`UC Davis Olive Oil Sensory Lab Earns IOC Certification - Olive Oil Times

UC Davis Olive Oil Sensory Lab Earns IOC Certification

By Lori Zanteson
Dec. 8, 2010 07:45 UTC

By Lori Zanteson
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Los Angeles

In its first attempt at accred­i­ta­tion the UC Davis Olive Oil Sensory Laboratory sat­is­fied the require­ments set forth by the International Olive Council (IOC), earn­ing offi­cial cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for its taste panel. For the first time in sev­eral years, the United States has an IOC accred­ited panel, mak­ing the UC Davis Olive Oil Lab an impor­tant resource for pro­duc­ers, retail­ers and importers in the assess­ment of olive oil qual­ity.

The process of accred­i­ta­tion for under­tak­ing the sen­sory analy­sis of vir­gin olive oils accord­ing to the IOC’s meth­ods is car­ried out each year. Panels world­wide enter the process for first-time accred­i­ta­tion and for the annual renewal of prior accred­i­ta­tion. Of the very scru­ti­niz­ing process, Dan Flynn, Executive Director of the UC Davis Olive Center, says We had a leg up, we started with a very good group of peo­ple.”

The screen­ing and train­ing for poten­tial panel mem­bers of Davis’s lab, led by Dr. Jean-Xavier Guinard, began in 2009. Panel mem­bers, some who have been involved with olive oil for years, also received train­ing from Paul Vossen, well known expert in olive oil pro­cess­ing and sen­sory analy­sis, as well as by the panel oper­ated by the California Olive Oil Council. In just one year from the first screen­ing ses­sion, 19 pan­elists and 12 appren­tices were cho­sen, trained, and have honed their tast­ing skills to achieve a respected indus­try posi­tion. Tastings cur­rently hap­pen about once a week with 8 – 12 mem­bers on a panel per ses­sion. Next year, the panel will pro­vide a fee-based ser­vice.

The sen­sory panel, explains Flynn, has three roles. The first is to pro­vide cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of olive oil sent in by pro­duc­ers, retail­ers, and importers. Oils are ana­lyzed based on the IOC’s offi­cial score­card which looks at fruiti­ness, bit­ter­ness, pun­gency and defects. Extra vir­gin cer­ti­fi­ca­tion allows no defects. With cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in place, the panel expands on the infor­ma­tion given on the score­card to pro­vide a more detailed expla­na­tion of the olive oil analy­sis. This gives the oil’s provider a deeper look at its pos­i­tive aspects. While the score­card rates oil on fruiti­ness, this next phase delves into the spe­cific apple or trop­i­cal notes, for exam­ple, help­ing to per­pet­u­ate the fea­tures of qual­ity oils. Research is a very impor­tant role, accord­ing to Flynn, because the leader of the panel is a
well-regarded sen­sory pan­elist.” The panel’s research will pro­vide sound analy­sis of olive oil pro­duced in California which will hope­fully lead toward the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of what Flynn calls a California-style” extra vir­gin olive oil.

Those in California’s olive oil indus­try def­i­nitely stand to ben­e­fit from the UC Davis Olive Oil Lab accred­i­ta­tion. California’s olive oil indus­try now has a panel in place to ana­lyze the qual­ity of olive oil in the US, mak­ing the highly use­ful process much eas­ier and cer­tainly more con­ve­nient. Consumers stand to ben­e­fit from this accred­i­ta­tion as well. It will con­tinue to push con­sumer edu­ca­tion for­ward, expand­ing aware­ness of qual­ity oils and extra vir­gin cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. These com­bined ben­e­fits offer great poten­tial for the panel’s work. At its incep­tion three years ago the Olive Center, part of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, had a vision to do for table olives and olive oil what the insti­tute did for wine. This,” says Flynn, is another step in that direc­tion.”


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