Most avocado oil is rancid or impure, experts warn
Avocado oil — often hyped as a light, heart-healthy oil — usually has a dark, greasy background.
A study from the University of California at Davis found that as much as 69% of avocado oils sold by retailers contained impurities, such as cheaper oils.
In addition, many of the store-brand avocado oils had high levels of oxidation, indicating that the oils were starting to go rancid.
Of 29 refined avocado oil samples, only three met basic standards for quality and purity, the study authors wrote in the journal Food Control.
And it didn’t matter if consumers bought expensive avocado oils or cheap store brands.
“We found that low-cost products indicate a higher likelihood of counterfeiting, but high cost was no guarantee of purity or quality,” Selina Wang, an associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, said in a statement Wednesday.
Common impurities added to avocado oil included sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil and soybean oil, the study authors said.
Avocado oil has grown in popularity in recent years due to its light, buttery flavor and numerous health benefits. Like olive oil, it’s rich in oleic acid, a healthy, monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid, according to Healthline.
And in addition to being easy to cook with—it has a high boiling point and doesn’t burn easily—it’s also rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and E, and may help lower cholesterol and reduce high blood pressure.
But the UC Davis survey findings highlight the need for additional safeguards and quality standards to ensure consumers get what they pay for.
“This study shows that while progress is being made in developing standards, there are still issues with the purity of avocado oil and these issues extend significantly to private label oils,” Wang said.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time in recent years that food manufacturers have been criticized for selling food that is not pure or even safe for consumers.
China’s honey manufacturers have been criticized by the European Union for “laundering honey,” or selling honey that contains sugary syrups, artificial colors, water and, in some cases, lead and other unsafe heavy metals.
“It’s basically sugar water,” an EU official told the Financial Times, and it drives honey prices so low that honest European honey producers can’t compete.
That’s why EU officials proposed tough new labeling standards last month to curb the influx of cheap, unclean honey from outside the bloc.
Olive oil has also been the subject of numerous recent studies. Thousands of tons of cheap, low-quality olive oil from Spain and Greece were marketed as expensive “extra virgin Italian” olive oil, a 2018 study found.
“America is the dumping ground of all these fraudulent operations,” an olive oil expert told Forbes. “There are not enough resources to control the more than 350,000 tons of olive oil entering the country. That is why, even after the scandals, there are still counterfeit olive oil bottles on the supermarket shelves.”
Wang hopes the findings of the avocado oil study will help set standards that will benefit both consumers and avocado oil producers seeking to compete in a fair market.
“I am very optimistic about the future of the avocado oil industry,” said Wang. “It is a high quality product that is in high demand, similar to what I saw with olive oil 10 years ago. The quality and purity of olive oil has improved significantly, and that’s where I see avocado oil moving, if we can set fair standards and eliminate fraudulent products.”