The antioxidant activity of relatively polar extracts from virgin olive oil was investigated in sunflower oil stripped of tocopherols and in tocopherol-stripped sunflower oil-in-water emulsions. The extracts were found to be effective as antioxidants in both media in the absence of added metal ions. However, the antioxidant activity was markedly reduced by the presence of added ferric chloride. In sunflower oil-in-water emulsions (pH 5.4) containing ferric chloride, all concentrations of olive oil polyphenols exhibited pro-oxidant effects. It appears that the reducing action of olive oil polyphenols accelerates oxidation of oil and especially of emulsions containing Fe (III) by reducing ferric ions to ferrous ions, which are effective pro-oxidants during storage.