How do you know if extra-virgin olive oil is really extra-virgin?

How do you know if extra-virgin olive oil is really extra-virgin?

How do you know your extra-virgin olive oil is really extra-virgin?

A new program in Australia is hoping to give peace of mind to consumers that the olive oil they are buying is the quality it is claiming on the bottle.

Concerns have been raised about olive oil quality worldwide due to shortages.

The Olive Oil Quality Monitoring Program, run by the Australian Olive Association, will randomly test local and imported products.

“It allows the industry in Australia to take a snapshot of the quality of the olive oil produced domestically as well as the olive oils that are being imported,” Australian Olive Association chief executive Michael Southan said.

Shortage of extra-virgin olive oil 

While Australia’s seasons have been steady in recent years, the weather internationally has not been as favourable.

Australian Olive Association CEO Michael Southan.(Supplied: Australian Olive Association)

Key olive-growing regions in Spain and Italy, which are the world’s two largest olive oil producers, have been hit with poor conditions and droughts in recent years.

This has led to shortages and even cases of fraudulent olive oil being produced in both countries.

“The resulting shortage, where [Spain] is probably producing half of what they would normally produce, puts pressure along many of the supply chains,” Mr Southan said.

“The issues that are happening in the northern hemisphere have probably highlighted or heightened our awareness that it is a good time, maybe, to check.

“There could be areas where oils have been brought in that are not what they say they are.

“We want to make sure that consumers who are paying good money for these products are getting what they expect, and what they are paying for.”

Concerns about slipping quality

Olive Producers North East Victoria president Rob Whyte, who operates Gooramadda Olives, said the program was needed.

Rob Whyte, from Gooramadda Olives, believes most producers in Australia are trying to do the right thing.(Supplied: Gooramadda Olives)

“Certainly for the overseas market, it was saying, look, Australia’s getting on to this,” Mr Whyte said.

“If word gets around that, you know we’re now back testing oils, the market will look to dump its substandard oil somewhere else.

“There are some fairly underhand things going on.”

But it was not just imported oil Mr Whyte had concerns about.

While recent seasons of olive harvests were strong in Australia, Mr Whyte said that could change this year.

“We’re getting feedback from people right across Australia that this is not going to be a great year for an olive harvest, there is potential for an olive oil shortage,” he said.

“You may not see a shortage on the shelves, but what you may see is a decline in the quality of oil.

“I’m very concerned that, with the shortage of extra virgin olive oil, the temptation is there to adulterate it.

“There are probably going to be some rogue players out there.”

International prices of extra-virgin olive oil have been on the rise.(ABC South East SA: Elsie Adamo)

Extra-virgin olive oil is the purest form of the product, as it is not heated or processed with other chemicals, and must feature a free acidity level lower than 0.8 per cent.

The quality monitoring program will attempt to catch any producers doing the wrong thing.

“If there has been any substitution or anything that is not olive oil, that’ll be picked up pretty quickly,” Mr Whyte said.

“If there are issues, then we would elevate that with the appropriate authorities.”

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