Friday, February 27, 2009

Nut-Free Olive Oil Updates

Late last year, several stories were running in the news about various olive oils that were possibly "watered down" with nut oils such as hazelnut oil.

For those of us dealing with nut allergies cooking with olive oil, this was terrifying! And especially for parents who are facing new nut allergy diagnoses--many wondered where to turn.

I've gotten a fair number of e-mails about olive oil and I've contacted a few companies to get their take on how "pure" their olive oil is.

In general, it's best to go with olive oil that is high quality, i.e. often times the more expensive kind. Also, I try to stick with "pure" brands. For example, Trader Joe's sells many types of olive oil that are on the cheaper side, and they have often been repackaged and re-branded for TJ--it's unclear sometimes what is the origin of some of this oil. As much as I love a great olive oil bargain, Trader Joe's has so many nut-containing products that I feel better skipping it. Obviously, you should do what feels right for you.

In the meantime, I contacted some olive oil brands found at most supermarkets. To date, I've received two responses, one from Colavita (which I've used for years--it's very good) and one from a Hormel brand called Carapelli.

Here's what Colavita had to say:

"Colavita guarantees that it does not adulterate its olive oil products with soybean oil, nut oil, pomace oil or any other adulterant. All products are labeled to accurately reflect the actual contents, including the component oils for the canola/olive and soybean/olive blends produced for the foodservice trade.

Colavita maintains dedicated processing equipment in its facility to prevent the unintentional commingling of oils, including soybean oil. Colavita does not produce, store or distribute nut-based oil products. The raw material oils that Colavita utilizes to produce its blends are sourced from facilities that may also process other food oils. Colavita requires documented authentication of each raw material purchase.

Colavita is committed to high quality and authenticity throughout its product line. These values have been at the core of the company since its inception and will remain so into the future."

And here's what Carapelli had to say:

There is no peanut oil used in the Carapelli products. No olive oil products are on the recent peanut recall.

Based on those two responses, I'm sticking with Colavita, for sure. And it tastes better! Also, reputable olive oil distributors value the purity of the oil--it's almost like wine to them in terms of color, taste, freedom from impurities, etc. So you may have to pay a little more, but it's worth it for health and safety.

Allergic Girl, Sloane Miller, has some great info on her blog about this story and about her communications with Bertolli olive oil, another good, widely available brand.

If anyone has any other olive oil stories to share, please let us know about your experiences.


Unknown said...

Jenny, this is very helpful! Thanks for looking into it and sharing!

Elaine at Matters of the Heart) said...

This is great info, thanks for sharing..

Allergic Girl® said...

hey jenny
actually bertolli never answered me. drat!

Allergic Girl® said...

i mean i emailed them to get more than the canned statement and didn't receive a reply. double drat.

Jenny said...

Yes, that's frustating, AG. I wonder if they don't want to open themselves up to more personalized responses for legal reasons. Sigh!

Still, I'm glad we're contacting them--shows companies that consumers care about this stuff!

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that the second company only answered about not having peanut oil in their olive oil. My goodness, that is just one more thing that I have to think about now. I don't use any other oil other than extra virgin coconut oil in my grand daughter's food and now I'm so glad I did it that way.
Thanks for the was very helpful!

Grant's Mom said...

Hi this is my first visit and first posting on the nut-freemom website. My son is also allergic to peanuts and his doctor advised us to avoid any products made in a facility that also processes peanuts and/or tree-nuts. I have been busy and frustrated for the last 6 months. Regarding olive oils I have found two companies that state their products are from nut free facilities. First is Bionaturae from Italy (in an e-mail) and the other is Botticelli (in a phone call not in writing). I would say this would be a starting point and would recommend contacting these companies for confirmation. If anyone knows any other oils such as safflower or sunflower that are made in nut free facilities, please let me know. I'm sure I'll be a frequent visitor to this site.

Anonymous said...

This just came up for me when my sister emailed me one of the original articles from The New Yorker about olive oil fraud. Bertolli was one of the companies named and the owner of Colavita is quoted as being committed to purity, but skeptical that laws will be able to control all fraud. What I got out of it was that the highest quality oils are the safest oils. Here's the link if you want to read the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

I called DaVinci about their olive oil and they stated that for the safety of their consumers they could not gaurantee that their olive oil was not contaminated with any of the 8 major allergens. I then called Pastene last week and Oooooo am waiting for their response. They said that they had to contact the facility in Italy.

Jenny said...

Kudos to everyone who has contacted companies--that's great. The more of us who do that, the more that companies realize we need info on these products.

Olive oil can be a tricky product because it is usually imported and imported foods are not always trustworthy with regards to their allergen statements. However, a high quality olive oil company will not want their product tainted for reasons of quality and taste, not only allergy issues. I use Colavita because I've been satisfied with their responses to my inquiries but if you have questions about any product, please keep doing what you're doing and ask the companies what's up. Thanks for the helpful product info everybody!

Anonymous said...

Long story short: I contacted Colavita by phone and email about possible cross-contamination of their olive oil. The good news is that it is not contaminated with the 8 major allergens, however it is contaminated with peppers, paprika and red chili pepper, because they have a pepper flavored oil that is run on the same line. They told me not to use their product in the email. Unfortunately I had already been using it because my phone call answer told me the oil was not run on shared equipment nor was a flavored oil made, therefore no contamination. My advice, always get the info in writing, it may take a while but it's not worth getting sick over.
I also called Eden foods and they told me to use their product at my own risk because even though they take their equipment apart and scrub it, that doesn't mean that the pepper protien is not a risk. I can only assume it is because peppers contain their own oil and oil is hard to scrub off without the correct detergent.
I also called Braggs and found out that all their products have their own line due to the kashrut. We are using this oil now with good results.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just found your blog and this is very intresting to me as I have alleries to peanuts and tree nuts. I have for quite a few years now known that olive oil makes me sick. Then several years ago I read an article that said some people who are allergic to nuts are also allergic to olives. But it is so hard to avoid as so many people use it in cooking, especially pasta dishes .