Nine out of 10 imported olive oil brands ‘fail’ the Australian standards

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 2nd December 2013

Up to nine out of 10 imported olive oils ‘fail’ Australian standards and are labelled incorrectly, according to testing carried out by the Australian Olive Association.

The testing, which was undertaken between September 2011 and August 2013, found that, of the 106 imported oils tested representing 40 different brands, 77 per cent of the oils tested “failed the Australian Standard AS 5264-2011” and 93 per cent of brands tests “failed the Standard for at least one product of their brand range”. The Australian Olive Association said these results were consistent with results found by CHOICE in June 2010, which showed that 80 per cent of imported oils failed Extra Virgin standards.

Olive oil standards background

The Australian Standard for Olive Oil AS 5364-2011 was released in July 2011. Until 2011, Australia was one of the few countries that did not have a published standard for olive oil. Australian farmers representing 90 per cent of Australia’s olive oil production signed up to a strict code of practice to maintain a high standard. These producer carry a triangle certification symbol on their product.

In October 2013, the European Union released a draft report that listed olive oil among the top foods that are subjected to food fraud, along with fish and organic foods. Fraud can be classified as anything from the substitution of Greek olive oil for Italian to the addition of refined olive oils or cheaper oils such as corn or palm oil into Extra Virgin olive oil.

Of all the mainstream edible oils, the Australian Olive Association said Extra Virgin olive oil is the only oil that has not been chemically or physically refined; it is 100 per cent juice squeezed from fresh olive fruit.

Australian campaign encouraging consumers to ‘buy Australian’

The Australian Olive Association has launched a national campaign, which it says aims to “educate consumers about the benefits of buying Australian olive oil”. Fronted by nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan, the ‘Buy Australian Olive Oil’ campaign promotes Australian Extra Viring olive oil as the “fresher, healther, tastier olive oil”.

“The message is simple. Australian Extra Virgin olive oil is the fresh, healthy juice squeezed directly from the olive fruit,” Dr McMillan said. “It’s not refined, and it hasn’t been sitting on a boat and loading dock for months, before arriving on a supermarket shelf,” she said.

“Australian olive oil gets to you in the shortest time possible, delivering the best possible taste as well as all the healthy nutrients and antioxidants from the olive fruit,” Dr McMillan said.

The Australian Olive Association said it had been lobbying for two years for imported olive oils to comply with the Australian Standard.

“We encourage all conscientious consumers, cooks and chefs nationwide to swap to Australian olive oils,” said Lisa Rowntree, CEO of the Australian Olive Association. “if they haven’t already, make the pledge today,” she said.

Australian olive oil sales increasing

The Australian Olive Association said that the Australian olive oil industry produced close to 20 million litres of oil in 2013, up 80 per cent from 2012. Sales of Australian olive oil have grown over 50 per cent between 2012 and 2013, with overall supermarket sales of all olive oil valued at $220 million.

The ‘Buy Australian Olive Oil’ campaign commenced on 1 December 2013 on television and radio, supported by press, social and digital and a public relations campaign.

Australian Olive Association encouraging Australians to 'buy Australian'