UNRAVELING FOUR ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED IN AMERICAN OLIVE OIL PRODUCTION
There are a number of organizations associated with olive oil in the U.S with very similar acronyms. We at The Olive Oil Source thought, after answering many inquiries regarding the different organizations, that it would be good to post some information to help clarify who these organizations are and what purpose they serve. In an effort to do that, we sent out a questionnaire to them and asked them to respond. Below you will find their responses unedited by us. Note that this is in no way an exhaustive list of the organizations that exist in the U.S. We are simply trying to sort through the ones with similar acronyms and for which the name might not make immediately clear their function.
The organizations we have spoken with are as follows:
The Olive Oil Commission of California: OOCC
The North American Olive Oil Association: NAOOA
The California Olive Oil Council: COOC
The American Olive Oil Producers Association: AOOPA
Following are the questions posed by The Olive Oil Source (OOS) followed by the response of each organization’s spokesperson. Remember that these responses are from the organizations’ spokespersons, that the responses are unedited by The Olive Oil Source, and that contradictions or falsehoods may be found in their claims and/or statements.
The OOS: Who are your members and when was the organization established?
OOCC: The OOCC was established in 2014 as a state commission with oversight from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Membership in the OOCC is mandatory for olive oil handlers (processors) with production of more than 5,000 gallons of olive oil per year. The law that established the OOCC is available here.
NAOOA: The NAOOA was established in 1989 and was a founding signatory in 1990 to the International Olive Council’s Quality Control Agreement for Import Markets. NAOOA membership is open to any company selling or marketing olive oil in North America as well as trade associations and companies with an interest in supporting the industry. NAOOA member companies represent more than two-thirds of the olive oil sold in the USA.
COOC: COOC founded in 1992. Members are primarily growers/producers but there is also a growing segment in the Industry Affiliate category (service and product providers).
AOOPA: The American Olive Oil Producers Association (AOOPA) was established in 2012 as a voluntary, non-profit trade association for American olive oil farmers and millers. Our membership includes producers, processors, state olive oil associations, and businesses affiliated with the domestic olive oil industry.
The OOS: What is the geographical area covered by your organization?
The OOCC’s authorities are limited to olive oils produced in the state of California.
NAOOA: The NAOOA has members from all around the world, especially the major olive oil producing regions, and of course the USA and Canada.
COOC: The state of California. But we do have some non-California members who are primarily in the Industry Affiliate category.
AOOPA: The American Olive Oil Producers Association is a national trade association for olive oil producers throughout the United States.
The OOS: What is the goal or goals of your organization?
OOCC: The OOCC hopes to demonstrate that if California producers can guarantee a better quality product that:
- Consumers will have greater confidence in (and preference for) California olive oils; and
- California olive oils will have greater value.
NAOOA: The NAOOA has three primary objectives: Ensure a fair and competitive industry environment offering quality olive oil products to North American consumers; Communicate olive oil grades; Promote olive oil’s culinary and health benefits.
The NAOOA supports these objectives through various testing and quality monitoring programs, by advocating for enforcement of the global olive oil trade standards, and through a number of communication and promotion programs aimed at increasing olive oil consumption.
COOC: COOC Mission
The COOC is a trade organization with the mission of encouraging the consumption of certified California extra virgin olive oil through education, outreach and communications.
The COOC is committed to upholding the highest standards within the olive oil industry through its Seal Certification Program.
AOOPA: Provide a unified voice for the American olive oil industry.
Develop sound government policies to promote a fair and honest olive oil market - Domestically and Internationally.
Promote the American olive oil industry and its products in the global marketplace.
Be a trusted resource for domestic olive oil producers and external audiences for information about our olive oil industry, including goals and principles.
The OOS: Who benefits from the existence of your organization?
OOCC: The OOCC’s research and mandatory sampling/testing programs assist olive oil farmers to successfully grow a sustainable, healthy product that consumers can buy with confidence. Specifically, the OOCC standard provides a mandatory product specification for California olive oils; results from the required third-party testing of all California olive oil is valuable in helping individual producers make improvements in their olive oils; and, collectively, the information gathered through the OOCC sampling and testing program will help improve future standards and labeling requirements for California olive oil.
NAOOA: The NAOOA’s efforts benefit both the industry at large as well as consumers in North America. The NAOOA’s quality monitoring and testing has been on-going for more than 25 years and involves collecting hundreds of samples of olive oil from stores across the USA and Canada every year in order to check for adulteration or mislabeling through testing at IOC-recognized laboratories overseas.
A few of the NAOOA’s other more recent achievements include successfully securing an FDA health claim for olive oils (2004), establishing state standards for olive oils in CT, CA, NY and OR (2008 – 2010) while also supporting the USDA 2010 standards update, enforcing the state standards with successful litigation against a company mislabeling olive oil in New York (2013), and participating in the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check Mark Program (2016).
COOC: All growers and producers in California as well as service and product suppliers.
