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Current USDA Regulation
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European Regulation

Not all olive oils are the same
Do you know how they differ? At the time of olive oil production, 3 qualities are obtained: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Virgin Olive Oil and Lampante Olive Oil.


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Source: Hojiblanca Group

Olive oil is the only edible oil that is extracted directly from a fresh fruit, and can be eaten fresh without a loss of quality or components. Approximately 4 to 5 kilos (8.8 to 11 pounds) of olives are needed to make just one liter (14 Fl. oz) of oil. Olive oils are differentiated by diverse characteristics:
Color
Color is not indicative of quality or flavor. Generally dark green highlights are characteristic of fruity oils, corresponding to olives that have not reached ripeness. A hint of yellow or gold corresponds to sweeter olives, picked later in the harvest.
Flavor
There is no one flavor. Flavor is the result of many factors such as the varietal of the olive, very much like a wine, the ripeness of the olive, water, soil, etc. Some oils have a distinct fruity flavor, with a hint of apple or almond.
Viscosity
As with wine, this refers to the body of the oil.
The current USDA regulation effective as of October 25 2010 is a voluntary standard
  1. USDA Definition / Product description
    (a) Olive oil is the oil obtained solely from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea L.), to the exclusion of oils obtained using solvents or re-esterification processes and of any mixture with oils of other kinds and shall meet the minimum requirements of the grade standards.

    (b) Virgin olive oils are the oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions, including thermal conditions, that do not lead to alterations in the oil, and which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation, and filtration and shall meet the minimum legal requirements of the grade standards. No additives of any kind are permitted.

    (c) Olive-pomace oil is the oil obtained by treating olive pomace (the product remaining after the mechanical extraction of olive oil) with solvents or other physical treatments, to the exclusion of oils obtained by synthetic processes and mixture with oils of other kinds and shall meet the minimum legal requirements of the grade standards. Alpha-tocopherol is permitted to restore natural tocopherol lost in the refining process for refined olive pomace and olive-pomace oil. Maximum level: 200 mg/kg of total alpha-tocopherol is permitted in the final product.
  2. Types of olive oil
    (a) Virgin olive oils
    1. Virgin olive oils fit for consumption without further processing include:
      i. Extra virgin olive oil
      ii. Virgin olive oil.
    2. Virgin olive oil not fit for consumption without further processing designated lampante virgin olive oil.
    (b) Olive oil
    (c) Refined olive oil
  3. Types of olive oil
    Olive oils are graded based on the minimum criteria outlined in the current regulation. The hierarchy for types of virgin olive oil is extra-virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, and virgin olive oil not fit for human consumption (lampante virgin olive oil). Lampante virgin olive oil is the lowest level of quality among the virgin olive oils and must be refined before consumption. Olive oil and refined olive oil fall below the virgin olive oil category in terms of hierarchy.

    (a) "U.S. Extra Virgin Olive Oil" is virgin olive oil which has excellent flavor and odor (median of defects equal to zero and median of fruitiness greater than zero) and a free fatty acid content, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams, and meets the additional legal requirements.

    (b) "U.S. Virgin Olive Oil" is virgin olive oil which has reasonably good flavor and odor (median of defects between zero and 2.5 and median of fruitiness greater than zero) and a free fatty acid content, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 2.0 grams per 100 grams, and meets the additional legal requirements. Olive oil that falls into this classification shall not be graded above "U.S. Virgin Olive Oil" (this is a limiting rule).

    (c) "U.S. Virgin Olive Oil Not Fit For Human Consumption Without Further Processing" sometimes designated as "U.S. Lampante Virgin Olive Oil," is virgin olive oil which has poor flavor and odor (median of defects between 2.5 and 6.0 or when the median of defects is less than or equal to 2.5 and the median of fruit is zero), a free fatty acid content, expressed as oleic acid, of more than 2.0 grams per 100 grams, and meets the additional legal requirements. Olive oil that falls into this classification shall not be graded above "U.S. Virgin Olive Oil Not Fit for Human Consumption Without Further Processing" (this is a limiting rule). It is intended for refining or for purposes other than food use.

    (d) "U.S. Olive Oil" is the oil consisting of a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oils fit for consumption without further processing. It has a free fatty acid content, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 1.0 gram per 100 grams, has acceptable odor and flavor characteristic of "virgin olive oil," and meets the additional legal requirements. Olive oil that falls into this classification shall not be graded above "U.S. Olive Oil" (this is a limiting rule). The maximum level permitted of total alpha-tocopherol in the final product is 200 mg/kg.

    (e) "U.S. Refined Olive Oil" is the olive oil obtained from virgin olive oils by refining methods that do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure (basic glycerin-fatty acid structure). It has a free fatty acid content, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams, is flavorless and odorless and meets the additional legal requirements. Olive oil that falls into this classification shall not be graded above "U.S. Refined Olive Oil" (this is a limiting rule). The addition of alpha-tocopherol is permitted to restore natural tocopherol lost in the refining process. The maximum level is 200 mg/kg of total alpha-tocopherol in the final product.
  4. Types of olive-pomace oil
    Olive-pomace Oils are graded based on the minimum criteria outlined in the current regulation. The hierarchy for types from highest to lowest is olive-pomace oil, refined olive-pomace oil, and crude olive-pomace oil. Crude olive-pomace oil is the lowest level of quality among the olive­pomace oils and must be refined before consumption. Olive-pomace oils shall not be labeled as "olive oil."

