Business

Hard Line Proposed on Flavored Olive Oil Labeling

May. 29, 2014
By Julie Butler

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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.

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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.