New U.S. Olive Oil Standards Are Coming

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you are a Rachael Ray fan, you are sure to know what she means when she mentions EVOO. If you consider yourself a foodie or a farmer's market junkie, references to golden-hues or peppery finishes of oil do not confuse you. For many of us, selecting olive oil is a matter of purchasing what is on sale at the time our supply runs out. As the Mediterranean way of eating has become more and more popular, so has olive oil. With the increase in popularity came the confusing marketing terms and cheap imposters passing themselves off as top quality. Last April the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued new U.S. Standards for Grades of Olive Oil and Olive-Pomace Oil which will become effective at the end of October. These new standards will update and replace the existing standards that were last issued in 1948.

Here are the highlights of the new standards to help you beat the loopholes of food labels to ensure you are buying the quality you expect.

According to the new standards, there are three different types of olive oil.

  • Virgin olive oil - The oil from the fruit of the olive tree that does not include any alterations in the oil and contains no additives of any kind. Both virgin and extra virgin olive oils are suitable for consumption without further processing. Be cautious of oils labeled as lampante virgin olive oil because this type of virgin oil has undergone additional processing to become suitable for consumption.
  • Olive oil - This type of olive oil also comes from the fruit of the olive tree that excludes the use of oils obtained using processes including solvents or re-esterification and does not permit mixture with other oils.
  • Olive-pomace oil - Pomace is the product that remains after oil is mechanically extracted from the fruit of the olive tree. Additional oil can be obtained through added physical treatments and the addition of solvents. Olive-pomace oil may not include other types of oil. Since some Alpha-tocopherol (commonly referred to as vitamin E) is lost during processing, replacement is permitted in refined olive pomace and olive-pomance oil.
There are also various grades of olive and olive-pomace oil based on a variety of components including flavor and odor. There is a hierarchy in olive oil grading as follows.

  • U.S. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) - This top grade olive oil provides excellent flavor with fruity odor and a consistent yellow-green color.
  • U.S. Virgin olive - This next grade of oil is also consistently yellow-green in color with a good flavor and odor.
  • U.S. Virgin olive oil not fit for human consumption without further processing - This oil may also be labeled U.S. Lampante Virgin Olive Oil and although this is virgin olive oil it has poor flavor and odor. This grade of oil is intended for refining or purposes other than food use.
  • U.S. Olive oil - This grade of oil will typically consist of a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oils and may include alpha-tocopherol replacement.
  • U.S. Refined olive oil - This grade of olive oil is obtained from virgin olive oil through refining methods that do not alter initial structures of fatty acids but may also have alpha-tocopherol added to restore what was lost in refining.
Olive-pomace oils may not be labeled as olive oil and it should be noted that if the word pomace is included, the oil is of a lower grade than those listed above. These new definitions which will become enforced this fall will help consumers know they are receiving the level of quality they desire and will prevent cheaper oils from being passed off as fine extra virgin oil. These standards conform to international and trade group definitions so consumers will not be able to be tricked by fancy labels and confusing terms.

Did you know there were new olive oil guidelines? Have you had trouble determining quality when buying olive oil in the past? Will these new guidelines help?

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Thanks for the info-very informative! Report
I did not know there were guidelines, nor production of here in the states.I saw one in the store the other day that was half EVO and half vegetable oil. Not one I would buy even if it is cheaper than just EVO or EEVO! I didn't think you could bake with it though because of the flavor and texture change, as well as trying to adjust for temp. change. Report
I like the extra virgen olive oil, but I also get hte cold-pressed. Luckily the whole family is quite used to the flavor by now Report
I use a good EVOO in baking brownies. Try it! Report
no i did not know that there were standards for olive oil
i just buy evoo or virgin olive oil. Report
ZORBS13 (1st comment) is so right!!!
I did learn from Rachel Ray to buy only EVOO and I use it frequently - in small amounts. Also happy I have gotten my grown kids to use it, too.
THANKS for the up-to-date info! Report
Thanks for the info... Of course I have always checked the color and the label... now I know why--- and sometimes the good stuff is as good as butter on veggies : ) Report
I have to admit that I am the person who bought the olive oil that happens to be on sale. I do plan to buy extra virgin olive oil the next time I need to buy some. Report
Here's another use for olive oil. If you get tar on yourself while at the beach, use olive oil to remove it off your skin. I also tried it once on a scuff mark my ex had left with his rubber soles, and it took the scuff mark right off. I would suggest buying a cheaper grade for cleaning purposes though. It could get rather expensive using EEOV. Report
There are also different levels of quality for Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil retains most of it's nutrients and it's also going to be bolder in taste. Report

Thank you for the heads up about the word "pomace" and US. I truly appreciate knowing what they mean before I will encounter them at the market place away from research tools. Report
I live in Chico, CA, and in our area, California Olive Ranch is striving to be a major suppier of olive oils. I have tried their EVOO and find it is superior to a lot of the domestically produced olive oils around. However, we also have some very excellent "artisan" olive oil producers in our area as well, and some of their flavored olive oils (infused with Blood Orange or Meyer Lemon) are scrumptious on salads or roasted veggies. Report
There is a huge difference in the olive oil here and the ones in the Mediterranean area. Their's is much richer and greener than ours. Just don't buy it at the duty free shop at the airport.. It will just get confiscated once you reach US customs unless it's in your checked baggage. Report
This got me to looking at my PAM can - I use the Extra Virgin Olive Oil for many things but also use the PAM olive oil and noticed that the can recommends 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil PAM - I'm going to look for it when I go shopping today.
I use less when I spray - and will be trying a roasted Kale recipe with it this weekend. Report
I usually lean towards EVOO...if it's good enough for Rachel's good enough for me! Report
I use EVOO and VOO. I stopped using Corn Oil years ago. I use EVOO and VOO for all my stir-frying, baking, and for making salad dressing. I use a well-known brand to be sure that I'm getting 100% oil. Report
I switched from corn oil to a different kind of oil years back after reading an article. Then, about 4 years ago, I switched to olive oil. However, I didn't know that both EVOO and VOO were without additives. I will now only use these types of oil. Thank you so much. Once again, I see I don't know all I thought I knew about a subject matter.

