It may come as a surprise to some, but olive oil can be “unkosher” - and the Chief Rabbinate, which has done extensive market research on the matter, has issued warnings on specific brands of olive oil meant for consumption and for lighting Hannukah candles. The brands (pictured below) are not just unkosher, according to Israel's Chief Rabbinate, but in many cases are not even real olive oil.
Whilst the laws of kashrut (kosher) are usually associated with meat and milk items, there are a number of halakhic (Jewish laws) guidelines concerning fruits and vegetables.
Among the kashrut issues in olive oil: Orlah (the use of olives that grew on a tree that is three years old or younger), shmitta (olive oil from olives that were harvested in the seventh year, when regular farming work is no allowed), and tevel (use of olives that have not been tithed properly), all of which render the olive oil forbidden for use.
In addition to the halakhic problems, many of the “bad” oils contain dangerous chemicals to make them look and smell like olive oil – although they are actually made from cheaper, inferior oils – and other “fillers,” cheating the consumer who thinks they are getting the “real thing.”
Many of these products do bear a Rabbinate certification, but that certification was placed there illegally – making the producers of these oils subject to fraud laws, which the Rabbinate faithfully pursues, where possible.
The Rabbinate is involved in numerous legal actions against the producers of these and other phony “kosher” products. Consumers who suspect that the product they are being offered is a phony are encouraged to contact the Rabbinate.
“With more consumer awareness we can substantially limit the problem,” a Rabbinate spokesperson said.
Among the signs that an olive oil is less than what it seems: Discoloring, a poorly designed label, a lack of contact information on the label, and an apparent “discount” price.