December 11, 2003
A July California Olive Oil News article discussed proposed changes in the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) membership agreement. In response to that article the COOC board has issued this statement:
First- No one is either being denied membership or being excluded from the COOC. Rather, the COOC has decided to adopt truth in labeling standards that will enable its members to market their product more effectively. To accomplish this, those who join our organization must agree to submit their oils for certification as well as agree to adhere to a broader code of ethics.
Second- At present the COOC requires only that California oil labeled Extra Virgin be submitted for certification. Lesser grades of oil need not be.
Third- (And here, we believe, there is a great confusion on your part) It is not each bottling which need be certified, but rather each lot of oil. Once a lot is certified it remains so, no matter how large or small the bottles, nor how many labels it is bottled under. Further, different certified batches may be mixed without re-certification. Finally, the requirements apply only to oils produced Fall 2004 and beyond, not to those produced in prior seasons.The current Fee Schedule contains a lower price ($50.00) for small batches and provision for waiver of fees when circumstances warrant.
The taste panel is equipped to handle as many oils as are submitted. We have expanded the pool of tasters and will schedule tasting to test all oils submitted.
Larger producers always have the advantage of scale no matter what the product, olive oil is no different.
The solution to the problem of mislabeled oil is to give the consumer a place to turn for assurance of quality; that place is certification and the Seal, whose value can only be established if those who use it do not also sell mislabeled oil. Some non-members will continue to sell mislabeled oil. Surely the solution is not to let them join and hide behind the organization while they do it.
Quality and truth in labeling most certainly have a price for producers, bottlers and labelers of olive oil. While we are all aware that there are many offenders domestically, as well as internationally, suggesting that our organization wait until someone else imposes those standards is to endorse the status quo where Extra Virgin means nothing.
Signed: Albert Katz, Bruce Golino, Tom Sloan, Ridgley Evers - California Olive Oil Council