A bottle of olive oil kept in a pantry or refrigerator can sometimes develop strange white spots in it. This can look like the oil is spoiled, but these white spots are natural vegetable wax pellets. Their appearance is both harmless and even expected in many varieties of cooled olive oil.


Identification

While some people find white “blobs” in olive oil, others find white formations that look more like sediment or mere haze. Depending on the qualities and temperature of the olive oil, the oil can have slimy clumps, thick white crystallization or swirls that look like egg whites. The white color in the oil does not indicate spoilage. These white inconsistencies disappear when the oil is heated to a warmer temperature.

Causes

Olives, like many fruits, have wax on their epidermis to protect them from insects. The wax stays on the olives when the fruit is cooled or “winterized.” When the oil is not winterized, the wax will clump and congeal when the oil is refrigerated or cooled. It will appear in the oil as a white haze, or as small white clumps near the bottom of the bottle. So the wax spots only mean that olive oil bottle was not winterized. The spots will go away if the olive oil is warmed up. Olive oil stored at approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit will not develop white clouding or clumps.

Winterization

Olive oil producers winterize their products because many customers shy away from olive oil with haze or spots. This is unfortunate because winterization leads to the olive oil having a less rich flavor than non-winterized oil. Winterized olive oil is actually used in many sauces and dressings due to its bland flavor. It allows the spices of a sauce to come through stronger.

Spots on Olives

Selected varieties of olives can sometimes have white spots on them, though these have no relation to the white spots found in olive oil. Queen olives have a particularly high sugar content that causes the olives to have a particularly strong fermentation process. That process results in white spots on the olives. Interestingly enough, queen olives develop white spots because they do not contain enough olive oil, which would help prevent the fermentation process.