Experts who advise the International Olive Council on the chemical analysis of olive oil are meeting in its Madrid headquarters today (March 23) and tomorrow to discuss issues including the results of recent trials of testing methods.

Asked for details of the agenda and who would attend, an IOC spokeswoman said the meeting was strictly reserved for experts designated by IOC member countries. About 40 were expected to attend and no observers were permitted.

The results of ongoing collaborative trials organized by the IOC – to check the reliability of, and to validate, tests – would be discussed and the group would review new and existing methods of analysis designed to improve the quality and authenticity of olive oils and olive pomace oils.

“It will also establish priorities for its future work in the area of olive chemistry and standardization,” she said.

The meeting comes at a time of considerable upheaval in the olive oil sector globally. American olive oil producers are drafting a federal marketing order that would set higher quality standards, redefine grades and require new testing of all olive oil produced there. And Australia has already set up its own olive oil standard – which it says includes the most current and effective testing methods for quality and authenticity – and South Africa has said it will adopt the same.

The European Commission is also reviewing its olive oil testing rules. EC Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş said earlier this year that it had begun consultation over possible changes. He was responding to an Italian call for the alkyl esters parameter for EVOO to be lowered.

Meanwhile within Spain there has also been debate over the accuracy and importance of the organoleptic testing done by taste panels.

According to a document on the IOC’s web site entitled “Expert Groups on Olive Oil Chemistry and Standards”, the IOC currently has ten technical groups in the area of chemistry, responsible for matters including:

  • chemical testing methods, limits for the various grades of olive oil and olive pomace oil and harmonisation of standards
  • methods of analysis for the determination of contaminant residues in olive oils
  • issues relating to organoleptic assessment of virgin olive oil, and
  • labelling

It says that the group of chemistry experts on “methods of analysis for olive oils and olive pomace oils” is made up of experts from IOC member countries and from national and international standards agencies and meets twice a year to study chemical methods of analysis and other topics concerning the IOC trade standard.

To see the list of IOC chemistry experts (in French and Engish and titled “Groupes d’experts en matière de chimie oléicole et normes”), click here.

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