` Aussie Standard Wrapped, Paul Miller Pitches New World Olive Oil Quality 'Alliance' - Olive Oil Times

Aussie Standard Wrapped, Paul Miller Pitches New World Olive Oil Quality 'Alliance'

Oct. 31, 2011
Curtis Cord

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Paul Miller

Australian Olive Association President Paul Miller stopped ear­lier this month to ask direc­tions in rural Georgia (U.S.). He was to look for a white church, he said in a Twitter update (pre­sum­ably not sent while dri­ving). What he did­n’t say was what he was doing there in the first place, some 16,000 kilo­me­ters from his base in Melbourne.

It was just one stop on a long road for the well-known olive oil indus­try vet­eran lead­ing to noth­ing less than a new way for pro­duc­ers, retail­ers and con­sumers to deter­mine the real value of extra vir­gin olive oil.

Miller is wor­ried about the sur­vival of the olive oil indus­try. If the pen­du­lum does­n’t swing,” he told Olive Oil Times , we might as well give up. It’s strain­ing every­one.” Even the giant coop­er­a­tives are find­ing that this race to the bot­tom” is not doing any­one any good, he said.

The fix for it all, Miller believes, is illus­trated by the cur­rent, unlikely climb in prices for Italian olive oil at a time when other European pro­duc­ers are receiv­ing gov­ern­ment aid for keep­ing their prod­uct in stor­age tanks — unable to sell their olive oil for what it cost to pro­duce. The prices for Italian olive oil is soar­ing on the other hand, Miller said, because it is, in fact, Italian olive oil.

With sev­eral recent high-pro­file pros­e­cu­tions and Italy’s highly trained forestry ser­vice now scru­ti­niz­ing just about every liter that comes in and goes out of Italy, there’s sud­denly a lot less Italian olive oil to go around. So the olive oil that Italy really does pro­duce is com­mand­ing a premium.

Miller wants to do the same for extra vir­gin olive oil itself. If we can get it so what is gen­uine extra vir­gin, is traded as such and what isn’t, isn’t — it would just trans­form the indus­try. That’s what we’re doing here, and that’s what the Australian stan­dard is all about.”

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It would­n’t be a new notion except that Miller said that, for the first time, we have the tools to pin­point the true iden­tity of olive oil — not just when it’s fresh, but at any time dur­ing its shelf life. We’re at the point where we now can accu­rately describe the life of extra vir­gin olive know­ing the free fatty acids at the begin­ning and then describ­ing what the life is and will be,” he said, by using a series of tests includ­ing the 1,2‑diacylglycerol (DAGs) and pyropheo­phytins (PPP).

Those meth­ods were dis­cussed at last week’s Australian Olive Association annual meet­ing, a con­fer­ence with an inter­na­tional atten­dance and an agenda that reached well beyond Oceania — in fact, all the way to rural Georgia.

Miller described star­tlingly com­plete work” pre­sented at the meet­ing by Claudia Guillaume from Modern Olives and Rod Mailer from the Australian Oils Research Laboratory based on meth­ods devel­oped by Dr. Christian Gertz and oth­ers. Using a series of tests and data from their exten­sive reasearch, Miller claimed we can now deter­mine with accept­able accu­racy the pro­file of an extra vir­gin olive oil through­out its use­ful life. A retailer armed with the tools can take a bot­tle off the shelf and check what it should be,” he said.

Miller envi­sions some­thing like the grades often attrib­uted to wines, only less sub­jec­tive. Now that we know about the life of oil and that’s a mea­sure­able con­di­tion, why not com­mu­ni­cate that to the con­sumer?” he asked. While stan­dards like Australia’s, the USDA’s, Codex Alimentarius and the International Olive Council’s serve the gov­ern­ments who adopt them well, Miller said they don’t do enough for the con­sumer. There’s an oppor­tu­nity to have a good trade doc­u­ment that buy­ers and sell­ers will be com­fort­able with that relates to the end result.

So Armed with what he called that com­plete story” Miller and his col­leagues rounded up like-minded indus­try play­ers from the the United States includ­ing the Olive Center’s Dan Flynn and rep­re­sen­ta­tives form the California Olive Oil Council to have a bit of a forum to see if we needed a group to pur­sue these objec­tives and form a world olive oil qual­ity alliance, effec­tively con­nect­ing pro­duc­ers and consumers.”

The group was also joined by Manuel Paras Rosa, the rec­tor of the University of Jaén. Dr. Rosa, who Miller called a guru on con­sumer atti­tudes” about olive oil, and the go-to man for the European Commission,” sup­ported the new Australian stan­dard — a posi­tion per­haps not too pop­u­lar in Andalusian olive oil cir­cles. There was a pledge of coop­er­a­tion between the University Rosa heads, the University of California at Davis Olive Center and the Australian Olive Association.

The American Oil Chemists’ Society will be the body to con­duct pro­fi­ciency test­ing and serve the tech­ni­cal and sci­en­tific part of the new alliance, accord­ing to Miller, whose mem­bers at this embry­onic stage are the California Olive Oil Association, Georgia Olive Growers Association, the Australian Olive Association and South Africa Olive Industry Association.

What about the estab­lished Old World” olive oil pro­duc­ing coun­tries? Miller said he imag­ined some of the pro­duc­ers there would be very inter­ested in the ini­tia­tive. It’s not a them-and-us oper­a­tion,” he said, but nei­ther could he resist admit­ting that to some degree this was dri­ven by some frus­tra­tion because of how the old world is and its dom­i­nance in the industry.”

When asked about the Association 3E and its efforts to intro­duce a super-pre­mium olive oil des­ig­na­tion and develop a com­mon lan­guage of olive oil qual­ity, Miller said, They had a go at it and it does­n’t seem to be nec­es­sar­ily going any­where. The gen­eral view of our group is that we don’t need ultra-pre­mium, we just need extra vir­gin. Why would you try to cre­ate some­thing new when extra vir­gin has such a good brand value out there? All we need is (extra vir­gin) to be what it is.”

It’s been quite a few months and Miller sighed when asked about what the rest of the year had in store for him and the ini­tia­tive he has agreed to lead. He will be con­sult­ing with Bruce Golino in the U.S., Andries Rabie in South Africa and Leandro Ravetti about reach­ing out in South America with the aim of sign­ing off on the alliance early in the new year.

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