Friday, April 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Olive oil experts, producers call for level playing field

Sue Cockrell/Enteprise file photo

Members of California’s olive oil industry and experts from around the world pressed members of the state Senate last week for enforcement of oil standards, testifying about the damaging effects of fraudulent and low-quality olive oil on honest olive oil growers and producers, as well as consumers.

“Clear laws exist on olive oil quality, adulteration, false advertising, food labeling and so forth. But nobody is enforcing these laws,” said Tom Mueller, a freelance journalist who has written about the olive oil industry in his book “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil” and for the New Yorker. ”Not the FDA. Not the state health departments. Not one district attorney. Nobody.

“Because of this river of cheap counterfeit oils, consumers are deprived of the health benefits they expect when they buy what they think is extra virgin olive oil, and in some cases may be eating products that harm their health,” he testified in Sacramento.

“Honest growers, oil producers and importers can’t make a living, since they’re consistently undercut by low-cost, substandard products and outright fraud.”

State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, said “this is an industry with a great deal of potential.”

“It can provide a heart-healthy product, and is also an ideal crop for California,” said Wolk, chairwoman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Olive Oil Production and Emerging Products. “The state has the ideal climate and soil to grow olive trees, and olive oil trees require very little water, which is at a premium in our state.”

At issue is quality and authenticity of olive oils on grocery store shelves in California and throughout the world, testified Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center, a self-funded partnership between the university and the olive oil industry aimed at meeting the research and education needs of olive growers and processors.

The line for authenticity is whether a product is actually made from olives, Flynn said. The line dividing top quality, extra virgin olive oil and other oils of lesser quality is defects. Oils below the line contain flavor defects such as rancidity or mustiness — indicators of older, even spoiled oil.

Bob Bauer, president of North American Olive Oil Association, which represents olive oil importers and suppliers, questioned other participants’ claims about the quantity of fraudulent and low-quality olive oils in the marketplace — saying the tests behind these findings, including taste tests, were not approved by the International Olive Council.

However, Darrell Corti, the second generation of Cortis to run Corti Brothers grocery store and a renowned expert on food and wines, questioned attempts to discredit taste tests.

“In the International Olive Council’s description of what extra virgin olive oil is, it has to be without a defect,” he said. “The only way we can determine if the oil has defect or not is by tasting it.”

Additionally, Flynn and other presenters noted that the findings questioned by Bauer have been mirrored in tests by UCD and Consumer Reports, as well as in Germany, Canada and Spain.

“It’s important to remember that these aren’t just matters of food snobbery,” Mueller said. “These standards were established by International Olive Council and espoused by USDA and others because these odors and flavors map directly to the chemical composition of this olive oil and directly indicate the quality, health-giving properties and flavor of that oil.

“Olive oil has great business potential in America, which recently replaced Greece as the third largest consumer country of olive oil in the world,” Mueller continued, saying that olives should be California agriculture’s next “home run” crop.

“The U.S. oil market is valued at $1.5 billion, with 10 percent growth per year.”

But producing extra virgin olive oil is expensive, he said, and as a result “much of the olive oil sold in supermarkets is substandard oil made from low-grade, spoiled oil, … which is cheap to produce and sold as extra virgin at low prices that consistently undercut honest producers.”

“Many olive oils, particularly in food service, aren’t even made with olives at all,” he said. “They are soybean, sunflower and other low-quality vegetable oils colored green with chlorophyll and doctored with flavorants, then sold as extra virgin olive oil.”

Mike Bradley, president of Veronica Foods Company, and a world-renowned olive oil expert, producer and importer, testified to the difficulties of competing with doctored or fake oils, as well as against growers and producers benefitting from the European Union olive oil subsidy.

“It’s simply not possible to make a profit and produce olive oil when competing against the European subsidy,” Bradley said.

“What will it take to really shake up the bad actors in all this?” asked Sen. Doug La Malfa, a member of the committee.

Flynn pointed out that the Legislature has identified the lines with regards to quality and authenticity very clearly through legislation authored by Wolk and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year.

