The North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) has submitted a petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an “enhanced standard of identity for olive oil and olive-pomace oil products” to define the different grades of olive oil and the analytical methods used in their determination.

The NAOOA, whose members are companies that import olive oil into the U.S., said it first petitioned the FDA with the same objective in 1990.

The petition, dated July 9th, is seen as a response to a move earlier this year by American olive oil producers. A group led by Adam Englehardt, vice president of California Olive Ranch, drafted a federal marketing order hoping to set higher quality standards, redefine grades and require new testing of all olive oil produced in the United States. If adopted by the USDA, industry sources said domestic producers would push for the rules to apply to imports too.

Importers, on the other hand, have been calling for an alignment of U.S. trade standards with those established by the International Olive Council. Ninety-nine percent of the olive oil Americans consume is imported.

In a statement, NAOOA Executive Vice President Eryn Balch said “We should take advantage of the due diligence already performed on the part of industry supporters, state legislators and the USDA that demonstrates there is substantial interest as well as consumer and trade benefits to mandating a common definition of the grades of olive oil and methods of proof related to the olive oil category. An alignment of the federal standard is the last piece of the puzzle to ease the path on the critical aspect of enforcement.”

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