There are two forms of analysis that olive oil must undergo in order to be certified extra virgin; chemical analysis and sensory analysis. Both are required for a complete assessment of the quality of olive oil as there is no single test that can definitively determine quality. Chemical analysis is done through third party labs that are accredited and certified that analyze chemical parameters according to a strict standard of quality. Sensory analysis is done by a third-party sensory panel that evaluates the taste of the oil. It is the combination of chemical test results and sensory analysis that gives olive oil the designation of the highest quality grade of olive oil, extra virgin olive oil. Certified extra virgin olive oils may be eligible for seals of certification through several organizations. On this page, you’ll find more detailed information on each step of the certification process.
Chemical analysis of olive oil consists of olive oil producers submitting samples of their most recent harvest to third-party labs. These labs then run chemical analysis tests consisting of various parameters used to determine quality. The results of these tests are evaluated against a standard for quality. There are primarily 7-9 parameters that constitute a quality grade in any given standard. The remaining 25+ chemistry parameters listed on a standard are focused around purity and authenticity validating that the oil came from olives.
STANDARDS OF QUALITY – CHEMICAL ANALYSIS
There are three main entities that enforce standards for extra virgin olive oil in the United States.
USDA – United States Department of Agriculture
IOC – International Olive Council
OOCC/CDFA – Olive Oil Commission of California under the California Department of Food and Agriculture*
At California Olive Ranch, we elect to be held to the OOCC standard. Below is a chart comparing the Olive Oil Commission of California standard to those under the United States Department of Agriculture and International Olive Council.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL GRADE STANDARD – CHEMICAL ANALYSIS
|PARAMETER NAME||USDA & IOC||OOCC/CDFA||SUMMARIZED EXPLANATION|
|Free fatty acid (%m/m)||≤ 0.8||≤ 0.5||Free fatty acid or free acidity (FFA) FFA is an indication of the quality of olives at time of harvest and milling, a higher number means the olives were more mature. This does not change with time once the oil is made, however can contribute to having a short shelf life and associate to defective flavors. It is measurement of the fat molecule breakdown, as fruit matures the molecules in them break down. A good example is a mushy bland tasting green apple- over time it breaks down and degrades, milling that type of fruit does not give you as good oil|
|Peroxide Value(meq O2/kg oil)||≤ 20||≤ 15||Peroxide value (PV) A measurement of oxidation, the higher the peroxide the more likely the oil taste and smell rancid. This is effected with the olive quality as well as more so storage, poor storage of oil and exposure to oxygen increases the PV. You want a lower PV as it has less free-radicals which are not good for your blood.|
|Absorbency in ultraviolet K232||≤ 2.50||≤ 2.40||Ultra violet absorbency (UV) An indicator of oxidation using the UV spectrum at different wavelengths. Going hand in hand with PV they are key indicators of rancidity, preferably wanting lower numbers as possible.|
|Absorbency in ultraviolet K270||≤ .22||≤ .22|
|Absorbency in ultraviolet K||≤ /0.01/||≤ /0.01/|
|Pyropheophytin a (PPP) %||–||≤ 17||Pyropheophytins (PPP) Breakdown products of chlorophyll. This is newer technology found to be closely related to oil shelf life, the higher the number the more the oil is changing over time and thus not as fresh.|
|1,2 Diacylglycerols (DAGs) %||–||≤ 35||1,2- and 1,3-diacylglycerol (DAGs) Breakdown products of the fats. In a standard this is used as determining grade, similar and correlated to the FFA. It is also known to be able to detect refined oils, however not utilized in that manner in the standard. The lower the DAG’s in an oil the more the oil is degrading. Oil can be degraded at milling which would mean it would not last a good shelf life, and also does change with time.|
Sensory analysis – also called organoleptic assessment or sensory evaluation – is a process by which trained panelists evaluate the aroma and flavor of products, such as olive oil, in an objective manner. The goal of this evaluation is to detect any sensory defects and their intensities in order to classify the quality of olive oil. Producers submit samples of their most recent harvest olive oil to third-party sensory panels for analysis. These panels are made up of olive oil experts who have undergone extensive organoleptic training to evaluate olive oil on its main sensory parameters used to determine quality. The results of the sensory analysis are evaluated against a standard for quality.
STANDARDS OF QUALITY – SENSORY ANALYSIS
During sensory analysis, panelists follow standardized procedures specified by accrediting organizations. These procedures help to eliminate biases and control testing conditions. For example, the oils are tasted “blind” which means the label, style and varietal is hidden from the taster to prevent bias or preconceived notions about the oil. Oils are tasted from blue glasses to mask color and served within a specified temperature range. Panelists are separated by dividers and not allowed to discuss their results with each other to avoid biasing. During the session, panelists evaluate the intensities of both positive and negative attributes found in olive oil. The positive attributes include fruitiness, bitterness and pungency. Off-aromas and flavors, such as those shown in the Defects Wheel for Olive Oil, are not allowed in extra virgin olive oil – the highest level of quality. Each individual member of the panel tastes each oil following the formal process for tasting olive oil. The oil is scored on a ten point scale for each attribute. The panel then collects the analysis for the oil and comes to a consensus on whether or not it is deemed extra virgin olive oil.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL STANDARD – SENSORY ANALYSIS
For an olive oil to be deemed extra virgin olive oil it must have zero defects, and some fruitiness. Extra virgin olive oil should have clear flavor characteristics that reflect the fruit from which it was made.
Olive oil sensory panels may be accredited by a governing organization, such as the American Olive Oil Chemists or the International Olive Council, to confirm that they follow standard procedures and perform satisfactorily on proficiency tests.
Seals of Certification
There are a few organizations that provide a seal of certification that olive oil producers can use as a marketing tool. Producers can elect which seal they’d like to use on their package based on the differences in the organization’s seals.
All of the olive oils we mill and source at California Olive Ranch exceed the OOCC/CDFA standard for chemical analysis, pass the sensory panel analysis – which makes them eligible for extra virgin olive oil certification seals. At California Olive Ranch, we’ve elected the Applied Sensory seal of certification for our extra virgin olive oils because it certifies extra virgin olive oil from all countries. Our Reserve Collection additionally carries a seal from the Olive Oil Commission of California, available for exclusively California extra virgin olive oils.
|Applied Sensory||Seal can be used on certified extra virgin olive oils from any country.|
|OOCC/CDFA||Seal can be used on certified California extra virgin olive oils.|