Tom Mueller, the author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil and a nominee for this year’s James Beard Journalism Award said the International Olive Council (IOC) was, for the first time, keeping experts from non-IOC member countries from participating in the important annual meeting of the organization’s group of chemists in Madrid.
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In a blog post, Mueller wrote that AOCS Technical Director Richard Cantrill, Australian researcher Rod Mailer and others were excluded from the meeting where testing methods used to determine olive oil quality were to be reviewed. They were also denied access, Mueller said, to the meeting information on the IOC website.
Mueller said he heard from a “range of sources” that the IOC “may be about to reduce, or even eliminate, the use of sensory panels in determining olive oil quality.” If it does, that would appease the calls from major olive oil producers who have argued that the use of tastes tests to determine extra virgin grade was too subjective.
It would also render the grade meaningless, according to Mueller, “because sensory assessment is the most important way to determine if an olive oil is in fact top quality (extra virgin) or not.”
“If this happens, it’s the triumph of bad oil – once again the interests of a few big olive oil traders and bottlers will have trumped those of high-quality producers, and of consumers worldwide,” Mueller wrote.