In 2011 the Olive Business newsletter asked the question ‘Should something be done about the labelling of infused ‘extra virgin’ olive oils or is it more convenient to live with this inconvenient truth?’
Now three years later the International Olive Council has turned its attention to resolve the issue.
The IOC ‘Trade Standard Applying to Olive Oils and Olive Pomace Oils’ clearly states that no food additives can be added to olive oil, with the exception of a small amount of alpha-tocopherol for refined olive oils. The essences, fruit, herbs and spices added as infusions or flavours are obviously food additives.
The push by the IOC to have member countries ban the descriptor ‘olive oil’ being used on any infused olive oils will have wide implications for the trade, especially in the boutique olive and vinegar stores in the USA and Canada. Flavoured oils are popular in these countries and make up a large proportion of the sales in the boutique stores.
It will be interesting to see how active those who have been at the forefront of exposing allegedly ‘fraudulent’ olive oils will be in policing this obvious breach of international trade standards. There are also implications for competitions such as the LA Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition and the Australian Olive Association Competition which include classes for flavoured oils.
The ability to infuse olive oils with different tastes and aromas, and the inability to test the base olive oil for integrity, has enabled the use of non-compliant oils to be used in the infused oils.
If there isn’t an innovative new descriptor developed that is attractive to consumers, the decline in the sale of infused oils could increase the amount of olive oil in the market which does not comply with the extra virgin olive oil classification.