Australia Sets Landmark Standards for Olive Oil

By Caroline J. Beck
August 01, 2011

Standards Australia announced that they have approved a new olive oil standard that will provide better definition for olive oil grades and bolster consumer protection against mislabeling and misrepresentation of inferior-grade oils.

Recognized by the Australian government as the peak non-government standards body in Australia, Standards Australia (SA) is an independent, not-for-profit organization. The new standards are the result of a rigorous standards development process by SA involving multiple industry stakeholders including retailers, importers, consumer associations, government bodies, scientists and olive oil producers and almost 800 public comments.

“The new standard will establish a benchmark for olive oil quality to ensure that consumers get the product they pay for,” said Colin Blair, Chief Executive Officer, SA. “Olive oil can be found in virtually every kitchen pantry and this standard will result in better quality products for everyday consumers. The standard responds to legitimate community concerns and will result in a more transparent marketplace with better quality products on our shelves,” Blair said.

Blair said the public comment process attracted significant public interest due to concern over the quality and consistency of olive oil products. It is intended that the new Australian Standard for Olive and Olive-Pomace Oils will:

  • Clearly outline different grades of oil – whether fresh or refined

  • Unambiguously define what constitutes Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • Include the most current and effective testing methods for quality and authenticity

  • Provide a technical basis for ‘best before’ claims

  • Provide labeling requirements to minimize consumer confusion

  • Crackdown on misuse of the words: premium, super, pure, light/lite, extra light/lite

  • Require substantiation of words describing country/region of origin

  • Require substantiation of processing methods (e.g. cold pressed, first extraction)

  • Accommodate the natural variations that occur in different countries, olive varieties and regions, without compromising the ability to test and verify quality.

Paul Miller, President of the Australian Olive Association, welcomed the standard as a significant step forward for the industry.

“This voluntary standard developed with input from the entire supply chain is a world first in many respects. The standard is a game-changer for the entire olive oil industry from producer to consumer. The standard promotes and protects authentic products, and puts consumers in a much stronger position when it comes to making informed choices,” Miller said.

“Australians are massive consumers of olive oil. But many olive oils being flogged in the supermarkets' discount war are overpriced, inferior stock. The standard makes sure that olive oil is either labeled as extra virgin, or it's clearly marked that it's been refined, and therefore is a lower grade,” said Miller.

The news announcement met with widespread support and strong media backing. The popular news show, Today Tonight, broadcast a spirited segment on the standards and called out a long list of brands targeted in non-compliance, causing a retail shelf uproar in some locations.

For more information about olive oil in Australia , visit http://www.australianolives.com.au.