`Olive Oil Commission of California Holds Informational Meeting

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Olive Oil Commission of California Holds Informational Meeting

Jan. 19, 2016
Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne

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Extra chairs lined the walls of the first-floor con­fer­ence room at the Cal­i­for­nia Farm Bureau Fed­er­a­tion in Sacra­mento for the Olive Oil Com­mis­sion of Cal­i­for­nia (OOCC) 2016 infor­ma­tional meet­ing. Sixty peo­ple had RSVP’d for the Jan­u­ary 13 event, but almost eighty attended.

The OOCC, which falls under the juris­dic­tion of the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Food and Agri­cul­ture (CDFA), was formed by the Cal­i­for­nia olive oil indus­try for the pur­pose of devel­op­ing, ver­i­fy­ing and enforc­ing stan­dards for Cal­i­for­nia olive oil, and for con­duct­ing research on olives and olive oil.

Signed into law Sep­tem­ber 24, 2013 by Gov­er­nor Brown, and approved by the qual­i­fy­ing grow­ers in March of the fol­low­ing year, the OOCC com­prises Cal­i­for­nia pro­duc­ers of over 5,000 gal­lons of olive oil. The CDFA manda­tory Grade and Label­ing Stan­dards for Olive Oil, Refined-Olive Oil and Olive-Pomace Oil became effec­tive Sep­tem­ber 26, 2014. About one-third of the atten­dees at this infor­ma­tional meet­ing were Cal­i­for­nia pro­duc­ers of less than 5,000 gal­lons to learn more about the com­mis­sion and its work.

Also attend­ing the pro­gram were var­i­ous olive oil and agri­cul­tural indus­try mem­bers: con­sul­tants, media, ven­dors, researchers, polit­i­cal staff, importers and per­son­nel from two indus­try trade orga­ni­za­tions, Cal­i­for­nia Olive Oil Coun­cil (COOC) and North Amer­i­can Olive Oil Asso­ci­a­tion (NAOOA).

After intro­duc­tions by Chris Zanobini, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the OOCC, the pro­gram kicked off with a pre­sen­ta­tion by Albert Katz of Katz Farm, chair of the OOCC Advi­sory Board, made up of pro­duc­ers of less than 5,000 gal­lons. Katz, a found­ing mem­ber of the COOC, gave a his­tory of the Cal­i­for­nia indus­try. Mem­o­rably, he quoted a let­ter from Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia (UC) researcher George Mar­tin to Lila Jaeger, the woman cred­ited with spark­ing the renais­sance of olive oil in Cal­i­for­nia. Truth in label­ing,” warned Mar­tin back in 1991, will be an issue we have to face.” Katz’s account led to the adop­tion of the revised USDA olive oil stan­dards in 2010, a move that was spear­headed by Cal­i­for­nia.

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Jeff Colom­bini of Lodi Farm­ing, chair of the OOCC board of direc­tors, picked up with the ques­tion Why a com­mis­sion?” The main dif­fer­ence between a com­mis­sion and a trade asso­ci­a­tion is that a com­mis­sion can levy a manda­tory assess­ment (cur­rently 14 cents/gal) and have manda­tory stan­dards. The cur­rent USDA stan­dard for olive oil, he pointed out, is vol­un­tary. On the other hand, a com­mis­sion can­not lobby, and the OOCC specif­i­cally can­not engage in pro­mo­tional activ­ity, so don’t look for the Got Cal­i­for­nia olive oil?” cam­paign from them. This remains the baili­wick of the COOC and other trade asso­ci­a­tions.

Colom­bini cov­ered the basics of the OOCC’s sam­pling and test­ing pro­gram, segue­ing into the next pre­sen­ta­tion by Paul Miller of the Aus­tralian Olive Asso­ci­a­tion (AOA). A sea­soned cam­paigner for bet­ter stan­dards around the world, Miller gave a crash course in olive oil test­ing — what the tests mea­sure and what the results tell us — and explained the con­text of inter­na­tional stan­dards. He pre­sented a quick sum­mary analy­sis of the results of the OOCC test­ing from the 2014 har­vest, show­ing how the results plot­ted again the lev­els set in the stan­dard. The 100 sam­ples he pre­sented — 38 from offi­cial CDFA test­ing and 62 from the manda­tory han­dler test­ing of every lot — were 90 per­cent extra vir­gin. 10 per­cent failed to meet the CDFA stan­dard for extra vir­gin and, there­fore, can­not be labeled as such.

Recently retired as long-time pres­i­dent of the AOA, which has had a qual­ity-test­ing pro­gram for seven years under its Code of Prac­tice, Miller talked about the AOA’s expe­ri­ences and described the Cal­i­for­nia results as a good out­come and con­grat­u­lated the grow­ers on a job well done. He also pointed out where the test results pre­sented an oppor­tu­nity for pro­duc­ers to learn and improve.

