Feds don't define *extra virgin* olive oil
Selecting an olive oil that proclaims itself "100% extra virgin" on the label doesn't ensure a high-quality product because the federal government hasn't set standards that define the terminology, according to a story in yesterday's Los Angeles Times.
Many industry officials agree that "extra virgin" olive oil is cold-processed to prevent degradation of aromatic compounds and has higher levels of healthy fats and antioxidants.
Federal law bars companies from selling a blend of oils as "olive oil," but labeling lower-quality oil as "extra virgin" is technically legal in the U.S., the article said.Vito S. Polito, professor of plant sciences at UC Davis and co-chairman of the school's Olive Center, told reporter P.J. Huffstutter that the lack of rules has made the U.S. a dumping ground for cheap olive oil.
Some state lawmakers are taking on the problem. California, Oregon and Connecticut have their own state regulations, the article said. The California regulation established definitions for various grades of olive oil; it requires oils sold in the state to be labeled according to international standards. New York and New Jersey are also considering olive oil legislation.
The USDA has set chemical parameters for olive oil freshness, purity, fatty acid levels and ultraviolet light absorption. However, companies only have to comply if their products have the federal seal of approval or if retailers require it.
"It's like saying you have to stop at stop signs, but there are no cops at the corner," UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Paul Vossen told the reporter. "Standards are a good start, but enforcement is important."
The fed government has lax olive oil standards.