Bid for tighter olive oil standards

The California Olive Oil Council asked USDA to tighten its grading standards for olive oil to prevent domestic and foreign producers from blending lower grade olive oil into what can be sold in the United States as “extra virgin” olive oil.

The U.S. currently has no legal definition of extra virgin.

Grading standards are much stricter in Europe. The trade group wants to replace the current U.S. grades of “fancy,” “choice,” “standard,” and “substandard” with the internationally accepted terms of “virgin,” “extra virgin,” and “refined”. It is also asking for more precise standards on the amount of acceptable impurities and acid and a requirement that extra virgin oils undergo chemical and taste analysis.

About half of the $443 million sales of olive oil in the United States this year will be extra virgin oil. USDA indicated it plans to solicit comments on changing the standards.

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