FDA Asked to Regulate Olive Oil

June 10, 2020
The North American Olive Oil Association is petitioning the FDA to regulate for virgin and extra-virgin olive oil.

The North American Olive Oil Association is petitioning the FDA to regulate for virgin and extra-virgin olive oil, partly in response to mislabeling scandals in the past few years.

The association’s petition is in addition to one filed in November by the American Olive Oils Producers Association and Deoleo, the world’s largest olive oil processor. The petitions ask the FDA to establish standards of identity for olive oil similar to tuna fish, mayonnaise and other products.

The petitions come after a series of scandals about mislabeled olive oil. A 2015 investigation by the National Consumers League found that six of eleven national brands had misrepresented quality grades to consumers. A separate, four-year audit of the category between 2015 and 2019 found half of all products available to consumers today failed to meet international quality standards.

However, Joseph Profaci, executive director of the North American Olive Oil Association, says that those scandals were overblown, saying that the National Consumers League tested only 11 bottles and that all the bottles "passed ALL the objective chemical tests for extra virginity under both the IOC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards."

Profaci says the petition is intended to eliminate confusion about olive oil terminology and labels. "For example, 60 percent of those surveyed were not sure of the meanings of “virgin” and “refined” cooking oil, despite there being significant differences in the two," he said, adding that virgin oil is extracted mechanically without the use of heat or solvents.

If the FDA adopts standards of identity for olive oil, they will be the agency’s first such regulation of the category.

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