Just as wine lovers want complexity in a great vintage wine, olive oil fans expect purity in their favorite extra virgin. But high-end olive oil is expensive to produce. And in the mid-2000s, fraud was a growing problem.
When Connecticut officials discovered that some imported olive oil was really a cheap knock-off, they leapt into action. Jerry Farrell was commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection at the time.
"Lesser kinds of oil, most notably nut oil, was being added to the olive oil so that you as the consumer would not know this, but you would end up eating doctored olive oil," Farrell said. "So many people have allergies to nuts that we really needed to do something."
In 2008, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to enact standards to protect the purity of olive oil. Connecticut’s regulations created legal definitions for “virgin,” “extra virgin,” and “olive pomace” oil.
Farrell’s leadership on the issue came to the attention of Italian royal family, and now he’s been knighted. "Really almost out of a storybook, this medieval investiture ceremony," he said, "a beautiful ball in a Renaissance palace, and then mass the next day on Sunday, at the Vatican."
Farrell admitted this is a little out of the ordinary for Connecticut, but with olive oil considered an Italian product, he said he probably shouldn’t be that surprised. He shares the honor with the people of the state of Connecticut, who deserve credit for their help in regulating the slippery olive oil industry.