Yale to Host Conference on Olive Oil, Plans to Establish Research Center

The conference will gather industry members from an array of disciplines to plan the formation of an olive oil think tank.

Yale University
Sep. 17, 2018
By Daniel Dawson
Yale University

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Yale University’s School of Public Health is set to host its first con­fer­ence on olive oil next month.

The two-day event will bring together peo­ple from diverse dis­ci­plines to dis­cuss a vari­ety of top­ics includ­ing olive oil chem­istry and health, test­ing meth­ods, the impacts of cli­mate change and dis­ease on its cul­ti­va­tion, as well as the poten­tial for inno­va­tion in the sec­tor.

Tassos Kyriakides said he came up with the idea for the con­fer­ence after com­plet­ing the Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Program at the International Culinary Center, which is pro­duced by the Olive Oil Times Education Lab.

Kyriakides and the depart­ment chair at Yale’s School of Public Health, Vasilis Vasiliou, envi­sion the con­fer­ence as an annual event lead­ing even­tu­ally to the for­ma­tion of a cen­ter at Yale ded­i­cated to aggre­gat­ing and dis­sem­i­nat­ing olive oil knowl­edge as well as sup­port­ing projects and stud­ies.

I knew some­thing had to come together from [my par­tic­i­pa­tion in the course],” Kyriakides told Olive Oil Times. What I think drove the idea for this cen­ter in my mind was that there is all this infor­ma­tion out there from all these peo­ple and their per­spec­tives work­ing on these things.”

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Among those attend­ing the con­fer­ence will be aca­d­e­mics, indus­try pro­fes­sion­als and trade groups from Greece, Italy, Spain and the United States. Kyriakides is expect­ing between 80 and 100 peo­ple to attend. He said that the responses from those invited to attend have been over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive.

There are a lot of dif­fer­ent peo­ple com­ing from their own per­spec­tive and the idea is that a cen­ter, such as this one, will func­tion as a facil­i­ta­tor of activ­i­ties that hap­pen all over the world,” he said.

We feel that every­body will ben­e­fit from some­thing like that,” he said. We see this as an attempt for indi­vid­u­als to con­tribute and give back to other cen­ters and orga­ni­za­tions based on what they do in their area.”

How exactly the cen­ter will work is yet to be deter­mined. Kyriakides plans on let­ting the two-day con­fer­ence run its course and tak­ing into account what every­one in atten­dance thinks before chart­ing a path for­ward.

The first day of the con­fer­ence will be ded­i­cated to pre­sen­ta­tions from a diverse array of indi­vid­u­als and fields, each dis­cussing what they are doing in the olive oil sec­tor. The sec­ond day will be more of an open dia­logue with peo­ple break­ing off into smaller groups. At the end of the day, every­one will get back together and share what they dis­cussed.

At the end, we will re-envi­sion the out­put of this and draft guide­lines or a blue­print of how this cen­ter will work,” Kyriakides said, adding that he already has the back­ing of the dean of the School of Public Health.

Joseph R Profaci, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA), said he will be among the indus­try trade group rep­re­sen­ta­tives attend­ing the con­fer­ence.

Profaci told Olive Oil Times that the NAOOA has been look­ing for an aca­d­e­mic part­ner with which to estab­lish a multi-dis­ci­pli­nary olive oil cen­ter focussing on health and nutri­tion. The trade group had approached sev­eral other uni­ver­si­ties with the pro­posal but were pleas­antly sur­prised to hear this news com­ing out of Yale.

I was very excited to see this idea spring from Kyriakides and Vasiliou, appar­ently with­out prompt­ing from the indus­try,” Profaci said. Clearly, the key chal­lenge for the pro­posed Yale cen­ter, or any such cen­ter, will be find­ing sub­stan­tial and sus­tain­able sources of fund­ing.”

However, Kyriakides does not seem wor­ried about fund­ing the project.

Starting some­thing like this, our idea is to draw sup­port from foun­da­tions and agen­cies that will sup­port projects geared toward the study of olive oil and any area of focus,” he said. “[This will] allow indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions to be able to apply for some fund­ing, some resources so they can con­tinue doing their work.”

If it were only up to Kyriakides, the cen­ter would pri­mar­ily focus on pub­lic health and nutri­tion, which is what got him involved with olive oil and the Mediterranean diet in the first place. He sees American con­sumers as under­e­d­u­cated about the health ben­e­fits of olive oil and believes this cen­ter could be one step in help­ing to change that.

I think with my own bias being in pub­lic health and nutri­tion, [we should focus on] how we max­i­mize the abil­ity of this prod­uct,” he said. In the U.S. we are behind in the edu­ca­tion and acknowl­edg­ment that this is a prod­uct that should be used, not just for the culi­nary qual­i­ties that it has, but also for the health ben­e­fits that it has.”

Having a cen­ter that will gather and dis­sem­i­nate that infor­ma­tion at an aca­d­e­mic insti­tu­tion such as an Ivy League school def­i­nitely helps pro­mote that idea and give it weight,” he added.

The olive oil and health con­fer­ence will be held on October 3 and 4 at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut.





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