With reports coming in that the 2010-2011 harvest year is expected to result in the largest volume of U.S.-grown olive oil yet, it was welcome news in December that the UC Davis Olive Oil Taste Panel was awarded accreditation from the IOC, making the panel the second IOC-accredited group of its kind in North America, following Canada’s CFIA lab in Quebec. It joins 47 panels around the world to support internationally-recognized standards for olive oil quality. While the UC Davis Taste Panel accreditation did not come as a surprise, it is another strong indicator that olive oil production in the U.S. is rapidly catching up to its international counterparts – both in volume and quality.
“We were very pleased to receive IOC accreditation. It is another important step in the development of our core objectives to support the olive oil industry in the United States. The panel has three primary goals: to analyze samples according to IOC quality standards; to provide a full descriptive sensory analysis well-beyond the industry norm; and to support research conducted by UC Davis and other outside institutions,” stated Flynn.
As first reported in our April 2010 newsletter, the UC Davis Taste Panel, under the direction of world-renown sensory scientist, Dr. Jean-Xavier Guinard, made steady inroads in 2010 to meet stringent IOC qualifications. With a group of 20 members and 12 apprentices, the taste panel is already conducting weekly tastings for submitted oils. Members of the taste panel include experienced tasters from Paul Vossen’s UC Cooperative Extension research panel and the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) taste panel.
Patricia Darragh, Executive Director of the COOC, was one of the first to provide congratulations to the UC Davis Olive Center. “The COOC believes that the growing domestic olive oil industry needs to be heard in the international arena and that UC Davis with its prestige and worldwide recognition is an excellent representative. The COOC looks forward to continuing its strong relationship with the Olive Center including the continued sharing of trained tasters, and the co-sponsoring of events,” stated Darragh.
By the end of the first quarter in 2011, the UC Davis panel expects to move to the next stage in its development, offering a far more extensive sensory analysis much like the long-standing aroma wheel (also developed at UC Davis) used by the wine industry. The expanded sensory profile will provide description from broad, general adjectives, like fruity or bitter, to very precise, analogous terms ranging from avocado and apricot to green apple and tomato leaf, with 36 derivations in all. The purpose of this detailed sensory analysis will be to provide producers with meaningful measurements to create or describe a particular flavor profile.
According to Dan Flynn, Executive Director, UC Davis Olive Center, this fee-based analytical service will be available to producers, retailers and importers by the end of the first quarter of 2011. He added that a sliding-scale fee structure for the expanded service will be announced soon.