    (a) "U.S. Olive-pomace Oil" is the oil comprising a blend of refined olive-pomace oil and virgin olive oils fit for consumption without further processing. It has a free fatty acid content, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 1.0 gram per 100 grams, acceptable flavor and odor slightly characteristic of olive oil, and meets the additional legal requirements. Olive pomace oil that falls into this classification shall not be graded above "U.S. Olive-pomace Oil" (this is a limiting rule).

    (b) "U.S. Refined Olive-pomace Oil" is the oil obtained from crude olive-pomace oil by refining methods that do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure. It has a free fatty acid content, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams, acceptable flavor and odor, and meets the additional legal requirements. Olive-pomace oil that falls into this classification shall not be graded above "U.S. Refined Olive-pomace Oil" (this is a limiting rule).

    (c) "U.S. Crude Olive-pomace Oil" is olive-pomace oil that meets the legal requirements. Olive oil that falls into this classification shall not be graded above "U.S. Crude Olive-pomace Oil" (this is a limiting rule). It is intended for refining for use for human consumption or for purposes other than food use.
Click here to download the PDF file containing the 21 pages of the official 2010 USA Department of Agriculture definition of of olive oils.

Olive oil is the oil obtained solely from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea L.), to the exclusion of oils obtained using solvents or re-esterification processes and of any mixture with oils of other kinds. It is marketed in accordance with the following designations and definitions:
Virgin olive oils are the oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions, particularly thermal conditions, that do not lead to alterations in the oil, and which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration.
Virgin olive oils fit for consumption as they are include:
Extra virgin olive oil: virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams, and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard
Virgin olive oil: virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 2 grams per 100 grams and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard.
Ordinary virgin olive oil: virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. (see note 1/ below)
Virgin olive oil not fit for consumption as it is, designated lampante virgin olive oil, is virgin olive oil which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams and/or the organoleptic characteristics and other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. It is intended for refining or for technical use.
Refined olive oil is the olive oil obtained from virgin olive oils by refining methods which do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure.It has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. (2/)
Olive oil is the oil consisting of a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oils fit for consumption as they are. It has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 1 gram per 100 grams and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. (3/)
Olive-pomace oil is the oil obtained by treating olive pomace with solvents or other physical treatments, to the exclusion of oils obtained by re esterification processes and of any mixture with oils of other kinds. It is marketed in accordance with the following designations and definitions:
-Crude olive-pomace oil is olive pomace oil whose characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. It is intended for refining for use for human consumption, or it is intended for technical use.
-Refined olive pomace oil is the oil obtained from crude olive pomace oil by refining methods which do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure. It has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. (4/)
-Olive pomace oil is the oil comprising the blend of refined olive pomace oil and virgin olive oils fit for consumption as th ey are. It has a free acidity of not more than 1 gram per 100 grams and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. (5/) In no case shall this blend be called olive oil.
1/ This designation may only be sold direct to the consumer if permitted in the country of retail sale. If not permitted, the designation of this product shall comply with the legal provisions of the country concerned.
2/ This designation may only be sold direct to the consumer if permitted in the country of retail sale.
3/ The country of retail sale may require a more specific designation.
4/ This product may only be sold direct to the consumer if permitted in the country of retail sale.
5/ The country of retail sale may require a more specific designation. Source: 2012 International Olive Oil Council (IOC)

The Official Journal of the European Communities regulates the definition of Olive Oils and Olive-Pomace Oils (article 35) descriptions and definitions of olive oils and olive-pomace oils as follows:
  1. VIRGIN OLIVE OILS
    Oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions that do not lead to alteration in the oil, which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation or filtration, to the exclusion of oils obtained using solvents or using adjuvants having a chemical or biochemical action, or by re-esterification process and any mixture with oils of other kinds.
    Virgin olive oils are exclusively classified and described as follows:
    (a) Extra virgin olive oil
    Virgin olive oil having a maximum free acidity, in terms of oleic acid, of 0,8 g per 100 g, the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
    (b) Virgin olive oil
    Virgin olive oil having a maximum free acidity, in terms of oleic acid, of 2 g per 100 g, the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
    (c) Lampante olive oil
    Virgin olive oil having a free acidity, in terms of oleic acid, of more than 2 g per 100 g, and/or the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
  2. REFINED OLIVE OIL
    Olive oil obtained by refining virgin olive oil, having a free acidity content expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0,3 g per 100 g, and the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category
  3. OLIVE OIL — COMPOSED OF REFINED OLIVE OILS AND VIRGIN OLIVE OILS
    Olive oil obtained by blending refined olive oil and virgin olive oil other than lampante oil, having a free acidity content expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 1 g per 100 g, and the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
  4. CRUDE OLIVE-POMACE OIL
    Oil obtained from olive pomace by treatment with solvents or by physical means or oil corresponding to lampante olive oil, except for certain specified characteristics, excluding oil obtained by means of re-esterification and mixtureswith other types of oils, and the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
  5. REFINED OLIVE-POMACE OIL
    Oil obtained by refining crude olive-pomace oil, having a free acidity content expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0,3 g per 100 g, and the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
  6. OLIVE-POMACE OIL
    Oil obtained by blending refined olive-pomace oil and virgin olive oil other than lampante oil, having a free acidity content expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 1 g per 100 g, and the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.
Source: Click here to download the PDF file containing the 4 pages of the Official Journal of the European Communities explaining the new regulations.

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