When it comes to Extra Virgin Olive Oil, what you see on the label is not always what you get. A 2011 UC Davis Olive Oil Center study of all olive oils sold in California found that nearly two-thirds of the top-selling olive oils on store shelves were falsely labeled Extra Virgin grade. In 2015, CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes” did an exposé on the misleading labeling on Extra Virgin Olive Oils imported from Italy. In response to these and other instances of misrepresentation over the years, the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) established a mandatory testing and certification system in 1998 to ensure quality and consistency in California Extra Virgin Olive Oils. In order to bear the COOC seal, each olive oil is tested by an independent lab to meet all grade and labeling standards, and is then verified to be 100% olive oil, produced from olives grown in California and reviewed by a certified taste panel for sensory analysis.
What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil and why is it desirable? Extra Virgin is the highest grade an olive oil can receive, signifying that it is free of defects or taste flaws and produced without chemicals or extreme heat. With its range of styles and flavor profiles, Extra Virgin Olive Oil is extremely versatile in cooking. Its abundance of antioxidants and polyphenols also make Extra Virgin Olive Oil a smart choice for health.
California Olive Oil Council (COOC)
The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) is a trade association that encourages the consumption of certified California Extra Virgin olive oil through education, outreach and communications. Extra virgin is the highest grade an olive oil can receive. It is currently the only organization in the United States that provides an olive oil certification. The COOC is committed to upholding the highest standards in the olive oil industry with its Seal Certification Program. This certification is important because it provides consumers with the assurance that the olive oil they are purchasing is actually extra virgin. This program also gives producers and marketers a standard method of grading their 100% California Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The seal also provides producers and marketers with a means of distinguishing their products in the marketplace. The Seal Certification Program is also the only one in North America that has stricter standards than the International standards for what true Extra Virgin Olive Oil is.
Seal Certification Program Guidelines
In order for an olive oil to be seal certified, it needs to adhere to the following guidelines:
* 100% of the oil is from olives grown in the State of California , extracted from the fruit solely by mechanical means under conditions that do not lead to the deterioration of the oil.
* There must be less than .5% free oleic acid in the oil itself.
* Must pass a blind taste test, performed by the COOC Panel of Tasters, to ensure positive taste elements and no defects and also have a chemical analysis performed by a certified lab.
The COOC Panel of Tasters is a knowledgeable and highly trained group of tasters that determines if defects and desirable traits are present in an oil during a sensory assessment. The panel meets frequently for both the purpose of tasting oils for the COOC program, as well as for continual training and exams.
An olive oil only qualifies to be COOC certified after it has met these criteria. Members must submit their oils every year during the specified period of October 1through March 31. Mixing of multiple harvest years is not permitted.
When purchasing a bottle of olive oil that bears this seal, you can rest assured that it is the freshest olive oil available on the market, that it is of the highest quality and purity and is certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil from California.