Laugh Your Shorts Off, now available on Report
I now use only olive oils. Extra Virgin for salads and cooking that the olive oil will inhance the flavor of the dish. And LIght Virgin olive oil for cooking and baking.
One note on this article. In describinb the oils or any food for that matter, one should think of the product as having a aroma not a odor :-)...Chef Jim Report
what a great breakdown of the different olive oils available... i've always had a basic idea, but this really laid it out perfectly! Report
Excellent breakdown of the difference in olive oils. I, too, love olive oil and have even been to an olive oil specialty shop that has oil tastings, just like a wine tasting. YUMMY!!! Report
I use many types of oil depending on what I am cooking. I used EVOO on salads, and when I am dipping bread. Nice to know the consistency will be in place in the near future. Report
This should be really helpful! Reading labels on bottles of olive oil is challenging at best; I usually opt for not the most expensive or least expensive bottle, but purchase one in between the two. Report
VERY informative! I had no idea EVOO was so ... complicated. Thanks for the information. Report
I had no idea there were specific US standards for grading olive oil. I use extra virgin olive oil regularly. I always buy "first cold pressed" imported extra virgin olive oil. I'll admit it, I'm an olive oil snob ! LOL !!! I usually buy my olive oil from Italy, Greece or occasionally Spain. I love the taste of a good olive oil and depending on where it was grown and how it was mixed, it could have very different flavors. It could be spicey, peppery, nutty, etc...

And if you can, do buy first cold pressed olive oil. All olive oils are cold pressed. the first cold press is the best quality. once you keep pressing the olives, the quality of the oil decreases. So, you may pay extra for first cold pressed, but it's worth it.

I LOVE olive oil !!

PS - I would never touch "lite" olive oil. That's an insult as far as I'm concerned. don't forget, I'm an olive oil snob. LOL !! Report
RD03875--if you look, the blog does give the full expression before the first time the acronym is used; that's the usual way to present acronyms.

What I want to know is, what have we been using up till this point? how different are these standards? I'm assuming EVOO is as it ever has been. Anything else has always sounded a bit dicey anyway. Report
I don't know what "yippie" stuff is either, but I only cook with Olive Oil and usually Extra Virgin. I have canola oil for baking. Butter goes on toast. I use Extra Virgin Olive Oil (please, help me stop the EVOO madness), for most everything. It is full of flavor, is a healthy fat, and has many other health benefits. Regular Olive Oil is used for frying/stir frying because it has a higher burning point than Extra Virgin. Also, there are many high quality manufacturers of Olive Oil right here in the U.S. Stonehouse Olive Oil for example, if from California, organic, and fabulous.

We don't have a ton of extra cash to throw around, but there are certain things I will NOT buy the econo brand of... and one of them is Olive Oil. A good quality olive oil can make a dish tastier and healthier. While I knew there were guidelines, I didn't know the U.S. was imposing new ones. But, it could be a good thing. The denomination "Extra Virgin" can't be given to just anything, like "organic", it should be certifiable. Report
I've been using EVOO for a while on salads. I had a nutrition class and my instructor raved that it was the best choice. I also buy OO spray for cooking ; I find that I use less when spraying rather than pouring. Report
EVOO is like nails on the chalk board to me, grow up and say what it is! Report
im not sure what yuppie food is. but im sure of this we use and go through evoo like nothing you would believe. of course its not good for frying, why would you want to use evoo for frying, thats kind of defeating the purpose. i use this on veggies, salads, its great on bread with a little chopped garlic. yummo i saute with it too. but a big difference in frying oil. Report
I'm also wondering about the "light" versions of OO that says on the label it's recommended for baking. The word "light" being that it's light in color and the usual strong EVOO flavor. I have OO in my cabinet that I use rarely. The oil I use for most everything is Canola Oil. Report
big time foodie and love cooking with evoo but never knew about the guidelines i also like saffron and grapdeseed oil. Report
I'm not a "foodie" and never buy OO, but just regular oil. I did read that the OO sold in discount stores is a rip-off as they tested it and found that up to 90% of what was in the bottle wasn't really EVOO. Apparently this has been a BIG issue, so that is why there is these laws now. I'm frugal so never got into buying any of this "Yippie" stuff that is imported. Report
EVOO is the only oil I use except for making pop corn. I've tried the flavored oils, but don't care for them. Report
Never ever realized there were so many variations Report
I have tried these oils but there not to good for frying cautious... Report
I hope the EVOO I have been buying at a certain store for several years now for $7.99 a bottle is not processed. I use it in just about every savory dish I make. Report
I always wondered what "extra virgin" olive oil meant. Is there any nutritional difference between a light colored oil and a darker one?

Next question: "Does virgin wool come from ugly sheep?" Report
I use EVOO whenever possible... and I have both the regular and light! Depends on what I am using it for as to which I use Report
very neat! Report
I'm surprised you didn't mention "light" olive oil, a lot of people don't realize the label refers to flavour/colour, not calorie count. Report
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