Tuesday, October 27, 2009

ACCC Adopts IOC Standard for Olive Oil

In carrying out an investigation into reports that Extra Virgin Olive Oil being sold in Australia was not true to label, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), used the International Olive Council (IOC) Trade Standard for Olive Oil as the benchmark for testing.

Despite stating that ‘currently there is no mandatory standard for extra virgin olive oil……’ the ACCC set a strong precedent by using the IOC standard and stating ‘The IOC standard defines extra virgin olive oil and sets criteria for purity and quality. While the standard is not mandatory, it is a useful and recognised guide for establishing the essential elements of genuine extra virgin olive oil’.

Effectively the ACCC has adopted the IOC standard for court enforceable undertakings. This could set an important legal precedent in Australia for legal actions involving specifications for olive oil.

The Australian Olive Association (AOA) President, Paul Miller, was reported by the Weekly Times (October 21 2009) as being ‘impressed’ by the ACCC’s action. He was also reported as saying ‘We would like the Australian standard to be law…….that would make life easier for (the ACCC)’.

This is unlikely as the so called 'Australian standard' – a standard developed for the AOA Code of Practice available to AOA members only – falls far short of the requirements for purity and organoleptic (taste) testing in the IOC Trade Standard. Its lack of rigour could create many problems for the ACCC in any legal challenges related to olive oil meeting specification.

It would be far easier if everyone in the Australian Olive Industry adopted the IOC Trade Standards and, to provide regional differentiation, added to them by specifying additional source and quality requirements. The ACCC action probably means that this will be inevitable.