`California Certified: Who Made the Grade

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California Certified: Who Made the Grade

Feb. 13, 2012
Yardley Messeroux

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Enforce­ment of olive oil qual­ity stan­dards is still an elu­sive issue, since there isn’t a struc­tured mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem for every bot­tle that hits the shelves. Pro­duc­ers are expected to fol­low the guide­lines of the Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil and the USDA, but it’s on the honor sys­tem.

So the com­mon con­cern must be addressed yet again — what will give con­sumers, and olive oil afi­ciona­dos for that mat­ter, assur­ance that the extra vir­gin they’ve pur­chased actu­ally made the grade?

Luck­ily, cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­grams exist like that of the Cal­i­for­nia Olive Oil Coun­cil. With their new list of cer­ti­fied olive oils, the COOC con­tin­ues to push the rel­e­vance of the seal’ to both pro­duc­ers and con­sumers.

Through the COOC cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram, mem­bers are required to sub­mit their oils to undergo a test­ing pro­ce­dure to earn the COOC seal of approval. This seal is added to the label­ing of the olive oils that make the extra vir­gin grade.

For pro­duc­ers, it all boils down to rep­u­ta­tion and prof­itabil­ity. For con­sumers, it makes it that much eas­ier to iden­tify qual­ity Cal­i­forn­ian olive oils that will ben­e­fit the taste of their cook­ing, as well as the health of their fam­i­lies.

The COOC set their cri­te­ria a notch higher than indus­try stan­dards of the Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil and the USDA. The test­ing process ensures the olive oil con­tains less than 0.5 per­cent free oleic acid (the IOC and USDA stan­dards are set to only 0.8 per­cent); the olive oil can­not be extracted with chem­i­cals or using exces­sive heat; and it must pass taste test­ing per­formed by a highly skilled panel of expert, cer­ti­fied tasters.

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The COOC cel­e­brates its 20th anniver­sary this year and they have listed a ver­i­ta­ble who’s who of Cal­i­for­nia olive oil with the release of their 2012 seal win­ners. If you are a fan of good olive oil, take a gan­der at the ros­ter of freshly cer­ti­fied extra vir­gins from the Golden State. Sev­en­teen of the pro­duc­ers made the list three years in a row. Integrity never tasted so good.

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