US olive oil pushing government to test imported oils

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The California olive oil industry widely promoted that report and even boasted of helping to influence it. According to the American Olive Oil Producers Association, California producers arranged farm tours for federal investigators, arranged for witnesses to testify to the group, and even held an olive-oil tasting on Capitol Hill for lawmakers and administration officials.

For now, the domestic industry says it will keep pushing. Kimberly Houlding, executive director of the American Olive Oil Producers Association, says producers are still considering petitioning the USDA for an order to establish mandatory quality standards, including frequent testing. Ideally the order would apply to the entire domestic industry, including importers, Houlding says.

Eryn Balch of the North American Olive Oil Association, which represents the importers, says they would like to work with the domestic industry to grow the olive oil market in the United States. There’s still a lot of the market to grab only around 40 percent of U.S. consumers use olive oil right now, and olive oil has only about 15 percent of the volume share compared with other cooking oils. But that market is growing along with increased awareness of olive oil’s health benefits compared with other oils. Extra virgin olive oil is often rich in polyphenols, nutrients that are thought to be helpful in preventing heart disease and other illnesses.

“If the industry promoted the key proven benefits with a common voice and positive message, the growth potential could be almost limitless,” Balch said.

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