Check the Label
Does it say extra virgin olive oil? Is there a harvest or milling date in addition to the best use date? Is the harvest date within the past year?
Extra virgin olive oil is best used within 18 months from harvest. However, some bottles are labeled with a 2- or 3-year expiration date, which is why knowing the harvest date is so valuable. Also, read the fine print on the back of some bottles: the bottle may be advertised as coming from one specific region, but the fine print on the back may tell you it comes from multiple countries, which makes it impossible to trace the actual harvest date.
Look for the COOC Seal
The COOC seal is the consumer’s assurance that the olive oil is extra virgin grade, grown in California, and from the most recent harvest. To earn the seal, the olive oil must meet with the requirements of a laboratory analysis and pass a sensory assessment by the COOC’s highly trained taste panel each harvest season. Read more about COOC Seal of Certification and the Certification Process.
Bottle Color Matters
Is the oil packaged in dark glass or tin to cut down on light exposure? Is it on the top shelf exposed to direct light? Exposure to light dramatically shortens the shelf life of extra virgin olive oil.
Know Your Retailer
Buy from retailers who know the producers, growers and importers. These experts also know how to care properly for the oil. Ask for a taste. Specialty retailers are generous with sampling, as they want the customers to know what they are buying.
Check for the harvest date and always buy from the most recent harvest. Ask before you complete the purchase.
Storage is Key
Store extra virgin olive oil away from light, air and heat. These elements accelerate the process of oxidation which leads to rancidity. As oxidation occurs naturally over time, it is best to use the oil up once it is open within the first 6 months.
Olive oil should not be stored next to the stove as this exposes the oil to consistent heat. It is also not recommended to store oil in the refrigerator because condensation within the bottle may lead to off flavors. Store your oil in a cool, dark cabinet or pantry.