Italian Trade Group Proposes New Classification for Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A proposal to lower the acidity threshold value of the extra virgin olive oil from 0.8 to 0.5 percent was presented by the consortium of Italian olive oil producers at a conference in Rome.

Unaprol workshop in Rome.
Feb. 27, 2019
By Ylenia Granitto
Unaprol workshop in Rome.

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A pro­posal to lower the acid­ity thresh­old value of the extra virgin olive oil from 0.8 to 0.5 per­cent was recently pre­sented by the con­sor­tium of Italian olive oil pro­duc­ers, Unaprol, during a work­shop in Rome.

According to inter­na­tional stan­dards, extra virgin olive oil must have a free acid­ity, expressed as oleic acid, of less than or equal to 0.8 grams per 100 grams, or 0.8 per­cent.

The request for a new clas­si­fi­ca­tion of olive oils could be looked into as part of the pro­ce­dures pro­vided for in the next International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives.- Abdellatif Ghedira, Executive Director of the IOC

However, in real­ity, pre­mium prod­ucts reach a very low level of acid­ity. During a good year, it is easy to find prod­ucts between 0.1 and 0.3 per­cent.

For this reason, in recent years, there has been fre­quent talk of the pos­si­bil­ity of reduc­ing the max­i­mum limit of this cru­cial qual­ity char­ac­ter­is­tic.

See more: Olive Oil Standards

In the after­math of a tough season, Unaprol has taken stock of the sit­u­a­tion of the Italian extra virgin olive oil, and dis­cussed “strate­gies to relaunch the sector,” with the aim of com­bat­ing “spec­u­la­tion, fraud, coun­ter­feit­ing and cli­mate change.”


“We pro­pose a new clas­si­fi­ca­tion of extra virgin olive oil which pro­vides for a reduc­tion of the cur­rent max­i­mum acid­ity level from 0.8 to 0.5 per­cent,” the President of Unaprol, David Granieri, said.

“This ini­tia­tive stems from the need to ensure qual­ity and effec­tively combat fraud and scam­ming, which are more likely to occur in rela­tion to ‘bor­der­line’ prod­ucts,” he added. “Let us be clear that the panel test works very well, but the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of olive oil can be improved.”

The back­ground to this propo­si­tion was the dif­fi­cult olive crop year. It was one of the poor­est sea­sons of the last few decades for Italian farm­ers, as vol­umes amounted to 185,000 tons.


Olive grow­ers all over the penin­sula have suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant dif­fi­cul­ties mainly due to last winter’s frost; Apulian farm­ers, who usu­ally con­tribute half of national output, lost 65 per­cent of pro­duc­tion, and in their region, there have been increas­ing protests over the state of Xylella fas­tidiosa.

“The sit­u­a­tion is seri­ous, there­fore, for months we have been call­ing upon the gov­ern­ment to take action through a National Olive Oil Plan 2.0,” Granieri said. “We believe that, to save the Italian olive oil from attacks, fraud, and spec­u­la­tion, there is need of a supply chain agree­ment. In this matter, we pro­posed this new clas­si­fi­ca­tion of olive oil as a fur­ther guar­an­tee of qual­ity.”


The Executive Director of the International Olive Council, Abdellatif Ghedira, pointed out that, “the request for a new clas­si­fi­ca­tion of olive oils could be looked into as part of the pro­ce­dures pro­vided for in the next International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives.”

“The IOC stan­dard is a tool that is con­stantly evolv­ing to meet the needs of the market and demands for trans­parency and respect for con­sumers,” he added. “A pro­posal must be offi­cially pre­sented to the Council of Members so that the Executive Secretariat can take the steps nec­es­sary to study the issue at hand in the next inter­na­tional olive oil and tables olives agree­ment.”

This means that, on the basis of a formal request, the strict pro­ce­dure for the approval of this stan­dard change may take some time.

“We con­sider that the new clas­si­fi­ca­tion that we are propos­ing is better suited to the market demand,” Granieri said. “In fact, it never hap­pens that con­sumers ask for extra virgin olive oils with a level of acid­ity of more than 0.5 per­cent.”

“Restricting the value range means both pro­mot­ing qual­ity and trans­parency and being able to more effec­tively combat fraud, as this would be a guar­an­tee espe­cially as regards first-price prod­ucts which are often ‘at the limit’,” he added. “We want to avoid that the con­sumer buys an extra virgin olive oil that is actu­ally virgin. Our motion is a safe­guard not only for Italian con­sumers, but for all con­sumers.”

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