Large and small olive oil producers in California are battling over legislation that would tighten up restrictions on how they can use the state’s name.
It’s already against the law in California to use the phrase “California olive oil” on products that aren’t made from 100% California olives. The new legislation, AB 535, would carry this further by banning any reference to California at all on the principal label, even as a brand name.
Small olive oil processors in California say the change would protect them and level the playing field. They say it’s unfair for competitors to have the advantage of a local-origin claim while being able to blend oil from other nations, with laxer environmental and labor standards, into their products.
Large processors and others say they need to be able to use imported oil to maintain the production levels and quality that their trade customers expect.
"For the California olive oil industry to be successful, we don't need AB 535,” Michael Fox, CEO of California Olive Ranch, said in a statement. “We need to attract new customers with innovative thinking like high-quality blends that allow us to bring award-winning oils to consumers at accessible price points."
The bill is due for a hearing by the agriculture committee of the state senate on June 17.