Paul Miller

Seizing on the momentum of yesterday’s announcement of new voluntary olive oil standards and wide media coverage, Australian Olive Association president Paul Miller took to the airwaves Wednesday.

A sensational primetime television segment on “Today Tonight” began with a voice-over stating “Australians are massive consumers of olive oil. Apart from Mediterraneans, Australians buy more olive oil than any other country.” While that statement would be true without the existence of the United States and Japan, it was just the beginning of the segment’s stunning determination to score one for the home team.

“Australia has become a dumping ground,” the report continued, “for the old oils that Italy and Spain, in particular, don’t really want.”

Drawing a line in the sand, the report referenced a report by the consumer watchdog Choice: “Tests revealed Australian olive oils are top quality and passed all the tests, but imported Spanish Greek and Italian oils tested did not meet international standards.”

However, according to the results of the June, 2010 Choice study, some imported oils did meet the requirements for extra virgin, while some Australian brands failed the acidity and organoleptic benchmarks for the classification.

Yet near the end of the segment in a callout box only the imported brands were listed as “failures,” while the Australian olive oil brands that were mislabeled as extra virgin — Best Buy, The Olive Tree and Ollo — somehow escaped the public shellacking.

Miller provided a glimpse at how Australian producers plan to capitalize on the new standards, even if they are voluntary: “If the major retailers drag the chain on this, we’ll just keep pushing the fact that Australian oils comply with the standard,” he said.


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