`New Standards Getting Traction in Australia - Olive Oil Times

New Standards Getting Traction in Australia

Jan. 27, 2012
Kim Stewart

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Before the adop­tion by Standards Australia of the new Australian Standard for Olive and Olive-Pomace Oils, terms like pre­mium, super, pure, light/lite, extra light/lite’ were used with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, best before’ dates were not sub­ject to tech­ni­cal prove­nance and olive oil grades, includ­ing the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of extra vir­gin,’ were not policed. Many oils claim­ing to be extra vir­gin on Australian shelves were in fact lower grades, or not olive oil at all.

The new stan­dard imple­mented test­ing meth­ods and guide­lines to ensure con­for­mity across the range of Australian and imported prod­ucts.

While the stan­dard has been wel­comed by domes­tic pro­duc­ers and con­sumers, it was not imme­di­ately pop­u­lar with major super­mar­ket chains Coles and Woolworths, who were not intend­ing to ask their sup­pli­ers to adhere to the stan­dard. Olive oil has become another vic­tim of the under­cut­ting price war between the two super­mar­ket giants in recent months, the likes of which has dec­i­mated milk pro­duc­ers, send­ing many dairy farm­ers out of the indus­try.

The insti­tu­tion of the stan­dard would help cut short the super­mar­kets’ race to the bot­tom by elim­i­nat­ing many of the mis­la­beled, low-qual­ity olive oils that have been flood­ing the Australian mar­ket dur­ing the European eco­nomic reces­sion, while pro­tect­ing con­sumers from sub­stan­dard prod­ucts.

Supermarkets wield here, and one con­cern is that any attempts to impose the cur­rently vol­un­tary stan­dard on them may result in legal chal­lenges to the stan­dard as a bar­rier to trade.” Indeed, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand with­drew from the olive oil stan­dards process.

The International Olive Council objected to the stan­dard call­ing it a pos­si­ble bar­rier to inter­na­tional trade” that would make adul­ter­ation eas­ier. The IOCs objec­tions pointed to dif­fer­ences in its own inter­na­tional stan­dard and the def­i­n­i­tions in the Australian ver­sion. Because the IOC is not sup­port­ive of the stan­dard, it’s unlikely it will be adopted as a FSANZ stan­dard and remain vol­un­tary, accord­ing to sources.

However, recent reports that many olive oils on the shelves in South Australia were adul­ter­ated with sun­flower, canola and even lam­pante oil has put the spot­light on the stan­dard’s use­ful­ness in pro­tect­ing con­sumer con­fi­dence and safety.

The Australian Olive Association tested 20 olive oils avail­able in Adelaide super­mar­kets in 2011 and found that, besides inci­dents of adul­ter­ation, seven were also ran­cid, mildewed or incor­rectly labelled. The rev­e­la­tions have changed the super­mar­kets atti­tudes with both Coles and Woolworths now say­ing they will be phas­ing in the new stan­dard.

Choice, the Australian con­sumer watch­dog, also tested 28 olive oils in 2010 and found half the oils on test – most of which are imported from Italy and Spain – didn’t meet inter­na­tional stan­dards for extra vir­gin.” Choice also found that 9 out of ten of the best tast­ing brands were from Australian pro­duc­ers.

CEO of Standards Australia, Colin Blair told Olive Oil Times, The stan­dard has been broadly wel­comed by pro­duc­ers and also in terms of con­sumer pro­tec­tion. It pro­vides a rig­or­ous frame­work for stake­hold­ers. The olive oil stan­dard has set a bench­mark for the indus­try and has attracted high lev­els of inter­est domes­ti­cally and inter­na­tion­ally.”

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