Farmers must go through rigid certification testing by the California Olive Oil Council, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, including a chemical analysis of the oil as well as a sensory evaluation after every olive harvest. The California Olive Oil Commission, an industry group of olive farmers, created standards the California Department of Food and Agriculture approved in 2014. Good olive oil should smell and taste fresh, the University of California, Davis Olive Center suggests, and should have fruity notes but may also be bitter or spicy.
Some old-world olive oil producers have been in the news in recent years for other not-so-great reasons. For example, Italian olive oil was accused of being not only not from Italy, but often composed of a mixture of cheaper oils, such as soybean oil, 60 Minutes reported last year. Bad harvests in Europe this year are making olive oil even more expensive, though prices have been rising for years due to an olive oil shortage caused by bad weather.
California olive oil has filled some of the void. “Historically, it has been difficult to market California olive oil because of higher cost of producing it versus what the exports were able to sell it for,” said John Mesrobian, a partner at The Mill at Kings River, an olive oil mill in Sanger, Calif. But with the “adverse publicity” about European oil, he said, there has been more interest in California olive oil.Bad harvests in Europe and fake olive oil raise the question, are you getting the real deal?,