“So the question really isn’t where is the line drawn,” Flynn said. “The question is who’s enforcing the line, and who’s holding the line?”

Mueller pressed for steeper fines and prosecution. The olive oil growers and producers testifying before the committee agreed with the need for enforcement, maintaining their primary desire is to compete in a fair marketplace.

“We’re not looking for protections to give us an advantage over other producers,” said Adam Englehardt, vice president of Orchard Operations for California Olive Ranch, a California olive oil producer. “I would simply ask that we have a level playing field, that all products being sold in the United States and California be subject to a true testing regiment and be held to a standard across the board, and that standard be enforced.”

In her closing, Wolk called for more research on the positive health effects of olive oil, asking the UC Davis School of Medicine, as well as the university’s nutrition and food sciences departments, to partner in those efforts.

She also said California should look to other states and countries that have pursued enforcement of olive oil standards.

“I look forward to working with all parties to find solutions to make sure consumers are getting what they pay for, and to provide honest growers and producers with a fair marketplace,” Wolk concluded.

Special to The Enterprise

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Former caretaker convicted of murder, elder abuse

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

     
    Old friend helps Brad and others find kidneys

    By Dave Jones | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Chuck Rairdan joins school board race

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1

    Going green at church, school, everywhere

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    UCD to host Global Health Day event

    By Cory Golden | From Page: A2

    Ukraine insurgents reject call to quit buildings

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

     
    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    ‘Hitchhiking’ dog looking for new home

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Online K-12 school holds info night

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Volkssporting Club plans North Davis walks

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Schwenger lawn signs available

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

    Volunteers needed for Grad Night

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis grad makes rain collection a business

    By Jason McAlister | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    A few spots left on history tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Chipotle fundraiser boosts Emerson tech upgrade

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Event to provide nature scholarship

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Students have new options on leasing front

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Groups join for a day of service

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    NAMI backers walk in Sacramento

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    Food for the hungry

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10

    .

    Forum

    Dad makes mom look bad

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    More tax money? Answer the question

    By Rich Rifkin | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

     
    UCD IS responsible for students

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

     
    In search of great ideas

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    Please keep the nursery open

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Early help is a great investment

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    Aggies lose a slugfest in opener at Riverside

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Fox coming to UCD; Riffle heads to Florida

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    DHS’ Golston goes full-bore on the diamond

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Devils show more life in loss to Mitty

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Sharks double up Kings in Game 1

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    DYSA roundup: Intensity has big week; 10U games dominate schedule

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Pro baseball roundup: Susac sends Sacramento to a rare loss

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

     
    Sports briefs: Aggies set the academic bar high

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    ‘The Bloom’ paves way for Whole Earth Festival

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    DHS tribute to Tony Fields slated for April 25-26

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    UCD, city team up for Music on the Green

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    ‘Transcendence’: A whole new level of tedium

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    Ford turns its Focus to domestic market

    By Ali Arsham | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, April 18, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Real Estate Review

    Featured Listing

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER1

    Professional Services Directory

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER2

    Lyon Real Estate

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER3

    Jamie Madison

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Yolo FCU

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Acacia at Huntington Square

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Travis Credit Union

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER5

    Kim Eichorn

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

    Suzanne Kimmel

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

    Lynne Wegner

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

    Kim Merrel Lamb

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

    Chris Snow

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

    Patricia Echevarria

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

    Don Guthrie

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

    Andrew Dowling

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

    Sheryl Patterson

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

    Coldwell Banker

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER10

    Coldwell Banker

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

    Julie Partain & Dick Partain

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

    Heather Barnes

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

    Malek Baroody

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER13

    Karen Waggoner

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

    Willowbank Park

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

    Team Traverso

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

    Julie Leonard

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

    Tim Harrison

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

    Tracy Harris

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

    Lori Prizmich

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

    Raul Zamora

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

    Joe Kaplan

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

    Coldwell Banker

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

    Open House Map

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

    F1rst Street Real Estate

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER20