` The Demise of Olive New Zealand's Sensory Panel

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The Demise of Olive New Zealand's Sensory Panel

Mar. 8, 2012
By Alastair Bridge

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The Exec­u­tive of Olives New Zealand (ONZ), the indus­try body rep­re­sent­ing the inter­ests of olive grow­ers, has recently announced that it will no longer run the assess­ment for its Olive­Mark cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gramme in New Zealand.

Instead New Zealand olive oils seek­ing to be cer­ti­fied as extra vir­gin will be sent to Aus­tralia.

In 2004, Olives New Zealand intro­duced the Olive­Mark — the sign of a rig­or­ous cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gramme for New Zealand pro­duced extra vir­gin olive oil.

Olive oils that meet the programme’s strict stan­dards are cer­ti­fied and awarded the Olive­Mark seal that can be dis­played on pro­duc­ers’ bot­tles. The seal is a guar­an­tee that the oil is 100 per­cent New Zealand extra vir­gin olive oil.

The cer­ti­fi­ca­tion stan­dards were based on those set by the Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil (IOC).

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Each oil was required to undergo inde­pen­dent chem­i­cal analy­sis test­ing and eval­u­a­tion by a highly trained sen­sory tast­ing panel that assessed the oil under stan­dard, blind con­di­tions at the Insti­tute of Plant and Food Research in Auck­land.

To ensure cred­i­bil­ity and integrity, in 2004 the sen­sory panel applied for and received IOC recog­ni­tion.

By pass­ing the exter­nal audit exams sent from the IOC each year since then, the panel retained its IOC recog­ni­tion and for a short time was the only native Eng­lish speak­ing, IOC recog­nised panel in the world.

The deci­sion to move the assess­ment to Aus­tralia will take effect for the 2012 sea­son has caused the imme­di­ate demise of the IOC – recog­nised ONZ sen­sory tast­ing panel.

This will result in the loss of badly needed exper­tise to the New Zealand olive indus­try, as a group of highly trained sen­sory pan­el­lists will not be able to main­tain their skills through eval­u­at­ing well in excess of 100 oils dur­ing the annual cer­ti­fi­ca­tion period, as well as being inter­na­tion­ally audited.

The loss of the sen­sory panel is a major set­back for the New Zealand olive indus­try, as it will no longer be one of the elite coun­tries in the olive oil world with a sen­sory panel hold­ing the pres­ti­gious Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil recog­ni­tion.

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