Without a doubt this is the most asked question we face. Understandably so, considering all the enthusiasm surrounding the increased U.S. consumption of olive oil. Read on to see what is marketing hype and what is the actual international standard for olive oil.
Production and labeling of olive oil is controlled by international agreements. In 1959, an International Olive Oil Agreement was created and is administered by the International Olive Oil Council in Madrid, Spain. In the past 41 years, this agreement has been changed or amended. It is currently on its 10th revision with the last one being in November 2001. The United States is not currently considered a member nation. However, these standards are upheld voluntarily by companies or farms who are members of the California Olive Oil Council (COOC). Lodestar has been a member of the COOC since 1994.
Lodestar Farms lists these standards in a straight forward attempt to give the consumer an idea of what they are currently using and may want to use.
An oil obtained solely from the olive and excludes any oil extracted from olives by solvents, re-esterification processes or any mixture with oils of other kinds. There are three types of olive oil: virgin, refined and olive oil or pure olive oil.
Virgin Olive Oil
Around 10% of the olive oil produced in the world is top quality virgin olive oil. It is the oil obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions, particularly thermal conditions, that do no t lead to alterations in the oil, and which has not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration. The terms "extra", "fine", and "ordinary" or "semi-fine" are used to describe virgin oil.
This is the top grade. Free of taste defects, it also must not have an oleic acidity greater than 1% by weight (1 gram per 100 grams).
Also called virgin olive oil. While still perfect in aroma, flavor, and color, it can have an acidity level no greater than 2% by weight.
Also called virgin olive oil semi-fine, virgin olive oil ordinary, "corriente", or "semifino". Good taste and aroma. It is allowed an acidity of 3.3%.
Refined Olive Oil
Oil obtained from virgin olive oil by refining methods. In the refining process, caustic soda (lye) is used to purify, decolorize, and deodorize the oil. It is also extracted from olive pomace (residue left) after the majority of the oil has been extracted in the "virgin" process. Many times refined oils can be the product of damaged olives or culls from a pickling operation.
Pure Olive Oil
A blending of refined and virgin olive oils to obtain the uniformity of taste and color desired by the consumer. Most imported brands sold in the United States are "pure" or "100% pure" olive oils.