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I was given extra virgin olive oil as a gift from Italy (picture below), and I wanted to see if that type of olive oil is treated like fruits and vegetables, or does it needs to have certification on the label.

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leora, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for bringing your question here! Regardless of what information this question collects, I recommend that you consult your rabbi before acting, one way or the other. –  Isaac Moses Feb 3 '13 at 14:16
    
Excellent question! +1. I agree with Isaac Moses: you should ask your rabbi, for many reasons. If he says it's not kosher: You can ask him whether or not you may use it to kindle your Sabbath or Chanukah lamps. Or you can give it to a non-Jewish acquaintance. Or you can donate it to a food bank. Or you can put it out at the curb in a box labeled "Free". –  unforgettableid Mar 18 at 0:26
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5 Answers

The OK has an article on olive oil production and kashrut concerns.

In the article they explain the differences between the different levels of olive oil (i.e Extra Virgin, Virgin, Fino, olive oil, and light olive oil), both in processing and in the nature of oil itself.

The article say that:

  • Only Extra Virgin Olive Oil goes through no refining process. It is just pressed and bottled
  • refining can be done chemically (in other words with additives)
  • once refining is done, one needs to be careful what else was refined in the same equipment.
  • when the olive oil is shipped prior to bottling, the tanks and containers may also be problematic.

The article concludes:

In conclusion, where olive oil is concerned, extra virgin oil that is packed at the source presents little or no problems for kashrus. However, any other form of olive oil must have a reliable hechsher. All of the above is relevant for other vegetable oils as well. However, other oils are generally not sold in pure form except for some cold-pressed oils, in which the same guidelines as those for extra virgin olive oil would apply.

As an example, I once had a bottle of Vigo Imported Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Cold Pressed. The label says that it is a Product of Spain, Argentina, and Tunisia.

I contacted the company and asked them if that meant that the olives are pressed in those countries, and then the olive oil is transported to another location, where it is blended and bottled, or if it mean that the oil is pressed and bottled on site, but sometimes it may come from Spain, Argentina, or Tunisia?

They told me that the olives are pressed in those countries and then shipped to them where they blend them and then package the oil.

According to the article from the OK, this Extra Virgin Olive Oil would not be acceptable without a Hechsher.

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Since there are a variety of opinions out there, I thought it would be worth including the metaphoric law of the land: the Italy Kosher Union. On their Kosher Food list, they write the following:

Extra virgin olive oil is generally allowed without control

and

In general, all extra-virgin olive oil are permitted.

Other oils like soybeans, corn, sunflower generally do not pose problem even if non certified.

If the major koshering organization of Italy states that it can be permitted and doesn't require certification...well, that sounds pretty reliable, no?

The IKU's list of kosher foods was compiled by the Chief Rabbi of Rome, R. Shmuel Riccardo Di Segni. The organization is supervised by R. Yitzhak Belinow (rabbi of the Beth HaLevy synagogue in Milan). The IKU lists the other authorities outside Italy that it recognizes (found here), which include OU, Star K, Badatz, and the Israeli Rabbinate. The chief of IKU, Meyer Piha, produced the Italy Jewish Guide, an authoritative collection of every kosher food and certified restaurant in the country. The book was approved by all the major Italian rabbis (including Chief Rabbi of Milan R. Arbib and R. Di Segni) as well as Chief Rabbi of Israel R. Yonah Metzger.

Based on the following information, I trust the organization as a reputable guide to the Italian olive oil industry.

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I don't see why that would be more reliable than a major kashrut organization of France, England or Cambodia. What else do we know about this organization? What other opinions do they follow? Do they follow kula X? Do they follow chumra Z? –  Double AA Feb 3 '13 at 17:53
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You don't think it's valuable that the major kashrut organization of Italy says there is no need to be suspicious of the country's olive oil industry? They would be more familiar with the industry and concerns of fraud than a New York (or where ever) local rabbi trying to determine what goes on an ocean away. –  Aryeh Feb 3 '13 at 18:00
    
is there an Italian law about olive oil production which would make a local kashrut statement carry more weight (like an American civil law about milk production which would allow for a particular stance on milk to be held by American kosher authorities)? –  Danno Feb 3 '13 at 18:01
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@Aryeh Sounds legit. Adding to your post why you think they are a good organization to trust on this matter would improve your post's value IMO. –  Double AA Feb 3 '13 at 18:29
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@DoubleAA, While I agree that it's good that Aryeh added information about vouching for the IKU as an organization, and I wouldn't give them any special status wrt olive oil in general due to their location, I would give them special status wrt Italian olive oil in particular, due to their local authority (assuming that's established). –  Isaac Moses Feb 3 '13 at 20:17
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See this interesting article by Rabbi Yirmeyahu Kaganoff about the production of olive oil. He discusses the issues of fraud in the market and notes that different kashrut organizations have different views on the matter. He quotes the OU as not requiring certification on extra virgin olive oil only (virgin olive oil still needs). He also quotes the Eida Charedis which requires a mashgiach nichnas veyotzei for extra virgin olive oil during the year, and a masgiach temidi for pesach. CYLOR.

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Star-K’s article explains its statement that

oil refineries still require kosher certification.

London Beth Din lists several unsupervised approved olive oils.

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Is that olive oil refineries? Canola oil? –  Double AA Feb 3 '13 at 16:09
    
The context of the quoted article is olive oil. But I have emailed Star-K asking them. –  Avrohom Yitzchok Feb 9 at 10:11
    
@Double AA Response from Rabbi Tzvi Rosen of Star K: Olive oil not as much but they still need to be inspected to make sure they are not adulterating the oil. –  Avrohom Yitzchok Feb 12 at 18:27
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Olive oil fraud is rampant. Just because something claims to be virgin olive oil, that doesn't mean that it is. Therefore, all other possible issues aside, I would not automatically assume that it is kosher. [A quick test to help determine if you have genuine olive oil is that olive oil should harden in the fridge. If it doesn't, you know that it's not olive oil. The converse isn't true, since even if it hardens it can still be adulterated olive oil.]

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