Assembly Committee Approves Wiggins Bill | The Olive Oil Source

Assembly Committee Approves Wiggins Bill

Source: Senator Pat Wiggins' web site
June 17, 2008

Sacramento – The Assembly Agriculture Committee voted 8-0 today to approve Senate Bill 634, legislation by Senator Patricia Wiggins (D – Santa Rosa) to update California’s definitions of olive oil grades to conform to international standards. SB 634 would also define “flavored olive oil” to reflect market practices, would delete obsolete provisions as requested by the state Department of Public Health, and would require that olive oil be labeled consistent with the updated food grade definitions. In her testimony before the committee, Wiggins noted that “olive oil is a rapidly growing industry in California, with volume projected to increase by 1000 percent in the next five years.California also produces 99.9 percent of the domestically grown olive oil in the U.S. “California law does not define olive oil grades, and as a result the grades commonly seen on olive oil bottles – such as extra virgin – don’t need to meet any standards,” Wiggins said. “SB 634 would establish new definitions that meet international standards, and require that bottles of olive oil be labeled accordingly. This will help consumers make informed choices based on consistent standards for quality.” Almost all of the state’s olive oil producers voluntarily conform to standards adopted by the International Olive Council (IOC) in the production of “extra virgin” olive oil. The IOC, based in Madrid, is an intergovernmental organization of 40 nations formed in 1956. “Extra virgin” is the highest olive oil grade identified by the IOC. The international standards require, among other things, that extra virgin olive oil be produced solely by mechanical means, without the heat or solvents used to make grain or seed oils such as corn and canola. The IOC standards ensure the quality of olive oil, but also make olive oil a more expensive product than other oils. Flavored oils, such as lemon olive oil or jalapeno olive oil, are increasingly popular with consumers, but existing law does not address these products. Wiggins said that the state definition of “olive oil,” in existence since 1947, does not include “extra virgin olive oil,” which is the grade of nearly all California-produced olive oils, nor does it include other common olive oil grades identified by the IOC or flavored oils that are increasingly popular with consumers. Among the benefits offered by SB 634: • Providing consumers with better information (state definitions of common olive oil grades would assist the consumer in evaluating quality and price); • Facilitating the export of California olive oil (state olive oil standards that are consistent with international standards would reassure foreign importers and retailers of California olive oil); • Helping to spur adoption of national standards (adoption of state standards will encourage the federal government to adopt national standards). SB 634 is sponsored by the California Olive Oil Council, which represents over 80% of all the olive oil grown and produced in the United States. Testifying on behalf of the bill today were California Olive Oil Council Board President Alan Greene, North American Olive Oil Association President Bob Bauer, and Family Winemakers of California President Paul Kronenberg. All three organizations are backing SB 634. Greene told committee members: “Many of you will remember the California almond crop when it was second to Spanish production. During my nearly 18 years at Blue Diamond Growers, I was witness to the development of new almond technology, knowledge and marketing applied to the almond crop that has resulted in California almonds dominating world production. The same conditions exist for the developing olive oil industry today. “A critical step to encourage the development of the California olive oil industry and to protect consumers is to establish the legal framework that will conform olive oil quality grades to international standards,” Greene added. “SB 634 will help California-produced olive oil achieve acceptability in the world’s markets and help consumers assess quality and price for olive oil regardless of where it is produced.” Bauer stressed that the Wiggins bill “will protect consumers and businesses purchasing olive oil because it will help ensure they are purchasing what is listed on the label. Many consumers are turning to olive oil because of its many health benefits. It’s important to protect them by passing a law that will ensure they are getting what they’re paying for.” Additional supporters include the California League of Food Processors, California Olive Ranch, Carriere Family Farms, Ojai Oil Company, Carriage Vineyard, Starcross Community, West Coast Producers, the Pasta Shop and Cullen Creek Olive Oil. Wiggins represents California’s large 2nd Senate District, which stretches from Humboldt County to Solano County and also includes portions or all of Lake, Mendocino, Napa andSonoma Counties.