Students studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel will have the chance to increase their expertise in olive oil, a product of strong importance for the country and the university, with the introduction of a new olive oil certification course.
With recent olive oil adulteration scandals bringing the purity of some Israeli olive oils under scrutiny, experts in the industry have decided that such a course is necessary to the state in order to maintain high quality production. Olive oil production and export is of great economic importance to Israel, which produced around 18,000 tons in the last year. The product also has historical significance to Jewish people, linking the relatively new state of Israel with its ancient biblical history. It is a place where olive trees are considered sacred and olive oil is seen as a symbol of abundance and health, with many events still dedicated to the celebration of the olive harvest.
The majority of olive oil produced in Israel is classified as extra-virgin, the highest of the olive oil grades, thus there is little room for error in terms of production quality and control. However, it is estimated that around 20 percent of the oil sold under this label is adulterated with cheaper oils . The aim of the introduction of the new course is to educate a new generation of olive oil experts that are able to identify different oils according to internationally recognized standards.
The curriculum will be aligned with the International Olive Council standard and guidelines, which will help graduates become members of international organizations. Students who complete the new course will receive a license in “olive oil expertise,” allowing them to testify in Israeli and international courts as to olive oil quality in situations of dispute. This is seen as an essential step in light of recent olive oil fraud problems in the country.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is already a leading player in olive oil research, with the agricultural, biochemical and nutrition faculties often undertaking research projects investigating the product that is so important for the state.