You have taken great pride in what you think could be the best extra virgin olive oil ever produced. Whether you grew the fruit and processed it or bought the oil in bulk and blended it to your specifications, obtaining certificates of authenticity for the quality and purity of your product is important on a variety of levels. You may want to have your oil certified as extra virgin, organic, or kosher, for example.
First, having some tests done on your oil will confirm that it has met your own standards of extra virgin quality, standards you set when you first decided to go into this business; standards that will keep you in business with satisfied customers and repeat sales.
Second, you are part of a growing domestic industry that battles for market share with lesser grade products masquerading as “the real thing”. You have an important part to play in helping build awareness that quality is important in this category. Consumers, newly introduced to nuances of oil styles and quality differences, deserve to have some assurances that the higher price they are willing to pay is worth it.
Third, other products may have a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” or sanctioned USDA standards for quality grades, but at this early stage of the industry, extra virgin certification is still a somewhat self-policing effort, with strong support and agreed-upon definitions from industry groups like the International Olive Oil Council, the California Olive Oil Council (COOC), and academic communities like the University of California Davis Olive Center.
EXTRA VIRGIN CERTIFICATION
The process of extra virgin certification is not a complicated one. First, you should have your oil tested chemically to determine if it meets current standards for extra virgin status, including levels of free fatty acids and peroxide, and UV light absorbency. You may also want to have your oil tested for its level of polyphenols (anti-oxidants) as consumers have a growing interest in this number.
Once you have established that your oil meets the necessary standards, organizations like the California Olive Oil Council have certification programs for their members, including the sensory evaluation part of the process, where your oil is evaluated by a formal Panel of Tasters for defects and desirable attributes. If it meets or exceeds the quality standards, it is entitled to display evidence of that on the label – further creating consumer awareness that standards do exist and that they are important to support.
As this business continues to grow and pending programs are implemented by organizations like the USDA and UC Davis, we will keep you posted.
You will find detailed information about Product Grade Classifications and links to sources that provide various certifications such as organic or kosher on our Regulations and Standards section.