Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Zealand Judges Show the Way

Judges in the Olives New Zealand national olive oil awards have shown leadership by not entering their own oils in the competition. This follows controversy in last years awards when the top award went to the oil produced by the head judge.

The move to ensure that judges have no vested interest in the outcome of the competition will remove this distraction from the excellence of the olive oils winning the competition.

In Australia, judges continue to judge in the Australian Olive Oil National Extra Virgin Olive Oil Show when their own oils, or those in which they have an interest, are entered. Of the 26 judges who judged in the competition, 11 had entries in which they have an apparent interest. In the 5 extra virgin olive oil classes, two classes were won by oils which were associated with judges. Three judges had an association with the overall winner of the competition.

The report on the Australian competition acknowledged that ‘some judges were exhibitors, or had an association with an exhibit. To remove any possibility of bias, these judges assessed classes that did not include their oil, and they were at no time in a position to influence the outcome of a class which included their oil’.

It also states that at the conclusion of the judging ‘the twelve gold medal oils were subjected to blind tastings by judges working as one panel’. Three of these gold medal winners were associated with four judges. This implies that all judges judged the oils for the overall winner – unless the judges with an interest in the oils were excluded. This would have indicated to the other judges that the oils of those excluded were in the final 12. Either way the judging would be compromised.

It is notable that some Australian judges who have judged and entered their oil in the past, judged in this year’s competition but did not enter their oils.

Surely it would be much simpler and more ethical for the Australian competition to follow the lead from New Zealand and bar any judges who enter their oils.