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'California Grown' label aim of new olive oil standards
Olive Oil
Unlike California producers who generate more than 5,000 gallons of olive oil a year, Anne Piccirillo of Athenas Gift Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Gustine will not have to undergo changes due to new grading and labeling standards approved by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. - photo by ALYSSON AREDAS / The Journal

The way that olive oil is produced in California is in for some changes after the California Department of Food and Agriculture approved new grading and labeling standards. These standards, which are in effect as of last month, are the first in the world to require testing for every lot of oil produced.

“California agriculture has an enviable reputation for high-quality products sought by consumers here and around the world,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “We believe the time has come to designate a ‘California-grown’ olive oil, and these standards are an excellent way to do it.”

With an underlying goal of improving the state’s competitiveness in the global olive oil industry, the California Olive Oil Commission presented grading and labeling recommendations for California olive oil to the CDFA in July.

Having since been approved, these standards outline specific guidelines for producers throughout the state who generate more than 5,000 gallons of olive oil per year from California olives.  

Small-scale in-state millers as well as importers and distributors of bulk olive oil manufactured outside of the state are exempt from the new standards.

These standards are unique to California in the sense that only extra-virgin olive oil is produced in the state. With the new regulation, olive oil producers are set to adhere to a stricter limit for free fatty acids, which results to a breakdown of olive oil quality due to exposure to heat, light, and oxygen.

Locally, Anne Piccirillo of Athena’s Gift Extra Virgin Olive Oil will not have to undergo changes resulting from these new standards since she does not produce over 5,000 gallons or more of olive oil. However, the business owner based out of Gustine still likes to keep up to date on what is going on in the industry.

“In a broad sense I think it’s a good thing,” said Piccirillo. “These new standards will give the general buying public an idea of what to expect from good quality olive oil.”

Before the introduction of these new standards, Piccirillo stated that the olive oil industry was successful in essentially regulating itself.

“I think our self-regulation before speaks to the integrity of the industry,” added Piccirillo. “We take pride in what we do and we try our best to put out a good product every time.”