Olive Oil Regulations & Standards Background in North America
In 1959, the United Nations supported the creation of the International Olive Council (IOC) to oversee standards, research, and development regarding olive oil production and consumption worldwide. The IOC developed a Trade Standard defining different grades of olive oil, and outlines chemical and sensory testing procedures to check for compliance. Virtually all legitimate olive oil producers and suppliers worldwide follow the IOC guidelines. In North America, all NAOOA members agree to adhere to the IOC standard, and products are tested on an annual basis for compliance.
Currently, a mandatory standard of identity that defines what constitutes Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Olive Oil and Olive-Pomace Oil, does not exist in the United States. NAOOA originally petitioned the FDA in 1990 to establish these standards for olive oil products, but that petition was never acted on. In lieu of federal standards, NAOOA led and/or supported efforts at the state level to implement mandatory standards. Standards based on the IOC definitions were approved in Connecticut and California in 2008, and in New York and Oregon in 2009.
The USDA defines a voluntary standard for companies that want USDA grading certifications. The USDA definitions for Olive Oil were outlined in 1948, prior to the creation of the IOC, and thus were not aligned with the international descriptions or linked to well-defined testing methods. However, in 2010, after more than 60 years, the USDA updated its standard to closely follow IOC guidelines, and it now has the facilities in place to test for compliance at the USDA laboratory in Blakely, GA.