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Olive Oil Quality Standards

“All premium quality olive oils are Extra Virgin but not all Extra Virgin are premium quality olive oils.”

The term “Extra Virgin” describes a broad category of olive oils and should be viewed as an indicator that an olive oil meets a minimum standard-rather than as an indication of superior quality. While it is true that all high-quality olive oil is Extra Virgin, it is also true that most olive oils labeled “Extra Virgin” are not high quality. This is because the chemical and sensory parameters established for the grade are so broad that Extra Virgin includes very average and mediocre olive oils, as well as the better quality olive oils.

“There is a direct correlation between freshness and nutrition, shelf life, and taste.”

Olive oil is perishable and is better in every sense when it is fresh. Critical beneficial attributes (like polyphenol levels, antioxidants, flavor, and aroma) decline over time, while undesirable things– like rancidity and free radicals– develop. There is a direct correlation between freshness and nutrition, shelf life, and taste.

The International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) has a United Nations charter to develop criteria for olive oil quality and purity. Their main focus is regulating the legal aspects of the olive oil industry and preventing unfair competition. The standards they have developed are recognized by the vast majority of the world's olive oil producers and marketers. The International standards under resolution COI/T.15/NC no 3-25 (revised June 2003) lists nine grades of olive oil under two primary categories. Olive oil and olive pomace oil. This section provides the official definitions from section 2 of the standard for each of the nine grades.

The IOOC standard oils must meet certain criteria for inclusion into specific categories. The olive oils must not be adulterated with any other type of oil, must pass a sensory analysis by a certified panel of tasters, and must meet the analytical criteria. The standard indicates all the tests used to determine genuineness and purity along with legal requirements for the label. Olive oil is defined as oil obtained solely from fruit of the olive tree (Olea Europaea L.) Virgin oils are obtained solely by mechanical means that do not lead to alterations in the oil.

Olive Oil Category:
Oil obtained solely from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea Europaea L.) to the exclusion of oils obtained using solvents or re-esterification processes and of any mixture with any other kind of oils (seed or nut oil).

Virgin Olive Oils: Obtained solely by mechanical or physical means under thermal conditions that do not lead to alterations in the oil; using only treatments such as washing, decantation, centrifugation, and filtration. Those that are fit for human consumption are as follow:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This oil, as evaluated numerically by the mean of a certified taste panel, contains zero (0) defects and greater than zero positive attributes. In other words , more than half of the tasters indicated that it is not defective and has some fruitness. Extra virgin oil also must have a free acidity percentage of less than 0.8 and conform to all the standards listed in its category. This is the highest quality rating for an olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil should have clear flavor characteristics that reflect the fruit from which it was made. In relation to the complex matrix of variety, fruit maturity, growing region, and extraction technique, good olive oils can be very different from one another, but can all be classified as extra virgin.

Virgin Olive Oil: This is oil with a sensory analysis rating of the mean of tasters, having defects from 0 to less than 2.5, a free acidity of less than 2 percent, and conforms to all the other standards in its category. These are oils with analytical and sensory indices that reflect slightly lower quality than extra virgin olive oil.

Ordinary Virgin Olive Oil: Oil with a lower organoleptic rating (defects from the mean of tastes 2.5 to less than 6.0), a free acidity of less than 3.3 percent, and conformity within its category for all other standards. This is inferior oil with notable defects and is not permitted to be bottled under European Union (EU) laws, it is sent for refining. The EU has eliminated this category and other regulating agencies are likely to follow. It will simply be absorbed into the lampante category.

Disclaimer: Throughout this website, statements are made pertaining to the properties, benefits, and/or the functions of Olive Oil and Vinegar products. We are not medical practitioners, and we urge you to seek proper medical consultation by a trained medical professional before modifying your eating habits, or pursuing any of the health-related advice offered within this site.