Business

California Olive Oil Industry Adopts Stricter Labeling Requirements

The Olive Oil Commission of California announced new rules that will apply to large producers, including adding best by dates to all olive oil labels and tightening the rules regarding how olive oil provenance is labeled.

California Olive Ranch
Sep. 30, 2019
By Daniel Dawson
California Olive Ranch

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The Olive Oil Commission of California has announced new manda­tory label­ing require­ments for large pro­duc­ers in the state, which are meant to better inform con­sumers about the prove­nance and qual­ity of the olive oils they are pur­chas­ing.

California pro­duc­ers with an output of 5,000 gal­lons or more per year will now need to pro­vide “tech­ni­cal evi­dence” in order to sup­port their self-selected best by date, add stor­age rec­om­men­da­tions to their labels and adhere to stricter require­ments when using phrases such as and sim­i­lar to “Made in California” or “California Olive Oil.”

The more edu­cated people become, the more they will read the labels. More infor­ma­tion should demand higher prices.- Richard Meisler, co-owner San Miguel Olive Farm

The OOCC said that pro­duc­ers must use 100-per­cent California-grown olives in their oils in order to use labels that directly state or imply that the olive oil was made or pro­duced in California.

To help dif­fer­en­ti­ate these California-made oils from com­peti­tors, the OOCC also announced that it has become a member of the Buy California Marketing Agreement, which will allow pro­duc­ers who adhere to the above cri­te­ria to use the “CA GROWN” logo on their prod­ucts.

See more: California Olive Oil News

“The recent mea­sures adopted by the OOCC are an effort to fur­ther improve con­sumers’ buying expe­ri­ence by pro­vid­ing them with addi­tional infor­ma­tion about their deci­sion to pur­chase California olive oil,” Brady Whitlow, the pres­i­dent of Corto Olive and chair­man of the OOCC, said in a press release.

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Richard Meisler, the co-owner of San Miguel Olive Farm, told Olive Oil Times that he wel­comes most of the changes made by the OOCC and already includes much of the new infor­ma­tion on his labels.

“The more edu­cated people become, the more they will read the labels,” he said. “More infor­ma­tion should demand higher prices.”

Meisler, who pro­duces extra virgin olive oils made entirely from olives grown on his Central Coast estate, added that the new label­ing require­ments regard­ing prove­nance were impor­tant for mar­ket­ing locally-pro­duced olive oils.

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Under the new OOCC require­ments, olive oil labels that men­tion a spe­cific region of California must have 85 per­cent of the olives used to pro­duce the oil grown in that region. Additionally, labels that men­tion a spe­cific estate must have 100 per­cent of their olives grown on that estate and the pro­ducer of the oil must own or con­trol the estate.

“We have Central Coast on our labels,” Meisler said. “Estate will be on my label for this coming har­vest.”

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The one part of these new stan­dards that Meisler dis­agrees with is that smaller pro­duc­ers do not need to follow the same stan­dards.

“[These new require­ments] are geared for the 5,000-gallon or more pro­duc­ers,” he said. “There are many that do not pro­duce this quan­tity. I believe that they too should be under the same guide­lines.”

“[It] may cost a little more for the pro­ducer, but health­ful prod­ucts are very impor­tant,” Meisler added.

Malcolm Bond, the co-owner of Bondolio, also agrees with most of the new label­ing rules. He told Olive Oil Times that he expects the new prove­nance rules will help him better pro­mote his brand.

“I agree, if you are saying your oil is ‘California Olive Oil,’ it must con­tain 100 per­cent California olives,” Bond said. “Especially on estate-grown, I feel it must be 100-per­cent estate grown. I do believe it will help our brand.”

However, Bond said that he dis­agrees with the new rules per­tain­ing to adding best-by dates to the labels. He cited con­fu­sion among fellow grow­ers about how to deter­mine the best-by date and said that he prefers to use the har­vest date.

“I am hear­ing some people are going to use one year from har­vest date and others are going to use 18 months,” he said. “We have always used on our bot­tles the har­vest date.”

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The OOCC said the new require­ments sur­round­ing best-by dates are meant to better inform cus­tomers how long an extra virgin olive oil main­tains its qual­ity stan­dards when stored prop­erly. According to the com­mis­sion, guid­ance doc­u­ments have been pro­vided to pro­duc­ers to help accu­rately deter­mine the best shelf life.

“The com­mis­sion allows pro­duc­ers to choose a ‘best by’ method to esti­mate shelf life from among sev­eral meth­ods that were peer-reviewed in the global sci­en­tific lit­er­a­ture,” Dan Flynn, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the UC Davis Olive Center, told Olive Oil Times.

The Olive Center eval­u­ated all the mea­sures that are pro­vided in the guid­ance doc­u­ments for the OOCC in a recent report.

“California’s ‘best by’ assur­ance sets a stan­dard that could become a model inter­na­tion­ally,” Flynn con­cluded.