- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
The USDA's new voluntary guidelines defining "extra virgin" olive oil go into effect Monday, but many of California's producers are already following even stricter regulations set down by the California Olive Oil Council, according to an article in the Ventura County Star.
USDA's guidelines allow for no defects and no more than 0.8 percent free oelic acid in olive oil labeled "extra virgin;" COOC requires no defects and no more than 0.5 percent free oleic acid.
The new guidelines come on the heels of a UC Davis Olive Center study finding that of 52 bottles of 19 brands of extra virgin olive oils sampled, 32 failed to make the extra virgin cut as described in the new guidelines. The study focused on imported brands, but included two samples each of five California brands. Of the 10 California samples, one failed the extra virgin test.
Even though they are voluntary and there is uncertainty over how or even whether they will be enforced, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center Dan Flynn welcomes the new national guidelines.
“This is an important first step, because the current guidelines date back to 1948 and are irrelevant to the way olive oil is marketed today," Flynn was quoted in the story. "Instead of ‘virgin’ and ‘extra virgin,’ they use terms like ‘Grade A Fancy,’ as though you were talking about cans of fruit cocktail. It’s a consumer-protection issue."