Following a growing global trend toward olive oil quality assessment and control, Australian supermarket chain Coles has announced that all of its private label olive oils will comply with the the Australian Standard for Olive Oils and Olive Pomace Oils by the end of 2012.
As there are currently no mandatory controls for olive oil in the country, Coles’ adoption of the Australian Standard, which applies criteria for purity and quality, is voluntary. The Australian Standard was established in 2011 as a joint initiative between industry stakeholders and consumer advocacy group CHOICE to ensure accurate labeling and testing methods. The Australian Standard prohibits the use of hollow terms like “pure,” “light,” and “premium,” that can mislead consumers.
Olive oils approved by the Australian Standard must pass a series of taste tests conducted by an accredited sensory panel. Members of the panel test and rate each oil based on the Australian Olive Association’s 20-point sensory scoring system.
The Australian Standard also requires that all olive oils labeled “extra virgin” be unrefined, mechanically extracted from quality olives, and stored and handled according to guidelines to help ensure olive oils meet the grade at the time of purchase.
Lisa Rowntree, chief executive of the Australian Olive Association, said the move will certainly benefit the industry but urged the country’s second largest supermarket chain to go further.
“We very much look forward to seeing a change on the supermarket shelf, and we would strongly encourage Coles to ensure that all the importers who bring oil [to Australia] and sell it through Coles comply with the Australian Standard as well,” Rowntree said.
“They [Coles] have always said they’d do it for their own brands, but we want it to do it with their imports as well. They’ve argued that they can’t dictate what their suppliers do, which I think is rubbish,” Rowntree told The Weekly Times. “I think a supermarket can dictate what their suppliers bring in and they can choose not to stock it if it doesn’t comply.”
Coles said it began removing Coles brand olive oils that did not meet the Australian Standard earlier this year. The company said its effort to promote Australian-made extra virgin olive oil has resulted in a 50 percent sales increase over the past year.