Do you happen to know if the USDA dictates a maximum shelf life for bottled olive oil? What is the normal shelf life of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil? What type of coding do most manufacturers put on their bottles?
It is a source of great irritation to the U.S. olive oil industry that our government does not have much at all in the way of labeling laws concerning olive oil. U.S. producers have come up with our own label - The COOC seal; which follows international olive oil council grading guidelines. Producers are encouraged to also date their oil, although few do and there is no standard dating code. Look on the label for a date. Remember that most olives are picked in the late fall or winter and are sold the next year, so 2002 oil will be the freshest available until early 2004 when 2003 oil will come on the market.
Shelf life is very variable, depending on the olive variety, ripeness when pressed, care in processing, filtering, etc. It also depends on storage after it has left the producer, something they have no control of, so it is hard to "guarantee" a certain lifespan.
Lifespan can be as little as 3 months for an unfiltered late harvest olive bottled in clear glass and sold off a supermarket shelf above hot deli foods which is then stored by the consumer in bright light on a hot stovetop with the cap unscrewed. It can be as much as 3-4 years for an early harvest, high polyphenol containing olive variety which has been filtered then packaged in a well sealed tin or dark bottle then stored in a cool dark place by the grocer and consumer.
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