Dan Flynn, exec­u­tive direc­tor of UC Davis Olive Cen­ter, con­tin­ued the dis­cus­sion of the Cal­i­for­nia test­ing data. The OOCC has funded research projects by the Olive Cen­ter to ana­lyze qual­ity and purity data for Cal­i­for­nia olive oils. In the OOCC qual­ity test­ing from 2014 – 15, six of the 10 fail­ing sam­ples did not meet the sen­sory stan­dard but passed the chem­i­cal para­me­ters. Two of the 10 passed the sen­sory tests but failed on chem­i­cal para­me­ters.

The OOCC analy­sis of purity data is part of the ongo­ing effort by olive oil pro­duc­ers in the U.S. and else­where to bet­ter under­stand and doc­u­ment the nat­ural vari­abil­ity of olive oil fatty acid and sterol pro­files depend­ing on vari­ety, cli­mate, matu­rity and other fac­tors. For this research, the Olive Cen­ter used both com­mer­cially pro­duced and lab-extracted mono­va­ri­etal olive oil sam­ples. The find­ings were con­sis­tent with pre­vi­ous work: A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber (20% per­cent) of gen­uine olive oil sam­ples were found to be out­side the offi­cial def­i­n­i­tion” of olive oil because of a fatty acid or sterol that fell beyond the USDA/CDFA purity para­me­ters. The fail­ing oils were almost all from the desert areas of the state, con­sis­tent with global find­ings that it is the more extreme cli­mate zones that most often result in fatty acid and sterol pro­files out­side exist­ing stan­dards.

Jim Adaskaveg of the Depart­ment of Plant Pathol­ogy and Micro­bi­ol­ogy at UC River­side dis­cussed a research project funded in part by OOCC on Olive Knot, which has always been an issue for Cal­i­for­nia olive grow­ers but the rise of mechan­i­cal har­vest­ing and prun­ing has resulted in greater chal­lenges for con­trol. The bac­te­ria from the Olive Knot galls require water to spread and must enter the tree through a wound. A leaf scar or frost crack will do, but nicks and cuts from mechan­i­cal har­vesters are par­tic­u­larly trou­ble­some since rain and har­vest so often coin­cide in the state. Adaskaveg’s team found that qua­ter­nary ammo­nium used as a ster­il­izer on equip­ment was very effec­tive in pre­vent­ing crews from spread­ing the pathogen.

Sim­i­larly, they had excel­lent con­trol with two new mate­ri­als used on the trees as a pro­tec­tant. Tra­di­tion­ally, cop­per has been used to pre­vent Olive Knot. Wor­ries about the pathogen devel­op­ing resis­tance to cop­per have spurred inter­est in alter­na­tives with dif­fer­ent modes of action. It appears that two new bac­te­ri­cides, kasug­amycin and oxyte­tra­cy­cline, are very effec­tive in pre­vent­ing infec­tion by Olive Knot. Used in rota­tion with cop­per, they could be impor­tant tools for man­ag­ing this dis­ease. Nei­ther of these is cur­rently reg­is­tered for use in Cal­i­for­nia on olives but efforts are under­way.

The after­noon wrapped up with a pre­sen­ta­tion Eval­u­a­tion of Olives as a Host of Xylella fas­tidiosa (Xf) in Cal­i­for­nia” by Rodrigo Krugner, a research ento­mol­o­gist at the USDA Agri­cul­tural Research Ser­vice. Krugner’s work iso­lat­ing the pathogen X. fas­tidiosa from olive trees, thought to be respon­si­ble for a dis­ease called Olive Leaf Scorch in Cal­i­for­nia, led to an unex­pected and fas­ci­nat­ing find­ing: when healthy olive trees were inoc­u­lated with the pathogen, there was no higher inci­dent of Olive Leaf Scorch in the inoc­u­lated plants than there were in the un-inoc­u­lated plants. If X. fas­tidiosa is a fac­tor in Olive Leaf Scorch in Cal­i­for­nia, it is only a part of a much big­ger pic­ture.

Also impor­tant was a look at the dif­fer­ent strains of Xf. There are two strains found in Cal­i­for­nia: X. fas­tidiosa subsp. fas­tidiosa, and X. fas­tidiosa mul­ti­plex. The Xf strain caus­ing Olive Rapid Decline Com­plex in Puglia is X. fas­tidiosa pauca; the pauca strain has never been found in Cal­i­for­nia. Krugner pointed out that in Italy they have a dis­ease, and they have a bac­terium, but no causal rela­tion­ship has yet been demon­strated. The rea­son it is being called a com­plex” is that there are likely mul­ti­ple fac­tors that result in the dis­ease.

The OOCC web­site con­tains infor­ma­tion about the objec­tives of the com­mis­sion, copies of the stan­dards, com­mis­sion doc­u­ments and a fre­quently-asked-ques­tions sec­tion.

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