The newly cre­ated Olive Oil Commission of California has made its rec­om­men­da­tions for olive oil grade and label­ing stan­dards to the California Secretary of Food and Agriculture. The stan­dards dif­fer in some aspects from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other organization’s guide­lines.

The Commission was cre­ated as a means for California olive oil pro­duc­ers and grow­ers to self-gov­ern their indus­try. The Commission’s first board of direc­tors was elected by their peers ear­lier this year with a mis­sion of improv­ing con­sumer con­fi­dence in olive oil qual­ity and fos­ter­ing growth in the indus­try.

The board held its first meet­ing in May 2014 and recently issued its report rec­om­mend­ing grad­ing and label­ing stan­dards applic­a­ble to California olive oil pro­duc­ers who gen­er­ate 5,000 or more gal­lons per year. If the Commission rec­om­men­da­tions become law, they will only apply to California oil but may even­tu­ally affect all U.S. and importer stan­dards.

A few high­lights for label­ing stan­dards include:

- Terms such as, “Pure,” “Light,” Extra Light,” and “Super Virgin” on olive oil labels should be pro­hib­ited because they mis­lead pur­chasers as to the oil char­ac­ter­is­tics.

- One hun­dred per­cent of the bot­tles of California oil should be from olives grown in California.

- If vari­etal names appear on the label, they should be listed in weight order.

- If the har­vest date appears on the label, all oils in the bot­tle should have been har­vested dur­ing the same har­vest period.

- All labels should include infor­ma­tion that allows for trace­abil­ity of the oil through­out its grow­ing and pro­cess­ing stages.

- Refined olive oil blend should not be labeled as olive oil.

Quality assur­ance mea­sures are also detailed in the report. Some of the mea­sures dif­fer from other stan­dards in use.

- There should be manda­tory test­ing of olive oil using accred­ited labs. Grading will be based on test results. The rec­om­mended test­ing process is not yet fully devel­oped.

- Free fatty acid con­tent mea­sures the qual­ity of oil as affected by its fruit qual­ity and care in han­dling. For Extra Virgin olive oil (EVOO), the free fatty acid con­tent should be less than or equal to 0.5 per­cent. The USDA stan­dard and International Olive Council (IOC) stan­dard is less than or equal to 0.8 per­cent.

- Peroxide val­ues indi­cate lev­els of oxi­da­tion. For EVOO, the val­ues should be less than or equal to 15.0 (meq 02/​kg oil). This is the same stan­dard used by the Extra Virgin Alliance whereas the USDA and IOC stan­dard is less than or equal to 20.0.

- “PPP,” which mea­sures oil degra­da­tion, and “DAGs” lev­els, which indi­cate oxi­da­tion or adul­ter­ation should be tested for EVOO. These mea­sures are not included in the USDA or North American Olive Oil Association guide­lines but are part of the Extra Virgin Alliance stan­dards.

- Sensory analy­sis of EVOO must show zero defects and median fruiti­ness greater than zero. This matches the USDA and IOC but the Extra Virgin Alliance and the California Olive Oil Council require fruiti­ness greater than 1.0.

Kimberly Houlding, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the American Olive Oil Producers Association, lauded the rec­om­men­da­tions. “The stan­dards put forth are sound, sci­en­tif­i­cally-based stan­dards — stan­dards that much of the indus­try is already meet­ing.” She believes that if the rec­om­men­da­tions are adopted, they will give con­sumers addi­tional con­fi­dence about the qual­ity of what is inside the bot­tle. Houlding also said that remov­ing labels such as “Pure” and “Light” will improve pur­chaser under­stand­ing and clar­ity.

The Commission rec­om­men­da­tions will be con­sid­ered at a pub­lic hear­ing on July 15, 2014 in Sacramento, California.


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