Australia / NZ

Australia, New Zealand Draft New Olive Oil Standards

Jan. 4, 2011
By Sarah Schwager

Recent News

By Sarah Schwager
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Buenos Aires

Australia and New Zealand look set to adopt new stan­dards that estab­lish strin­gent olive oil label­ing rules in a move that is also likely to affect imports into the coun­tries.

In a copy of a draft of the new olive oil and olive-pomace oil stan­dards obtained by Olive Oil Times, which were qui­etly released to the local indus­try on Christmas Eve, the two coun­tries have clearly and strictly defined each class of olive oil.

If put into effect the new stan­dards would adopt the inter­na­tion­ally-rec­og­nized free acid­ity bench­mark of 0.8% for extra virgin olive oil, which some experts see as too high and unam­bi­tious for olive oil’s most pres­ti­gious grade.

The per­mit­ted des­ig­na­tions for the label­ing of edible nat­ural olive oils, refined olive oils and olive-pomace oils are:  Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Virgin Olive Oil, Refined Olive Oil, Refined Olive Oil Blend, Refined Olive-Pomace Oil, and Refined Olive-Pomace Oil Blend. Any other des­ig­na­tions (e.g. Olive Oil, Pure Olive Oil, Light or Lite Olive Oil, Extra Light or Lite Olive Oil) “are expressly for­bid­den,” the draft stan­dard states.

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The draft stan­dard also makes it clear that the new rules would be applied to all grades of olive oil and olive-pomace oil traded in Australia and New Zealand, not just those pro­duced within the island nations.

The new stan­dards come on the heels of the adop­tion in the United States of a new set of guide­lines, and after a number of high pro­file stud­ies revealed the wide­spread mis­la­bel­ing of olive oils.  In a test by Australian con­sumer group Choice last June, it was dis­cov­ered that half of 28 brands of EVOO sold in Australian super­mar­kets did not meet International Olive Council (IOC) stan­dards for extra virgin olive oil clas­si­fi­ca­tion.

There is cur­rently no manda­tory stan­dard for olive oil sold in Australia.

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The draft stan­dard also sets guide­lines to pro­vide for sim­pler and clearer label­ing to avoid mis­lead­ing and con­fus­ing terms.  No adjec­tive of any kind (e.g. Premium, Super, Light, Lite, Pure) is per­mit­ted if it is pre­sented on the same line as,  or of equal or greater promi­nence than, the approved des­ig­na­tion on the label.

“Words describ­ing coun­try or region of origin (e.g. Australian, Tuscan, Spanish, etc.), oil char­ac­ter (e.g. mellow, fruity, robust, etc.), and/or pro­cess­ing method (e.g. cold pressed, first extrac­tion, etc.) may only be used where the infor­ma­tion can be sub­stan­ti­ated and does not mis­lead con­sumers.”

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The best-before date must be declared and sup­ported by tech­ni­cal evi­dence. A date greater than two years from the date of bot­tling cannot be dis­played.

The words ‘first cold press­ing’, ‘cold press­ing’ or sim­i­lar may appear only for virgin or extra virgin olive oils obtained from a first mechan­i­cal press­ing of the olive paste by a tra­di­tional extrac­tion system using hydraulic presses. Those obtained with equip­ment other than hydraulic presses cannot be labeled with the words ‘press­ing’, ‘pressed’ or sim­i­lar.

Likewise, ‘cold extrac­tion’, ‘cold crushed’ or sim­i­lar can only be used for virgin or extra virgin olive oils obtained by per­co­la­tion or cen­trifu­ga­tion of the olive paste, and must include spe­cific stor­age con­di­tions nec­es­sary to ensure the valid­ity of the best-before date declared on the label.

“Indications shown on the label­ing shall not mis­lead the pur­chaser, par­tic­u­larly as to the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the oil con­cerned, or by attribut­ing to it prop­er­ties which it does not pos­sess, or by sug­gest­ing that it pos­sesses spe­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics where those char­ac­ter­is­tics are common to most oils,” the draft stan­dard states.

“This Standard rec­og­nizes that olive oil is a nat­ural prod­uct and reg­u­larly presents vari­a­tion in its chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion. All limits in this Standard have been estab­lished to accom­mo­date the most common nat­ural vari­a­tions, par­tic­u­larly in Australia and New Zealand olive oils, with­out com­pro­mis­ing the abil­ity to detect adul­ter­ation.”

The draft stan­dard is avail­able for public com­ment until February 25.

The char­ac­ter­is­tics of each of the oils are:

Natural olive oils

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: nat­ural olive oil with a free acid­ity, expressed as free oleic acid, of no more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams and a median of defects equal to 0;

Virgin olive oil: nat­ural olive oil with a free acid­ity of no more than 2.0 grams per 100 grams and a median of defects equal or less than 2.5;

Lampante olive oil: nat­ural olive oil with a free acid­ity of more than 2.0 grams per 100 grams and/or a median of defects higher than 2.5;

Refined olive oils

Refined olive oil: olive oil obtained from nat­ural oils by refin­ing meth­ods that do not lead to alter­ations in the ini­tial glyc­eridic struc­ture with a free acid­ity of no more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams;

Refined olive oil blend: blend of refined olive oil and nat­ural olive oils fit for human con­sump­tion, with a free acid­ity of no more than 0.6 grams per 100 grams and a median of defects equal or less than 2.5;

Olive-pomace oils

Crude olive-pomace oil: intended for refin­ing for use for human con­sump­tion or for tech­ni­cal use;

Refined olive-pomace oil: obtained from crude olive-pomace oil by refin­ing meth­ods which do not lead to alter­ations in the ini­tial glyc­eridic struc­ture, with a free acid­ity of no more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams;

Refined olive-pomace oil blend: a blend of refined olive-pomace oil and nat­ural olive oils fit for human con­sump­tion, with a free acid­ity of no more than 0.6 grams per 100 grams and a median of defects equal to or less than 2.5.

This is a break­ing news arti­cle. Check back for updates.

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