I stroll into my local supermarket for my weekly visit (my option locally is only Coles or Woolworths). I see that there are two forms of fruit juice that I can buy. Looking closer at the juice on the shelf I soon realise that there is a reconstituted product whereas the fresh product is refrigerated in another area of the supermarket (i.e. the two products are stored differently according to the nature of the product). I also notice that the labelling for the reconstituted versus fresh product are different. There are best before dates stated on the fresh juice as it is a perishable product.
Extra-virgin being the fruit juice of the olive is a perishable product but isn't treated differently according to the retailer (like juice is). Extra-virgin olive oil is the freshest & best when it's young (like fresh juice). Extra-virgin olive oil is not refined nor has it gone through any type of chemical treatment compared to other oils.
However, when I look at the olive oil terminology used …. labelling is very vast. Terms like Pure, light, extra light, extra virgin, virgin and pomace are used without any consistency. No wonder why confusion exists. Many of these terms including Pure, Light & Extra Light are not permitted in European countries.
I also notice that some extra-virgin olive oils state they are certified whereas many of the imported oils don't have any certification, best before dates, manufacturing dates, year of production nor anything that gives a consumer any inkling as to the quality of the oil in the bottle. Colour is not an indication of quality either.
Also, another observation is the price between extra-virgins is vastly different where imported product is going for a supposed bargain price at the moment whereas a certified product is more. How is it possible to have such a gap in the product, price and description? Is this an indicator of misleading & deceptive conduct? The cheaper the oil the cheaper the product inside the container?
If we look at food compliance in terms of olive oil the government definition is lacking in that all edible oils (standard 2.4.1) are deemed to be the same. How can an extra-virgin olive oil be the same as any other refined oil on the supermarket shelf? Also, according to the Australian food code any processing that changes the free fatty acid composition of an oil is meant to be declared on the label. Whereby fruit juice can be ‘reconstituted’ or in olive oil terms can be ‘refined’. Many oils which are refined don’t seem to carry this process declaration either (which is current law).
In 2009, during the previous investigations by ACCC had referred the old International Olive Council standard for olive oil and olive pomace oils. This standard is quite lacking in testing criteria to determine adulteration in oils and many other parameters. Whereby if we take the example of DNA testing for police in criminal investigations, this new form of testing revolutionised the way in which evidence was handled and certainly brought accuracy and efficiency into determining evidence that was able to be used in cases to prove certain crimes.
If we look at the recent Australian standard (AS5264-2011) which was released in July of 2011 this is regarded as a form of DNA testing for the olive industry. Without it fraud will exist and continue to undermine honest producers. This standard is looking to be adopted in many other countries where the same fraud exists there because the international olive Council standard, in my opinion, is not adequate.
As a consumer because you cannot see the quality of the oil physically in the bottle the government technically is abrogating either retailers who possibly are treating nor storing the product in the correct manner and/or who are buying product which is already old and/or is not what is stated on the label and is possibly adulterated (i.e. you may not even be buying olive oil). The government continues to allow consumers to be misled.
Many consumers don't know what real extra-virgin tastes like because this type of fraud has existed in the industry ever since olive oil has been sold in Australia. Thereby, paving the way for consumers who have been traditional in buying their brands of olive oil may not have ever tasted a true extra virgin product. This is very sad to say!
In 2009 the ACCC also stated they needed more tools to be able to deal with this matter in a proper way. Government had supported the Australian Olive Association by way of a grant towards the development of the Australian Standard. When the Australian standard was approved all associated government agencies were on the board of the approval of the standard and are fully aware of the scientific reasons why the standard was needed.
I believe it is the government's role to stepup to the mark and mandate the standard to determine the rules and stop misleading and deceptive practices from happening within the industry. It's no wonder why Richard Whiting said “were all taking a bath”.
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