Council Says New Chemical Limits Will Improve Olive Oil Quality

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Tougher chemical parameters for virgin olive oils are among a range of measures approved this week by the main decision-making body of the International Olive Council (IOC).

Passed by the IOC’s Council of Members, most of the changes are designed to improve quality control.

An increased tolerance for campesterol — the limit will rise from 4 to 4.5 percent — will help prevent the exclusion of genuine virgin oils with naturally higher levels of the sterol.

IOC Members finally conclude 100th session

According to an IOC press release, the 100th session of the Council concluded on Monday, having passed a range of recommendations from various advisory committees that had been pending since the Council’s last meeting, in November, lost quorum when delegates from Israel and Turkey walked out.

The new standards, which would apply from the 2013/14 season (starting in October) will continue “the ongoing improvement of the quality control of virgin olive oils,” it said.

Parameters changing

Among the measures are most of the changes to chemical parameters and tests that European Union Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloș had urged the IOC to expedite as part of his action plan for the E.U. olive oil sector.

They include:

– Stigmastadienes limit: to be reduced from 0.10 to 0.05mg/kg for virgin and extra virgin olive oils. (The Cioloș plan said this would improve detection of other vegetable oils in olive oils.)

– Alkyl esters: the maximum level will fall from the current 75 mg/kg for the sum of ethyl plus methyl esters to 40mg/kg for only ethyl esters for 2013/14, then to 35mg/kg for 2014/15, and 30mg/kg from the start of 2015/16. (The Cioloș plan said a lower limit would further restrict use of deodorised oils.)

– The global method for detecting extraneous oils in olive oils will be adopted.

– Wax content: will introduce a new limit of 150 mg/kg for the sum of C42, C44 and C46. (Wax content was said to be a key indicator of quality and purity.)

– Myristic acid: the limit will be lowered from 0.05 percent to 0.03 percent. (The Cioloș plan said this would improve detection of palm oil.)

The IOC said other changes include:

– Provisional adoption of the method for the determination of alkyl esters and waxes with 3g of silica

– Adoption of the method for the determination of the composition and content of sterols and triterpene dialcohols

– Adoption of a revised sensory evaluation method. (No detail was given.)


Australia, with support from Argentina, the United States and New Zealand had unsuccessfully pushed for a 4.8 percent limit for campesterol in the context of this year’s meeting of the Codex Committee on Fats and Oils.

The IOC Council didn’t go that far but it did agree to a rise to 4.5 percent, under the condition that three decision trees are used to ensure the authenticity of those virgin or extra virgin olive oils with levels of 4-4.5 percent, for example requiring they have a stigmasterol level of no more than 1.4 percent.

Uruguay is joining the IOC and Palestine wants to

On Tuesday, the Council also noted a membership application from Palestine and asked the IOC’s executive secretariat to provide a legal opinion on the matter.

The IOC said that on Wednesday the Council received the legal advice – without saying what it was – and that “many members then expressed their position in favor of this membership.” A decision on the application would be taken at the latest at the Council’s 101st session, in November, it said.

Meanwhile, the members also noted the imminent membership of Uruguay.

Other business included harmonization of custom codes

The IOC said that among the highlights from an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Members on Tuesday and Wednesday were:

– A group will be set up to study the possibility of harmonizing customs tariff codes between IOC members countries in order to obtain more detailed data on international trade under the current general virgin olive oil heading (150 910).

– Another group will study a method for comparing the cost of growing olives for olive oil in different countries.

– The results of promotion campaign in the U.S. and Canada in 2012 and planned activities for one in Brazil this year and next year were reviewed.

– A proposal from Turkey to add “light green fruitiness” to the categories for the Mario Solinas extra virgin olive oil awards was approved.

– There was debate over the agreement on “autocontrol” of the quality of imported oils.

– The IOC’s financial rules were modified so that from next year some initiatives in non-member countries may be eligible for IOC funding.

IOC back to business as usual

Since its budget for this year had not yet been approved when the Council’s sitting last November was aborted, the IOC has until now had to operate with a clamp on its financial activities.

“The adoption of the IOC budgets for 2013 will allow a return to the normal rhythm of activity,” it said.

On Thursday the first meeting of the working group on the IOC’s future will be held in the lead-up to the expiry of the IOC’s current governing agreement at the end of next year.

Among issues on the table for the next agreement is allowing countries where olive oil is consumed but not produced to join the IOC.

By Julie Butler
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Barcelona
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