Trade Group Announces Olive Oil Quality Testing Initiative

Faced with low supply and high prices, the North American Olive Oil Association says it seeks to deter dishonest actors.
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By Daniel Dawson
Nov. 15, 2023 13:44 UTC

The North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) said it will begin test­ing olive oils around the U.S. in its most com­pre­hen­sive, rig­or­ous olive oil test­ing study to date.”

The trade group’s announce­ment came against the back­drop of his­tor­i­cally high olive oil prices caused by a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive global pro­duc­tion decrease pro­jected for the cur­rent crop year, cou­pled with mea­ger stocks.

We want peo­ple to know that we’re going to be watch­ing, and we will take appro­pri­ate action if we find some­body not play­ing fairly.- Joseph R. Profaci, exec­u­tive direc­tor, NAOOA

This was an idea first brought up at the asso­ci­a­tion’s sum­mer meet­ing in June,” Joseph R. Profaci, the NAOOA’s exec­u­tive direc­tor, told Olive Oil Times. One of our mem­bers was very con­cerned that the tight­en­ing sup­ply and ris­ing prices cre­ated con­di­tions ripe for peo­ple who might be moti­vated to try and cheat.”

We felt both for the ben­e­fit of the indus­try and for con­sumers that this needs to be done,” he added. The new oil will be com­ing into the United States at the begin­ning of the year, and that is when we feel… there is the biggest risk that some­one might try to get away with seed oil adul­ter­ation.”

See Also:New Testing Method Simplifies Elemental Analysis of EVOO Samples

Profaci pointed out that rou­tine test­ing by the NAOOA, whose mem­bers sup­ply more than half of all olive oil sold in the U.S., had not indi­cated any rise in inten­tion­ally mis­la­beled or adul­ter­ated olive oil in 2023.

According to data from the International Olive Council, the U.S. was expected to con­sume 381,000 tons of olive oil in the 2022/23 crop year, which runs from October to September. Only Spain and Italy con­sume more.

Profaci hopes the announce­ment will deter inten­tional mis­la­bel­ing and adul­ter­ation. We want peo­ple to know that we’re going to be watch­ing, and we will take appro­pri­ate action if we find some­body not play­ing fairly,” he said.

Profaci said the asso­ci­a­tion informs retail­ers when olive oil is found to be mis­la­beled or fraud­u­lent and works with them to find the root of the prob­lem, which can be as sim­ple as extra vir­gin olive oil being shipped in poor con­di­tions and dete­ri­o­rat­ing to vir­gin or non-vir­gin qual­ity before arriv­ing on the super­mar­ket shelf.

In sit­u­a­tions where there is no recourse other than legal action, we will take it [through civil law­suits] and also report to the state and fed­eral author­i­ties,” he said.

The NAOOA plans to begin test­ing at least 200 sam­ples from a cross-sec­tion of the coun­try in January, includ­ing from both on-trade (restau­rants and food ser­vice) and off-trade (retail­ers and whole­salers) loca­tions.

The test­ing pro­gram, funded by the trade group’s mem­bers, will test all cat­e­gories of olive oil under branded and pri­vate labels, the NAOOA said.

Tassos Kyriakides, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor at the Yale School of Public Health, has been retained by the NAOOA to design the strat­egy of the study to ensure the sam­pling is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the over­all mar­ket.

It’s imper­a­tive for us to be involved in a project that tries to ensure the con­sumer that what they’re buy­ing, what they’re spend­ing a lot more money on, is what it is adver­tised to be,” Kyriakides told Olive Oil Times.

He said the sam­pling would be done blindly. The olive oil sam­ple will be pur­chased directly from trade loca­tions, removed from its branded pack­ag­ing and assigned a num­ber.

Next, the sam­ples will be sent to an inde­pen­dent lab­o­ra­tory accred­ited by the IOC for organolep­tic and phys­i­cal-chem­i­cal test­ing. Finally, the num­bered results will be returned to Kyriakides and paired with each sam­ple.

While he applauded the ini­tia­tive of the NAOOA to step up its test­ing efforts, Kyriakides hopes fed­eral and state author­i­ties take more ini­tia­tive to police the sec­tor in the future.


From a sci­en­tific per­spec­tive, this [test­ing for qual­ity and adul­ter­ation] should be hap­pen­ing reg­u­larly and not when­ever there’s some extrin­sic effect,” he said. Repeated assess­ments can only help improve things and assure the con­sumer that what they are buy­ing is tested over time.”

Profaci added that he would encour­age other stake­hold­ers to par­tic­i­pate in the study, includ­ing California olive oil pro­duc­ers and importers who are not NOAAO mem­bers.

Along with the imme­di­ate goal of crack­ing down on inten­tional mis­la­bel­ing and adul­ter­ation, Profaci said the study results will be valu­able for other rea­sons.

We’ll gather infor­ma­tion about over­all qual­ity on the mar­ket that we haven’t seen before,” he said. Then, as a corol­lary, the data that we’ll col­lect could be help­ful to us in sup­port­ing the need for the stan­dard of iden­tity appli­ca­tion that we filed.”

The NAOOA filed a cit­i­zen peti­tion with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to cre­ate a stan­dard of iden­tity for olive oil with the American Olive Oil Producer Association and Deoleo in 2020. The process to estab­lish one is ongo­ing.

Profaci said the stan­dard of iden­tity would cre­ate a uni­form stan­dard for olive oil across the U.S. and help Americans bet­ter under­stand olive oil grades and qual­ity while pro­hibit­ing mean­ing­less pre­fixes such as pure,’ extra light’ and pre­mium.’

For now, how­ever, Profaci, Kyriakides and the NAOOA say they are focused on pro­tect­ing con­sumers dur­ing a period of high prices and mar­ket uncer­tainty.

We are gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion to help us reg­u­late the mar­ket and pro­tect con­sumers,” Profaci con­cluded.


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