Domestic olive oil producers, importers and retailers will gather in the northwestern Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Illinois this July for the fourth annual Olive Oil Conference.

The two-day event, which is co-hosted by the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) and International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Savantes, will cover an array of topics by a diverse panel of speakers. However, a key focus of the event will be about nutrition and health.

“What I really look forward to is seeing representatives from diverse sectors coalesce around common objectives and interests,” NAOOA executive director Joseph Profaci said. “This year, with an entire day dedicated to health and nutrition, we hope to attract more dieticians and nutritionists as well.”

The second day of the conference will focus on health and nutrition. The day’s program will include a commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, a proposal to repeat a Spanish study regarding the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular health and two presentations on polyphenols.

“This approach is all about marrying science and practical application,” Profaci said. “The first lecture is about the science of polyphenols, and the second presentation is geared to understanding how the polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil can practically be better integrated into the typical American diet.”

“We will follow on those presentations with the challenges of communicating health messages, such as the health benefits of polyphenols, to American consumers,” he added.

Frank Sacks of the Harvard School of Public Health will be discussing the proposal to repeat a Spanish study which found that replacing five percent of saturated fat calories with an equal number of calories from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats reduced the risk of heart disease by 15 to 25 percent, respectively. Olive oil is rich in both monounsaturates and polyunsaturates.

“[It] is pretty straightforward: consume few saturated fats like butter, full-fat dairy, beef and pork fat, and coconut, palm and palm kernel oils and replace them with natural vegetable oils high in polyunsaturates,” Sacks told the New York Times earlier this year.

The first day of the conference will focus on the state of the olive oil industry in terms of distribution, supply and demand; American eating habits and consumer attitudes toward olive oil; and strengthening quality controls, including a lecture on determining best-by dates from Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center.

Flynn said that he had not previously attended the conference and looks forward to networking with new and familiar faces from the sector. With his presentation, he hopes to educate consumers and producers about the benefits of fresh oil.

“The dates may help consumers be more aware of the value of olive oil freshness, and it may inspire producers to adopt practices that will extend the shelf life of their oils,” he said.

Pierluigi Tosato, the CEO of Deoleo, SA will also speak on the first day about what he believes is a much-needed revolution in supply, distribution and demand for olive oil. At a recent breakfast with the Spanish press, Tosato discussed these topics.

“The future of the olive oil sector comes through quality and needs a profound transformation in its entire value chain,” he told Spanish reporters. “It is [currently] anchored in a vicious circle, which we must reverse, turning it into a virtuous circle.”

The first day will conclude with an olive oil tasting refresher led by Simon Fields.

Profaci said he believes the diversity of these subjects combined with the expertise of the presenters will make this year’s conference stand out. With the high level of interest in olive oil in the U.S., he said he expects a turn out of at least 60 to 70 attendees.

“We built the program around the implications from the consumer attitude and usage study recently conducted jointly by the NAOOA and American Olive Oil Producer Association, and therefore the subjects are more current and pertinent than ever before,” he added.

“We are expecting a great turnout, as there is something for everyone in the category.”

The conference will take place from July 10 to 12. Registration for the event is available on the NAOOA website. Discounted packages are available if purchased before May 21.

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