In 2008, the International Olive Council’s group of expert chemists designed a study to gain a better understanding of olive oils that displayed certain parameters beyond the limits allowed in the council’s trade standards adopted five years earlier.
IOC members and non-members including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina were offically invited, via a 2009 Note Verbale, to help identify the unique characteristics of their regional olive oils in a common effort to improve the international standard, protect olive oil authenticity and “prevent potential fraud,” according to the council’s Executive Secretariat.
The IOC said it had since made repeated requests for samples to analyze, even while some New World producers were busy drafting their own standards to be more in line with local characteristics. Meanwhile the IOC, which admitted its calls for action had yielded “varying degrees of success,” plans on presenting the conclusions of the study to the Council of Members for approval at its 100th session in November, 2012.
The samples they did manage to collect were reviewed last week in the IOC offices at a meeting of the council’s working group on olive oil composition — part of the biannual meeting of expert chemists that assemble in Madrid to discuss a range of chemistry and standards-related business.
At this session the group examined new testing methods, discussed the results of recent studies and proposed priorities for future work.
It was their first meeting since Australia officially eschewed international olive oil standards by adopting its own guidelines, creating a new market segment for olive oil exporters throughout the world. According to an IOC spokesperson, the chemists assembled last week “agreed on the importance to bring standards into line with eachother in order to promote quality, encourage international trade and protect consumers.”
Although they were invited, and have attended past sessions, representatives from Australia, the USDA, FDA, the California Olive Oil Council and the University of California at Davis were absent from the meeting this year.
Attendees included representatives from Algeria, Argentina, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, as well as from the American Oil Chemists’ Society, Codex Alimentarius, International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the European Commission.
The group proposed presenting the method for the determination of sterols and triterpene dialcohols for definitive IOC adoption next month. The same method would be adopted by the ISO for olive oils.