`California Bill Would Align Laws With New U.S. Olive Oil Standards - Olive Oil Times

California Bill Would Align Laws With New U.S. Olive Oil Standards

Apr. 11, 2011
Lori Zanteson

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The California State Health Committee voted unan­i­mously in favor of Senate Bill 818, a first step toward tight­en­ing California’s olive oil stan­dards. This bill from Senator Lois Wolk, chair­per­son of the Senate Subcommittee on Olive Oil Production and Emerging Products, would sync cur­rent state stan­dards with the new revised USDA stan­dards.

An indi­ca­tion that pol­i­cy­mak­ers see olive oil qual­ity an issue worth keep­ing an eye on.- Dan Flynn

The first of many hur­dles in the state’s leg­isla­tive process, the approval of SB 818 marks the first pol­icy hear­ing for the bill. Dan Flynn, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the UC Davis Olive Center, said The sig­nif­i­cance is that it passed its first test unan­i­mously, which bodes well for the bill.”

Present as a tech­ni­cal resource at Tuesday’s meet­ing, Flynn said Senator Wolk referred to the 2010 UC Davis report which ana­lyzed olive oils sold in three California regions and found that 69 per­cent of imported olive oils tested did not meet USDA or inter­na­tional stan­dards for extra vir­gin olive oil. Those oils were either old, of poor qual­ity, or adul­ter­ated with cheaper oils accord­ing to the study.

In a news release, Senator Wolk said, We can’t allow our state to be a dump­ing ground for bad imported oil sold to unsus­pect­ing con­sumers at pre­mium prices. Standards are not only crit­i­cal to farm­ers and pro­duc­ers who com­pete with for­eign imports, but more impor­tantly to con­sumers.”

California cur­rently man­dates stan­dards based on those of the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) which reflect the stan­dards of the International Olive Council (IOC). The new bill would revise the def­i­n­i­tions of olive oil and grades of olive oil and amend the cur­rent law to reflect the new USDA olive oil stan­dards.

For legal pro­ce­dures this is sig­nif­i­cant because, accord­ing to Flynn, the USDA stan­dards bet­ter reflect the stan­dards in our coun­try rather than those abroad, espe­cially since the US is not a mem­ber of the IOC. The USDA stan­dards also iden­tify some areas that bet­ter reflect the inter­ests of the US and its agri­cul­ture than the IOC stan­dards which were not devel­oped rec­og­niz­ing nat­u­rally occur­ring vari­a­tions of California cli­mate and soil, but rather those of Mediterranean coun­tries.

The USDA stan­dards take nat­ural chem­istry into account. The IOC stan­dard, for exam­ple, sets the campes­terol level at 4.0, whereas, as Flynn explained, the USDA stan­dard allows a slightly higher level to reflect its domes­tic lev­els. Linoleic acid lev­els are sim­i­larly accom­mo­dated in the new stan­dards.

An over­all updat­ing of California law, SB 818 would reflect new USDA stan­dards for olive oil that include a few areas of dis­tinc­tion that Flynn said are very appro­pri­ate for California. This is another step in the US recog­ni­tion that olive oil stan­dards mean some­thing,” said Flynn. It’s an indi­ca­tion that pol­icy mak­ers see olive oil qual­ity an issue worth keep­ing an eye on.”

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