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The Australian Olive Association (AOA) is the peak industry body representing Australian olive growers. For almost a decade they have been fighting for tighter regulations on the labelling of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) after many years of testing that have revealed some imported and domesticated brands of EVOO were not what they claimed to be.

In their most recent report carried out in 2015, the AOA tested 27 imported oils labelled as EVOO purchased from supermarkets. The tests found that 85 per cent of these supermarket oils labelled as EVOO failed to meet the Australian Standard for Olive Oil, and 78 per cent of the oils also failed the importers own European Union (EU) Standard and International Olive Council (IOC) Standard.

In 2010, CHOICE also carried out tests on 28 brands of EVOO and found around half – most of which were imported from Italy and Spain – didn't meet international standards for ‘extra virgin.’

These findings have frustrated Australian producers who are winning prestigious international awards for the quality of their EVOO, but still having to compete with cheaper imports in the supermarket. Respected Australian olive oil judge and EVOO producer Margi Kirkby explains:

‘Producers in this country adhere to world’s best practice for growing, harvesting and processing. Our equipment is predominantly state of the art and our chemical parameters are adhered to. The majority of producers in this country follow the standards imposed and do not adulterate or contaminate their oils. Currently, there are several imported oils labelled as EVOO available that are adulterated with canola or sunflower oil – so of course these will be cheaper.’

In response to the issue of ‘fake olive oil’ a new Australian Standard for Olive Oils was adopted in 2011. The standard outlines exactly what Australia expects from a bottle of oil labelled as EVOO – 100 per cent unadulterated olive juice made from fruit pressed within 24 hours of picking. The Australian Standard has also adopted new testing methods that are able to determine the freshness of oil and more easily detect adulteration.

Importantly, the new Standard also crackdowns on the use of misleading words on labels such as: pure, light and extra lite. These terms are a minefield for consumers who usually assume that these oils are the same quality as high grade EVOO but lower in fat, whereas in fact they are refined olive oils.

Olive Harvest

The introduction of the Australian Standard however has not been without controversy. Traditionally, there has only been one quality standard for olive oil producers, set by the International Olive Council (IOC). The Australian Olive Oil Association (AOOA) who represent imported olive oil producers, believe the new standard is unnecessary. General Manager of the AOOA Renee Reilly states ‘The Australian Standard is significantly divergent from the IOC standard in its testing measures, procedures and labelling rules, and that there is no doubt that the IOC standards are the best available international standards for olive oil.’

So what does this all mean for consumers when trying to buy a good EVOO? By purchasing from Australian producers you can be assured of the authenticity and freshness of the product. Over 90 per cent of Australian EVOO producers have signed up to the Australian Standards code of practice and you can identify these growers by looking for the triangle Certification Trade Mark on bottles of Australian EVOO.

Learn more about how to choose the right EVOO with our Olive Oil Masterclass here.

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