In my last article I promised you I would write a series of reports on the silver linings and black clouds in the growing U.S. olive industry. Here is part of the silver lining, some of the players, and a little about the black clouds.
The silver lining in this story is that now from east coast to west coast U.S. growers, producers, and academics are working very hard to make sure we can buy locally grown and American-made olive oils that actually meet the USDA’s voluntary standards (see my article Olive Oil Standards Get a Face Lift). California olive growers and olive oil producers are helping new growers, new and future olive oil producers in other states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas) get off the ground so U.S. consumers get the quality product we demand and are expecting when we buy a bottle labeled Extra Virgin Olive Oil (evoo).
The silver lining is extra shiny for the developing United States olive industry, especially when it comes to growing and producing “good” evoo. Health benefits research has made Americans aware that evoo is good and good for us. So why would I be redundant and emphasize “good”? It’s because much of the olive oil imported into the U.S. and labeled as Extra Virgin or Virgin does not even come close to meeting the standards for Virgin Olive Oils.
For as long as olive oil has been imported into the U.S., this country has been treated like a dumping ground for Virgin Oils that have been mixed with lower quality oils, such as: rapeseed oil; hazelnut oil; olive oils that are not fit for human consumption (the kind that is fit for use only as fuel), and other oils. In addition to adding low-quality oils to evoo, chlorophyll dyes have been added to make the evoo on U.S. grocery shelves look like the evoo it isn’t.
This adulterated oil has none of the healthy anti-oxidants found in true Virgin Olive Oils. In 2008 one of the adulteration “rings” was busted, but there are still other groups out there and they are operating with the tacit approval of some of the main producer countries who are part of the International Olive Council.The European Union, which is a huge consumer of evoo, responded swiftly to the problem of adulterated oils. The U.S., on the other hand, even after the standards overhaul last year, does not have standards strong enough to protect us from international olive oil adulteration “rings”.
The U.S. is still a few years away from large enough evoo production to begin to meet the growing demand for locally-grown, American-made extra virgin olive oil. During these next couple of years it is critical that U.S. growers and producers and the American public band together to stop the international olive oil producing countries, who are threatened by the evolving U.S. olive industry, from killing it and continuing to cheat American olive oil consumers.
California is leading the charge because they have first-hand experience with the international olive producing countries destroying California’s mid-twentieth century olive oil industry and its exports, but more on that in my next article.
Support locally-grown, American-made olive oil. It is our only hope for getting true, “good” evoo.
May the sun shine through your branches.