Why Would Anyone Put Organic Extra Virgin Oil in PET Bottles?

by Jeff Berkowitz on June 20, 2010 · 1 comment

in Culinary Philosopher News

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I was at Costco the other day just to pick up a few things for the weekend. One of the items we needed was Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It came down to two choices: 1. a certified Organic oil in a 1.5 liter plastic bottle and 2. a geographically designated oil from Tuscany in a 1 liter green glass bottle. I eventually decided to buy the Tuscan oil for several reasons: I have bought the oil before and for the price it is quite good, the one liter size is convenient, I know the dark green glass will keep the oil well protected from sun light and I just felt funny about buying a Certified Organic oil in a Plastic container. I checked the bottom of the plastic bottle and it was PET and had the recycling number 1 on it, but I still did not like the idea. I know I am a food snob and a packaging snob, but was my prejudice justified.¬† Hmmm… Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles…most of the time I like them ( I think)…they make great water bottles, although, I have yet to enjoy a soda stored in them. Plasticsinfo.org says they are safe, are not permeable to oxygen or carbon dioxide (which is why they are used for soda), strong, shatter resistant, light weight, very recyclable and come in lots of shapes and sizes, but something tells me they are not as good as colored glass for olive oil. So I did a little research…

Olive oil has 4 enemies, according to one internet adviser: 1. light, 2. heat, 3. oxygen, 4. your friends who will eat it all and leave you with none. In my house that leaves 3, light and heat and air, friends can come and enjoy as they please. Conventional wisdom, therefore, would suggest that you store your olive oil in a dark or opaque container that is not in a hot place and does not hold more than you could use in a month or two. So what about the PET bottles? There has been a lot of research done on the use of PET as a packaging material for beverages, as you can imagine, and some of it suggest that PET does not offer a great deal of protection against light. A 7 day study of milk determined that the milk kept in a clear PET container suffered the most degradation of nutrients compared with several other common packaging material when kept under fluorescent lights. Based on that conclusion I would say that keeping the oil in the PET container is not a good idea.

There are several factors that go into what type of packaging a manufacturer packs their products in and cost is a big factor in both the original cost of the materials and shipping. PET turns out to be less expensive and lighter than glass which can save a lot in shipping costs and since the bottles are shipped in cases it is not exposed to light during shipping. PET is also less fragile than glass and keeps loss due to breakage to a minimum. Keeping our food costs down is generally perceived as a good thing.

The polymer itself is pretty inert and dissolves in only a handful of non-food nasty chemicals. All indications that I could find is that it is a safe material to ship food in. Assuming this is correct what is my objection to the PET bottle? The environmentalist in me wants to say that it not good to use PET containers and I would point to the swirling masses of plastic in both the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean as evidence. However, these do make very convenient containers and if we use them carefully they should be fine. I would submit one caveat; if you are going to buy oil in PET do not leave the bottle where light could cause the oil to become rancid. Transfer the oil into an opaque oil decanter for convenient use. I hate rancid oil and we spend good money for extra virgin olive oil so store it properly.

This is a very complicated subject and there is a lot to consider…from the cost of fuel for making containers and shipping them to the cost and efficacy of recycling¬† them…are there health concerns?…and convenience. The one thing I know is that olive oil or any oil should be protected from the light so if I buy the oil in a clear container of any kind it will be put into another container or kept in the cupboard.

What do you think? Please join in the discussion…send in your thoughts…all responsible comments will be posted…

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Emilyn May 18, 2012 at 9:33 pm

thank you for this post.,..it is very interesting…loved it…how to subscribe?

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