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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