California's burgeoning olive oil producers are counting on a newly enacted state labeling law to persuade more consumers that American brands are more virginal than their imported rivals.
The measure, signed into law on Friday by Governor Jerry Brown, tightens the definitions of various calibers of olive oil, such as "virgin" and "extra virgin," to conform with standards recently adopted by the Department of Agriculture.
Supporters of the bill say overseas labeling enforcement has slipped to the point where the overwhelming majority of imported "extra virgin" olive oil on supermarket shelves is actually a lower-grade product.
The aim of the new law is to help persuade California shoppers to reject imported olive oil touted as "extra virgin" in favor of domestic brands that are more honestly labeled, and more than likely made from olives grown in-state.
"We spend a lot of money for imported extra-virgin olive oil that in many cases isn't extra virgin, when we produce actual extra-virgin olive oil ourselves," said state Senator Lois Wolk, a Democrat who sponsored the labeling measure.
In 2010 studies, University of California at Davis and Australian researchers found that of the five best-selling imported "extra virgin" olive oils 73 percent of bottles tested failed to meet International Olive Council standards for "extra virgin."
A CURIOSITY over old olive trees growing on historic farms has turned into gold for a northeast couple. Over the past 20 years Eberhard Kunze and Maureen Titcumb have propagated tens of thousands of olive saplings to save old genetic stock.
This year, oil from their priola trees, a variety they discovered and named, won gold at the 12th Australian Golden Olive Awards.
The awards, announced last month in Rutherglen, drew more than 70 entries from around the nation.
Three of the four gold medal winning oils were processed at the couple's grove, EV Olives at Markwood, east of Wangaratta.
Eberhard and Maureen's interest in heritage olives stems from research work done in the 1990s by South Australian Dr Michael Burr.
"Michael was looking for old trees in the area with good production and disease resistance," Ms Titcumb said.
With the imminent advent of the olive harvest season, the agriculture ministry on Wednesday said it will employ marketing procedures to help farmers sell their olive oil.
Ministry of Agriculture Secretary General Radi Tarawneh explained yesterday that even if there is a surplus of olives and olive oil this year, the ministry will help farmers market their produce "as it does every year".
He added that the civil and military consumer corporations and the Economic Social Association of Retired Servicemen and Veterans will buy extra amounts of olive oil that farmers cannot market.
Tarawneh also noted that the Royal Court always buys locally produced olive oil to be included in Hashemite Charity Caravan food parcels that are distributed to underprivileged families and "will do so again this year".
"If these measures do not help market the expected surplus of olives and olive oil, the ministry will grant export permits to all traders interested in selling Jordanian olive oil abroad," he said.
Kendall College of the Culinary Arts in Chicago hosted yesterday a unique event showcasing one of the most essential products in the kitchen: olive oil. Proceeds to benefit Common Threads.
The event hosted by world-renowned olive oil expert, Alfonso J. Fernandez features a presentation, olive oil tasting, tapas and wine all set in a fun and interactive learning environment. Although some may know the basics of olive oil, it can be surprising to learn the varieties of the product, many ways to use them, and how they can bring unique flavors to other dishes.
There are 262 varieties of olive cultivated in Spain, although 24 are used regularly in the production of oils. The most important varieties produced include Picual, Hojiblanca, Arbequina and Cornicabra. Each variety produces an oil distinctive in color, flavor and application.
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