Olive Oil Standards Keep Counterfeits out of the Kitchen

Neptune, N.J. (Nov. 4, 2009) —It’s no secret olive oil, the delicious staple responsible for the rich flavors and heart-healthy benefits of the Mediterranean diet, is fast becoming dear to the American palate. As demand for this premium product grows, the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) and its members want to ensure consumers get what they pay for when buying olive oil. To help achieve that, the NAOOA recently started asking states to adopt the international standard for olive oil.

Immediately, states began working closely with food safety and consumer advocacy officials to shed light on the situation and develop state-enforced standards for olive oil production and labeling. In a groundbreaking step in November 2008, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to adopt the international standard for olive oil. California, Oregon and New York soon passed state standards for olive oil. Legislators in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland have expressed support in creating an olive oil standard in their states as well.

These regulations stipulate that olive oil production and labeling must comply with a set of quality standards mirroring those established by the International Olive Council. They make it unlawful to manufacture, pack, possess or sell any blended oil claiming to be an olive oil without properly identifying the ingredients. Once enacted, these laws empower consumer protection agencies to levy fines and pull misleading products from store shelves.

“We’re proud of the hard work of the association in bringing these regulations to fruition,” says Bob Bauer, executive director of the North American Olive Oil Association.  “It’s a perfect example of an industry caring for the interests of its members and the welfare of its consumers.”

Bauer adds, “We don’t want to alarm consumers, because the overwhelming majority of olive oil sold in supermarkets is labeled properly. These regulations will help consumers be confident that the olive oil they’re buying in the supermarket is labeled correctly. We’re taking this extra step as an added measure of protection for them.”

Extra virgin olive oil is the oil derived from the first pressing of olives, without any refining. It possesses a distinctive aroma and taste, is low in acidity and has been reported by the Food and Drug Administration to play a role in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. Adulterated olive oil, that which is blended with cheaper oils such as nut, soy or low-grade olive oil, and not labeled as such, robs the consumer of the health benefits and superior flavors of extra virgin olive oil. Mislabeling also may pose a health risk for people with certain food allergies. “By working with states to enforce quality standards for olive oil, we’re helping maintain the integrity of our industry and ensure our products deliver the high quality our customers expect,” says Bauer.

Established in 1989, the North American Olive Oil Association is a trade association of marketers, packagers and importers of olive oil in the United States, Canada and their respective suppliers abroad. The association strives to foster a better understanding of olive oil and its taste, versatility and health benefits. For more information about olive oil and the NAOOA, visit www.aboutoliveoil.org.