The popularity and burgeoning range of extra virgin olive oils flavored with plant extracts such as garlic, lemon, thyme and rosemary poses a big dilemma for the olive oil sector – should these olive oils really be labeled extra virgin?

As the International Olive Council (IOC) has itself put it, “How can virgin olive oil be considered ‘extra’ when the substances added to it make it impossible for organoleptic analysis to confirm that it really is extra grade?”

The IOC announced today that it thus seeking input from stakeholders in the olive oil industry about “this delicate issue” with a view to resolving the uncertainty.

It said that lately the IOC Executive Secretariat had been asked several times about products labelled as ‘flavoured extra virgin olive oils’ containing plant extracts such as garlic, lemon, thyme or rosemary. It was an issue frequently discussed with IOC executive director Jean-Louis Barjol during his trip to the United States in January. His itinerary included a visit to the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, at which there were many such oils.

“The IOC is keen to make sure that consumers are given verifiable information and that business operators know where they stand legally. It therefore wishes to engage in a discussion on whether to draft an explanatory paper on these products to which the IOC trade standard is not applicable,” it said.

The IOC Executive Secretariat has asked delegates in its member countries and IOC experts and representatives of the IOC Advisory Committee on Olive Oil and Table Olives to provide their feedback by March 7.

Stakeholders in non-IOC Member countries are also welcome to contact the IOC Executive Secretariat by this date in order to share their views.

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