Smoke From Fire and Olive Oil

During this uncertain fire season here in California, we are often asked the question, “Will the smoke from the fires affect the olive oil?” Most of the studies regarding the effects of smoke have been done on wine grapes, and have found evidence that it can affect wines. However, olives and their processing are different from wine grapes and their processing. The skins of olives are much thicker and more waxy than grapes, so the inner pulp is well protected from damage. Furthermore, unlike wine grapes, olives are washed before crushing, which removes any residues on the skins. Finally, ashes don’t dissolve in oil, but can dissolve in the water of grape juice. The smoke related components of concern are naturally occurring and generally widespread. They can be found at very small concentrations in most foods, even when there have been no fire incidents. A study from Greece after major files in 2007 found no more evidence of smoke related compounds than during years with little to no fire incidents. The biggest reasons appear to be that olives have tough skins and are thoroughly washed before processing.

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