AOOPA: American olive oil producers and consumers – from home chefs to restaurateurs – of high quality olive oil benefit from AOOPA and its efforts to unify our industry, share knowledge and create a fair and honest olive oil market for all.
The OOS: Why is your organization needed or relevant?
OOCC: The OOCC is designed to improve the consumer buying experience by providing simple, accurate, truthful and reliable labeling. For example, only olive oils tested to be Extra Virgin can be labeled as such. Additionally, the OOCC has removed misleading terminology, such as “Light” and “Pure” from California olive oil labels. The goal of the OOCC is for consumers to understand that when they buy California olive oil, it can be trusted.
NAOOA: The NAOOA is the ONLY organization regularly collecting and testing olive oils from store shelves in North America. The NAOOA collects hundreds of samples each year and has shared results with suppliers and buyers as well as with state health agencies and authorities at the USDA and FDA.
The NAOOA maintains a Quality Seal Program which is the ONLY certification in the USA that tests off-the-shelf samples for full IOC authenticity/purity compliance in addition to quality measures.
The NAOOA communicates olive oils’ benefits and usage ideas to consumers through a website, blog and social media platforms which can all be accessed from here.
In cooperation with Extra Virgin Olive Oil Savantes, the NAOOA launched The Olive Oil Conference in 2015 as an annual forum for the industry to work together to increase olive oil consumption in North America and communicate accurate messages about the benefits of all grades of olive oil.
COOC: Established in 1992, the COOC provides a stringent Seal Certification Program which was the first of its kind. The COOC also supports the Taste Panel, the first sensory assessment panel in North America for olive oil. Both the program and panel were established in 1998.
AOOPA: The American Olive Oil Producers Association is dedicated to supporting olive oil producers throughout the United States, by bringing together knowledge and resources to strengthen the entire industry. By uniting the industry, AOOPA provides critical leadership by offering a unique, singular voice on key policy matters; educating government officials at all levels, and advocating for sound government policies that promote fair global market access using effective standards and regulations.
AOOPA believes anyone who purchases olive oil must be able to trust they are getting an honestly labeled product. And, we support consistent testing and labeling standards, so buyers can fairly compare. A marketplace with educated buyers who can trust the products they buy is a better marketplace for all consumers and growers.
The OOS: How does your organization differ from the other groups listed here?
OOCC: The OOCC is a mandatory government program. Under the OOCC, the California Department of Food and Agriculture oversees the verification of CA olive oil quality. The CDFA standard has the most stringent quality parameters in the US. The OOCC does not engage in product promotion or marketing.
NAOOA: The NAOOA does not have allegiance to any single producing country, region variety or grade of olive oil. Membership is open to any company selling olive oil in North America and willing to be randomly tested to ensure compliance with the IOC trade standards. The NAOOA supports equal enforcement of science-based trade standards, such as those established through the IOC, and works to increase consumption of ALL olive oils in North America.
COOC: The COOC is focused on marketing and promotion.
AOOPA: The American Olive Oil Producers Association is the only national association focused on supporting a united domestic olive oil industry and advocating for a fair and honest olive oil market for all producers with effective, uniform standards and no artificial barriers to trade in any market.
The OOS: If there are chemical and/or organoleptic standards established by your organization, what are they?
OOCC: The OOCC requires a comprehensive standard for purity and quality that uses both chemical and sensory testing. Several of the familiar quality parameters in the OOCC standard are more stringent than the USDA and IOC standards--for example free fatty acid is 0.5 and peroxide value is 15. Most significant, however is the inclusion of DAGs and PPP testing. These tests are commonly used by olive oil traders to evaluate olive oil quality and age, and have been part of the retailer specifications in Germany for a decade. The OOCC standard enforced through the California Department of Food Agriculture can be seen in its entirety here.
NAOOA: The NAOOA requires members to adhere to the International Olive Council Trade Standards for Olive Oils and Olive-Pomace Oils. The NAOOA participates regularly in meetings with the IOC as a signatory to the IOC Quality Control Agreement on Import Markets and as an observer to the Advisory Committee. The IOC Standards evolve based on science and research and the NAOOA requires members to follow the most current standards.
Unlike programs that use in-house panels and only require a handful of laboratory quality checks (no purity), the NAOOA Quality Seal program requires sensory analyses by an IOC-recognized panel as well as random off-the-shelf testing of the full quality and authenticity measures by an IOC-recognized laboratory. The NAOOA Quality Seal is the ONLY program that assures consumers that what is on the shelf is not adulterated.
COOC: See: https://www.cooc.com/certification-process
AOOPA: Our members believe all olive oil should be tested and evaluated under effective standards, which is why we have been an advocate for consistent testing and labeling. In 2013, AOOPA was a leading proponent of the formation of the Olive Oil Commission of California (OOCC) and strongly supported the 2014 adoption of the most rigorous mandatory grade and labeling government standard in the world.
The OOS: Any additional information you feel is relevant?
NAOOA: No response.
COOC: No response
AOOPA: No response