Grades

Australia Adopts New Voluntary Standards for Olive Oil

Jul. 20, 2011
By Olive Oil Times Staff

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Following a rig­or­ous stan­dards devel­op­ment process involv­ing mul­ti­ple indus­try stake­hold­ers – and almost 800 public com­ments – Standards Australia has approved a new olive oil stan­dard.

A bench­mark for olive oil qual­ity to ensure con­sumers get the prod­uct they pay for.- Colin Blair, Standards Australia

Standards Australia is a not-for-profit organ­i­sa­tion recog­nised by the Australian gov­ern­ment as the pri­mary non-gov­ern­ment stan­dards body in Australia.

“Unscrupulous oper­a­tors who are cur­rently prof­it­ing from the sig­nif­i­cant price dif­fer­ence avail­able by decep­tively re-sell­ing seed oils and/or infe­rior qual­ity olive oil as high-value extra virgin olive oil will be seri­ously affected by this new reg­u­la­tion,” Leandro Ravetti told Olive Oil Times when the new draft was pro­posed in January. “Meanwhile, gen­uine and honest oper­a­tors from Australia, New Zealand and over­seas will receive the advan­tage of a level play­ing field where their higher qual­ity prod­ucts are pro­tected and rec­og­nized.”

A member of the Standards Australia Technical Committee FT-034 Olive Oil rep­re­sent­ing Australian olive grow­ers, Ravetti was in charge of writ­ing the Standard, fol­low­ing direc­tions received from a tech­ni­cal com­mit­tee of vary­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives through­out the indus­try, and col­lat­ing and resolv­ing their com­ments and obser­va­tions.

Colin Blair, the chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of Standards Australia said “The new stan­dard will estab­lish a bench­mark for olive oil qual­ity to ensure that con­sumers get the prod­uct they pay for. Olive oil can been found in vir­tu­ally every kitchen pantry and this stan­dard will result in better qual­ity prod­ucts for every­day con­sumers.”

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Mr. Blair said the public com­ment process attracted sig­nif­i­cant public inter­est due to con­cern regard­ing the qual­ity and con­sis­tency of olive oil prod­ucts. According to Standards Australia, the new Australian Standard for Olive and Olive-Pomace Oils will:

• Clearly out­line dif­fer­ent grades of oil – whether fresh or refined
• Unambiguously define what con­sti­tutes Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• Include the most cur­rent and effec­tive test­ing meth­ods for qual­ity and authen­tic­ity
• Provide a tech­ni­cal basis for ‘best before’ claims
• Provide labelling require­ments to min­imise con­sumer con­fu­sion
• Crackdown on misuse of the words: pre­mium, super, pure, light/lite
• Require sub­stan­ti­a­tion of words describ­ing country/region of origin
• Require sub­stan­ti­a­tion of pro­cess­ing meth­ods (e.g. cold pressed, first extrac­tion)
• Accommodate the nat­ural vari­a­tions that occur in dif­fer­ent coun­tries, olive vari­eties and regions, with­out com­pro­mis­ing the abil­ity to test and verify qual­ity

Paul Miller, President of the Australian Olive Association, wel­comed the stan­dard as a sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward for the indus­try. “The stan­dard pro­motes and pro­tects authen­tic prod­ucts, and puts con­sumers in a much stronger posi­tion when it comes to making informed choices,” Mr Miller said.

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For its part, the International Olive Council (IOC) issued a state­ment in February rec­om­mend­ing a recon­sid­er­a­tion of the guide­lines, call­ing parts of the olive oil stan­dards pos­si­ble “bar­ri­ers to inter­na­tional trade” that could actu­ally make olive oil adul­ter­ation “easier”.

The state­ment, titled “IOC Comments on the Draft Australian/New Zealand Standard Olive Oils and Olive Pomace Oils”, laid out about twenty “dis­crep­an­cies” — or parts of the pro­posed stan­dards incon­sis­tent with exist­ing IOC con­ven­tions — that included def­i­n­i­tions, olive oil cat­e­gories and test­ing meth­ods that differ with, or do not exist in the IOC stan­dards. “It would be expe­di­ent,” accord­ing to the doc­u­ment, “for the Australian/New Zealand draft stan­dard to be re-exam­ined.”

Regarding the deci­sion to set Australia’s new max­i­mum level of free acid­ity in extra virgin olive oil at 0.8 per­cent, in line with the inter­na­tional stan­dards, Mr. Ravetti said per­son­ally he is in favor of the idea of lower free acid­ity levels for EVOO. “But we must remem­ber that the pro­posed doc­u­ment is the result of con­sen­sus reached amongst a large number of stake­hold­ers,” he said. “It seems clear through­out the new doc­u­ment that all changes in com­par­i­son with inter­na­tional leg­is­la­tions were intro­duced only when absolutely nec­es­sary and very well sup­ported by tech­ni­cal evi­dence.”

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