Truffle Oil Is a 'Remarkably Successful Con'
Truffles are known for their scarcity, but not even trace amounts appear in truffle oil
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2016 8:36 AM CDT
This August 2010 photo shows a handful of truffles from the Umbrian hills in Amelia, Italy.   (AP Photo/Raf Casert)

(Newser) – For years, truffle oil has promised to bring consumers the hard-to-find truffle with convenience and a longer shelf life. Problem is, truffles are neither long-lasting nor convenient—which is part of what makes them so exciting and expensive, reports Priceonomics. Well, it turns out the oil, often marked as "made in Italy" and "100% natural," is indeed too good to be true, because there's not even a trace amount of the rare namesake ingredient in truffle oil, or at least in the $6 bottle at your local grocery store. Turns out it's merely truffle-scented, a laboratory concoction made from olive oil and 2,4-dithiapentane, a compound from which truffles get some of their smell.

For several years now the dirty secret has been out (the Atlantic wrote about the "dark side of the truffle trade" in 2014), and chefs and servers alike have taken to shunning the oil. In fact, in a recent Reddit thread about which items restaurant workers would never eat, the Sun reports that fine dining server Rez357 wrote: "Truffle oil. It has no truffle in it. The truffle smell is synthetic.... Servers judge you as trash for eating it." One writer has gone so far as to say that "comparing truffle oil to real truffles is like comparing sniffing dirty underwear to having sex." It's not that using science to construct affordable luxury items is problematic, Priceonomics adds, but that the end product fails and is marketed as something it isn't. And thus the con. (See why these grapes sold for $11,000.)