16 Aug

California Olive Oil Council promotes seal

• Says it guarantees extra virgin olive oil authenticity
• Antidote to the trade in adulterated olive oil

The California Olive Oil Council has launched a promotional campaign for its seal of certification for extra virgin olive oil following publication of a report laying out the problem of adulterated imported olive oil.

The report, “Letter from Italy: Slippery Business…The trade in adulterated olive oil” by Tom Mueller, is published in the current edition of the New Yorker magazine.

“We commend Mr. Mueller’s in-depth exposé of this critical worldwide problem, which affects millions of consumers and retailers in the United States,” says Patricia Darragh, COOC executive director.

California producers make more than 98 percent of all the extra virgin olive oil produced domestically. But Ms. Darragh says they have to compete against dozens of imported oils, many of which may be incorrectly labeled.

The New Yorker investigation reports that federal agents have seized thousands of gallons of adulterated olive oil imported from other countries. In one case, some of the oil consisted almost entirely of soybean oil, the magazine says.

(Ms. Darragh talks about the council’s seal and the state of California’s olive oil industry in today’s CVBT Audio Interview. Please click on the link at the end of this story to listen or to download the MP3 audio file.)

The California Olive Oil Council petitioned the USDA in August 2004 in an effort to set standards for labeling grades of olive oil. The council is optimistic that the standards will be adopted by the end of the current year, Ms. Darragh says.

The California Olive Oil Council awards its seal each year to oils that pass its tests for “extra virgin.” Chemical testing in an independent laboratory as well as a sensory assessment by a trained taste panel determine whether or not an oil is truly extra virgin.

“For the last three years, the COOC has added a UVA chemical requirement, which is there to detect potentially adulterated oils,” says Ms. Darragh.

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