Hard Line Proposed on Flavored Olive Oil Labeling

May. 29, 2014
By Julie Butler

Recent News

The days of flavoured olive oils being labeled ‘extra virgin olive oil’ or even just ‘olive oil’ could be num­bered in International Olive Council (IOC) member coun­tries.

The IOC – the peak body gov­ern­ing the sector – is to con­sider advice next week that it apply a strict inter­pre­ta­tion of its trade stan­dard. That would mean defin­ing extra virgin olive oil as the juice of the olive “and noth­ing else” and olive oil “solely as the blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil with­out the addi­tion of any other prod­uct.”

Amid the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of fla­vored and infused oils, the IOC said back in February it would seek input from stake­hold­ers on resolv­ing uncer­tainty on the “del­i­cate issue” of whether virgin olive oil be con­sid­ered ‘extra’ “when the sub­stances added to it make it impos­si­ble for organolep­tic analy­sis to con­firm that it really is extra grade.” It men­tioned olive oils fla­vored with plant extracts such as garlic, lemon, thyme and rose­mary, as exam­ples.

This week it said the issue “of flavoured extra virgin olive oils and infused olive oils” was on the agenda at the meet­ing of the IOC Advisory Committee on Olive Oil and Table Olives held in Croatia May 22 – 23. It said rep­re­sen­ta­tives of stake­hold­ers from every branch of the olive and olive oil sector – pro­duc­ers, proces­sors, mar­keters and con­sumers – par­tic­i­pated, with people not only from IOC member coun­tries but also observers from the non-mem­bers Australia, Brazil, India, Japan and the United States. The com­mit­tee is chaired by Portugal’s Luis Folque, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of proces­sors, and Tunisia’s Ali Ben El Hadj M’Barek and Italy’s Michele Bungaro, both rep­re­sent­ing pro­duc­ers, are vice chairs.

“After lengthy dis­cus­sion, the com­mit­tee decided to rec­om­mend the IOC remind its mem­ber­ship of the terms of the IOC trade stan­dard, which it is manda­tory for IOC Members to apply in their inter­na­tional trade. According to the stan­dard, extra virgin olive oil is the juice of the olive and noth­ing else. Olive oil is defined solely as the blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil with­out the addi­tion of any other prod­uct,” the IOC said in a state­ment.

The rec­om­men­da­tion will be con­sid­ered by the IOC’s deci­sion-making organ, the Council of Members, at its extra­or­di­nary ses­sion start­ing in Madrid next Tuesday.


Flavored olive oils are par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, none of which is an IOC member. However, most olive oil pro­duc­ing coun­tries are IOC mem­bers and there is talk of in the future also admit­ting coun­tries that are not pro­duc­ers but are olive oil con­sumers.