The American Olive Oil Producers Association and Deoleo are urging government officials to set and enforce quality standards.

By Kelly Vaughan
November 08, 2019

With so many different bottles and manufacturers of extra-virgin olive oil, it's challenging to choose which is the best option. Even more confusing is understanding the difference between a $8 bottle and a $30 bottle of extra-virgin olive oil. The American Olive Oil Producers Association and Deoleo, the world's largest producer of olive oil, are hoping to make the discrepancies clearer—and standards higher—when it comes to labeling extra-virgin olive oil. On Monday, the lobby created a citizens' petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging leaders to set and enforce quality standards.

In the petition, the AOOPA and Deoleo argue that "the U.S. has no enforceable standard of identity for olive oil products. The result is widespread mislabeling of grades, adulteration, consumer mistrust, and unfair and unethical industry business practices." They believe it is imperative that the FDA sets standards that will "better inform and protect consumers." Their hope is to model the standards after those set in place in California, where olive oil is one of the most prosperous and prized agricultural products.

Related: How to Buy Olive Oil: Our Test Kitchen's Guide

One of the main concerns of the AOOPA and Deoleo is that far more olive oils are labeled as "extra-virgin," when very few truly qualify as such, due to a lack of government oversight. According to the petition, the proposed standards include three distinct categories of olive oil products: olive oil, olive-pomace oil, and mixtures of olive oil or olive-pomace oil with vegetable or seed oils. The petition also explains that the olive oil category contains five grades: extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, olive oil, refined olive oil, and lampante oil.

While many extra-virgin olive oils may be high quality when bottled, the product can rapidly deteriorate due to light exposure, heat, and time. By the time it hits grocery store shelves and is picked up by consumers, it has generally lost much of its quality. Because of its perishable nature, the AOOPA and Deoleo directed their petition at the FDA, which has oversight on packaged foods, instead of the USDA.

Extra-virgin olive oil refers to the highest possible grade of olive oil. The blend is unrefined and extracted without the use of heat or chemicals. To ensure that you're purchasing a high-quality bottle of olive oil, look for a hand-stamped harvest date and grove location. Avoid clear, transparent bottles as exposure to light can degrade the quality of the olive oil.

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