July 29, 2005 — -- Extra-virgin olive oil is a staple in any chef's kitchen and it often comes at a premium price. But you might not always be getting what you pay for.
Local station WABC in New York tested four cans of extra-virgin olive oil from Krinos Foods, one of the country's largest importers of Greek foods, which is based in Long Island City. Two of the cans were Krinos' own brands -- Krinos and Hermes -- and two other brands selected at random, Lokonia and Kalamata.
An independent lab in Saddlebrook, N.J., found three of the products, including the Krinos, tested fine. But the Hermes did not.
"It appears as though it were at least 50 percent adulterated," said Ron Schnitzer, a lab technician.
Similar results were found in tests of another can of Hermes extra-virgin olive oil and a lesser-grade brand, Hermes Pomace Oil.
"Someone's obviously made a conscious effort to cheapen this particular product," Schnitzer said. "I would think it [the additional ingredient] is characteristic of soy oil or canola oil."
Krinos has had problems with adulterated oil in the past, as well as other products.
In 1997, the federal government seized several hundred cases of oil labeled pomace oil, that was actually sunflower oil. Krinos agreed to relabel it.
In 1990, a WABC investigation revealed the company was selling banned Easter egg dye. Krinos said it was a mistake. In 1988, John Moschalaidis, president of Krinos, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cheese contaminated with a cancer-causing pesticide.
His son, Eric Moschalaidis, now runs the business, and says the current olive oil problem is the fault of his new supplier, DMK Global Marketing, which certified the oil quality.
"I'm just a middleman," said Donminie Scarola of DMK Global Marketing.
Krinos declined an interview but issued the following statement: "It appears that both the Hermes Pomace Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil DMK supplied us may be blended with some other edible oil … this is a labeling and not health issue. We have sent samples to a certified lab … [I]n the meantime, we have suspended sales of these products.
Krinos said an official recall of the less-than-pure Hermes olive oil is in effect nationwide and added they are cooperating with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
To see if the olive oil you purchased is the real deal, just pop the bottle in the fridge until it's chilled. If it get cloudy and coagulates, you got what you paid for. If it remains clear, it's not genuine extra-virgin olive oil.