now been found in Spain, France and Portugal.

Tackling it at present involves removing infected trees and trying to clamp down on the movement of plant material and the insects that spread the disease.

. . .

In Spain, if the infection expanded and the majority of trees became infected and died, the costs could run to €17 billion over the next 50 years.

A similar scenario in Italy would amount to over five billion, while in Greece, the losses would be under two billion.

If the rate of infection is slowed down, or resistant varieties are planted instead, then these costs would be significantly reduced.

However, the authors believe, whatever happens, there will likely be a knock-on impact on consumers.

“The expected effect could be that there would be a shortage of supply,” said lead author Kevin Schneider from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

. . .

Ultimately, the researchers believe that beating the pathogen will require trees that are resistant to the disease.

There’s more at the link.

As far back as 2012 I reported on a growing olive oil scandal, where cheap, inferior oil was packaged as top-of-the-line product and sold fraudulently under the best brand names.  It seems nothing’s changed, according to this report at Mama Natural.

According to a University of California at Davis study, more than two-thirds of common brands of extra-virgin olive oil found in California grocery stores aren’t what they claim to be.

The oils were either spoiled or made from lower quality olives unfit to be labeled “extra virgin.” Even worse, some were outright counterfeits, made from soybean, hazelnut, and even fish oils mixed with low grade olive-pomace oil. Not only is this a scam to your wallet and your health, robbing you of the true health benefits of real, high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, but it’s a major safety hazard too—especially to those with allergies to some of the counterfeit oils actually used in place of olive oil.

Again, more at the link.  The article contains detailed instructions on what to look for to identify the “real deal”.  I found them very useful.

I guess any shortages of olive oil as a result of this pathogen will only make the fraud problem worse.  What’s more, you’re more likely to find fraudulent oil in supermarkets than at specialty outlets, because supermarket buyers purchase in bulk and don’t have time to track down origin and shipment of their stock.  Specialty buyers do, because they depend on knowledgeable customers.  They know that if they don’t get it right, those customers will turn around and take their money somewhere else in a heartbeat.

I guess I’d better stash a few bottles of the good stuff while I can still get it.  Fortunately, thanks to friend and fellow author and blogger Alma Boykin, my wife and I know a trustworthy source for it.  I recommend Amarillo Grape & Olive, not just for olive oil, but also for their outstanding balsamic vinegars.  They’re not cheap, but the “real deal” never is.  Yes, they do e-orders and will ship (although a road trip is more fun).

If any reader knows another good, honest source for guaranteed real-deal olive oil and associated goodies, please tell us about it in Comments, along with contact information if possible.  That way, those in different cities and regions will learn where it’s safe to shop in their area.



  1. As well as getting the good stuff from Amarillo Grape & Olive, I've also been buying Texas-grown olive oils. All of the benefits of knowing my source, none of the money to Cali…

  2. I figure my chances are better with California oils so I buy domestic. It costs more but at least I'm fairly confident that a used 50 gallon drum is not part of its pedigree.

  3. Funny, we toured Tuscany in 2017 and didn't hear a thing about this. Only promotion of how their oil was the best. Which seems to be the case, it's great.

  4. NOT cheap, and they only ship after the fall harvest… but I've adopted several trees from them (and will again as soon as I get my next bonus from my customer). I gave one of the bottles of oil to our Synagogue's President to try to get them to adopt a couple of trees and his wife said it was the best olive oil she'd had in a long time.


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