Only the top Olive Oil in the world can be labeled ‘Extra Virgin Olive Oil.’ But what does that even mean? Well, it really just depends.
First and foremost, the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC), which sets the standards, has recently made the rules a bit more strict. This is actually pretty good news. Unfortunately, the bad news is that the United States is not a member of the IOOC (International Olive Oil Council ), so the IOOC grading regulations do not have any enforceable meaning in the U.S.
That being said, there are a handful of correctly-labeled Olive Oils available in the states.
Here‘s What the Those Terms Generally Mean:
Until 1995, ‘Extra Virgin’ Olive Oil simply meant that the oil was mechanically produced (pressed, rather than chemically refined), and had an oleic acid level under 0.8 %.
‘Virgin’ Olive Oil was mechanically produced, with acidity of between 0.8% and 3%; other grades follow, concluding with lampante, or ‘lamp oil.’ Only a small amount of quality producers bother to market any oil that isn‘t Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
In 1995, the IOOC added a new requirement for Extra Virgin status: the Olive Oil must taste good (what a concept). In addition, Olive Oils are put through a blind organoleptic analysis by a panel of Olive Oil experts. They are rated on a 9-point scale, and must score 6.5 or higher to receive ‘extra virgin’ designation.
The members of the California Olive Oil Council (including DaVero, which was a founding member) voluntarily adopted international standards for labeling. Since the beginning, domestic producers have been working with the US government to get labeling laws in the US that are consistent with those used elsewhere in the world.
You may have noticed that you can purchase Olive Oil in the supermarket that is labeled as ‘Pure’ or ‘Original’ or ‘Light’ or the like. These pretty much mean that the Olive Oil has been refined, rather than pressed.