SACRAMENTO — As producers prepare to harvest this year’s crop of California olive oil, new mandatory requirements have been adopted to better inform consumers about the quality and origin of the olive oil they purchase in stores.
At its most recent Board meeting, the Olive Oil Commission of California (OOCC) voted to require producers to provide a ‘Best By’ date on their packaging. The OOCC also addressed the issue of product origin on packaging by voting to require that only 100 percent California-grown olives be allowed in packages labeled with ‘California’ or other words that indicate California is the source of olive oil.
Additionally, the OOCC has become a member of an organization called the Buy California Marketing Agreement, a move that will allow producers of 100 percent California-grown olive oil to use a logo on their packaging which indicates the product is ‘California Grown.’
“The OOCC was established in 2014 to ensure California olive oil is clearly and accurately labeled and to develop and enforce strict standards for our products,” said Brady Whitlow of Corto Olive who serves as the Chairman of the OOCC. “The recent measures adopted by the OOCC are an effort to further improve consumers’ buying experience by providing them with additional information about their decision to purchase California olive oil.”
The OOCC is a government entity of the State of California which operates a mandatory testing and sampling program to verify the quality of California olive oil. The new labeling requirements will also be enforced by government officials. The OOCC program, which represents over 90 percent of all olive oil grown in California, is mandatory for producers with 5,000 gallons or more per year.
“California’s reputation as a high-quality producer of olive oil is growing and the OOCC wants to ensure our products are trusted and valued,” continued Whitlow. “Through research we are working to continually improve our product and to establish a recognizable and respected name for California olive oil.”
Under the new OOCC requirements for a Best By date on California olive oil bottles, Whitlow explained that olive oil quality diminishes over time and, in fact, once an olive oil is past its Best By date, it may no longer meet the criteria required to be considered Extra Virgin. Individual olive oils can maintain quality for as little as 6 months or as long as three years.
Producers will determine their own Best By date. However, this date must be supported by technical evidence. The OOCC has provided a guidance document outlining the technical evidence to help producers determine an appropriate Best By date for their olive oil.
The Best By date shall be displayed as “Best if Used By” or “Best By” on each producer’s label. The label will also include recommendations for storage conditions that help maintain olive oil quality so that it will remain Extra Virgin for as long as possible.
With respect to the new requirements regarding provenance, any olive oil that is produced, processed, sold, offered for sale, given away, or processed in California, that indicates on its label “California Olive Oil” or uses words of similar import that indicate California is the source of the oil, must have 100 percent of that oil derived from olives grown in California.
Additionally, if reference is made to a specific region in California, then at least 85 percent of the oil must be from olives grown in that region. Further, if reference is made to a specific estate within California, then 100 percent of the oil must be from olives grown on that estate and the estate must be owned or controlled by that producer.
To help consumers identify 100 percent California grown olive oil, the OOCC has become a member of the Buy California Marketing Agreement. This organization also operates under the California Department of Food and Agriculture and has a recognizable logo which features an image of a vintage California license plate and the words CA GROWN. This logo has long been used on packaging and labels of California-grown products. Members of the Buy California Marketing Agreement are allowed to use this CA GROWN Servicemark on their products. In the case of California olive oil, the logo may only be used on packages that contain olive oil derived from 100 percent California grown olives.
“We are very excited about our new labeling requirements and believe they are beneficial for both consumers and producers of California olive oil,” concluded Whitlow. “The use of the California Grown logo is optional for producers, but we encourage brands who are bottling 100 percent California olive to take advantage of this opportunity to provide consumers this additional information.”
Additional information about the Olive Oil Commission of California and California olive oil can be found at www.oliveoilcommission.org.
–Olive Oil Commission of California
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