` In Olive Council Memorandum, 'Unease' Over Australian Standards - Olive Oil Times

In Olive Council Memorandum, 'Unease' Over Australian Standards

Sep. 30, 2011
Curtis Cord

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Back in January when Australia and New Zealand pro­posed new olive oil stan­dards that departed from those estab­lished by the International Olive Council, the IOC issued a state­ment call­ing the mea­sure a pos­si­ble bar­rier to trade” while rec­om­mend­ing a recon­sid­er­a­tion of the move.

The state­ment, titled IOC Comments on the Draft Australian/New Zealand Standard Olive Oils and Olive Pomace Oils,” laid out about twenty dis­crep­an­cies” that included def­i­n­i­tions, olive oil cat­e­gories and test­ing meth­ods in the pro­posed guide­lines that dif­fered with, or did not exist in the IOC stan­dards. It would be expe­di­ent,” the IOC said, for the Australian/New Zealand draft stan­dard to be re-exam­ined.”

So last month, when the new vol­un­tary rules were adopted by Standards Australia (New Zealand decided not to sign on) eyes turned to the IOC for what was expected to be a sharp rebuke.

That rebuke has arrived. In a copy of a for­mal mem­o­ran­dum obtained by Olive Oil Times and sent by the Executive Secretariat of the Council last week to Standards Australia, Codex Alimentarius and Australia’s agri­cul­ture and for­eign affairs min­istries, the IOC laid out what it sees as a trou­bling devel­op­ment.

While Australia is not a mem­ber of the inter­gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion, it nev­er­the­less takes part in IOC activ­i­ties and is kept per­ma­nently informed about its work,” begins the mem­o­ran­dum.

Calling the devel­op­ment of def­i­n­i­tions and ana­lyt­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics included in trade stan­dards one of the most sig­nif­i­cant reg­u­la­tory tasks” of the IOC, the duc­u­ment pro­ceeds to out­line efforts under­taken by the United Nations sanc­tioned orga­ni­za­tion under that man­date.
See Also: IOC Memorandum
One such ini­tia­tive is the yearly meet­ing of the IOC group of expert chemists from around the world, includ­ing Australia, to scru­ti­nize and improve test­ing meth­ods (that meet­ing will be held next week in Madrid, and one of the top­ics of dis­cus­sion will be the Australian stan­dards, accord­ing to a par­tic­i­pant famil­iar with the agenda). Changes to the inter­na­tional stan­dards are made, the IOC explains in the light of sci­en­tific advances,” and with broad agree­ment, to enhance olive oil qual­ity and ensure trans­parency in inter­na­tional mar­kets.”

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Working with inter­na­tional orga­ni­za­tions includ­ing Codex Alimentarius, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the World Trade Organization, the IOC has made enor­mous efforts” to achieve har­mo­niza­tion with those bod­ies toward con­sumer health pro­tec­tion and fair trad­ing. In that spirit, the IOC let­ter explains, it has also worked with Australian asso­ci­a­tions to imple­ment a qual­ity con­trol pro­gram to under­take prod­uct qual­ity con­trol at rec­og­nized lab­o­ra­to­ries using updated meth­ods.”

Those meth­ods would not have included mea­sur­ing pyropheo­phytins or diglyc­erides — two lim­its deter­mined in the new Australian guide­lines and iden­ti­fied in the IOC mem­o­ran­dum as sig­nif­i­cant depar­tures from the estab­lished inter­na­tional stan­dard.. According to the American Oil Chemists’ Society, test­ing for pyropheo­phytins helps to detect ther­mally treated olive oils and to esti­mate the age of the oil, while 1,2‑diglycerides is a char­ac­ter­is­tic of fresh olive oil.

The IOC also argues that the Australian stan­dard’s higher lim­its of campes­terol, which can indi­cate the pres­ence of seed oils, could result in more adul­ter­ated olive oil on the mar­ket if other restric­tions are not adjusted accord­ingly. And Australia’s new prod­uct des­ig­na­tion guide­lines which, for exam­ple, dis­al­low clas­si­fi­ca­tions such as pure” and light,” will con­fuse con­sumers and hin­der trade.

The IOC note ver­bale, or diplo­matic com­mu­ni­ca­tion, closes by call­ing on the var­i­ous orga­ni­za­tions to help stop unfair trad­ing prac­tices or poten­tial trade bar­ri­ers, to achieve more trans­par­ent trad­ing, to com­bat fraud and to pro­tect con­sumers through the har­mo­niza­tion and ful­fill­ment of the inter­na­tional stan­dards.”

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