Berkeley, California (EastBayDaily) — Patricia Darragh, COOC Executive Director, states: “We commend Mr. Mueller’s in-depth expose of this critical worldwide problem, which affects millions of consumers and retailers in the United States.”
As the originators of more than 98% of all the extra virgin olive oil produced domestically, California producers are competing against dozens of imported oils, many of which may be incorrectly labeled. As Mr. Mueller points out, “The American market, which is worth about one and a half billion dollars, is the largest outside Europe, and is growing at a rate of ten percent a year.”
Quoting from a laundry list of alleged criminal activities, the author notes that “in February, 2006, federal marshals seized about sixty-one thousand litres of what was supposedly extra virgin olive oil and twenty-six thousand litres of a lower-grade olive oil from a New Jersey warehouse. Some of the oil…consisted almost entirely of soybean oil…” Consumers pay premium prices for olive oils marked “extra virgin.”
To this point, the California Olive Oil Council petitioned the USDA in August 2004 in an effort to set standards for labeling grades of olive oil. The council is optimistic that the standards will be adopted by the end of the current year.
The California Olive Oil Council awards its seal each year to oils that pass its tests for “extra virgin.” Chemical testing in an independent laboratory as well as a sensory assessment by a rigorously trained Taste Panel determine whether or not an oil is truly extra virgin. Ms. Darragh highlights the fact that “for the last three years, the COOC has added a UVA chemical requirement, which is there to detect potentially adulterated oils.”
The final step for certification is to pass a blind tasting by the Panel; in its evaluation, the Panel is not only looking for defects that would disqualify the oil as extra virgin, but is also seeking positive attributes such as fruitiness, pungency and bitterness.
Linda Sikorski, Senior Buyer for The Pasta Shop, a gourmet retailer with stores in Berkeley and Oakland, California, comments: “You’ll find the oils with the California Olive Oil Council Seal have fantastic flavor, they have no defects, they are definitely extra virgin and they are definitely from California.”
About the COOC
The California Olive Oil Council was founded in 1992. The COOC is a non-profit trade and marketing association whose purpose is to promote the growing of olives and the production of olive oil in California. The COOC supports certified olive oil standards and provides grower, producer and consumer education. The COOC is dedicated to promoting fresh, quality extra virgin olive oils made in California. Through our Seal Certification program, we help everyone from home chefs to restaurants find guaranteed extra virgin olive oils for their kitchens. For more information, visit the COOC web site at http://www.cooc.com, and view our three-minute video on the California olive oil industry, at http://www.cooc.com/video.html.
Patricia Darragh, Executive Director
The California Olive Oil Council