Australian extra virgin olive oils awarded the OliveCare ® seal will be issued with maximum 18 month best-before dates unless producers pay for extra testing.
The OliveCare® program has announced how their signatories can apply best-before dates on their labelling. In future, signatories to OliveCare® will be required to label their oils with a maximum best before date of 18 months after processing unless they can provide evidence to the contrary.
Peter McFarlane, the OliveCare® Administrator, said that the inclusion of freshness testing is a positive marketing initiative, aimed at building consumer confidence in certified Australian EVOO. He said that “… EVOO products certified under the IOC standard … are not certified as being fresh, and our market testing confirms many imported oils indeed are not fresh – often close to the end of their EVOO shelf life”. He said that “the so called rule of thumb of using a best-before date of 2 years from the date of bottling is not an acceptable method of determining the best-before date under OliveCare certification.”
There have been mixed reactions to this announcement. While some growers have praised this incentive, others have noted that signatories to the AOA’s code will be at a disadvantage compared to other producers who may instead market their oil using the Australian Olive Oil Association (AOOA) or International Olive Council (IOC) standards. McFarlane countered the sceptics by saying that since most small producers sell out of their product each year, the use of an unsubstantiated 2 year best-before date is unnecessary.
Extra cost of freshness testing
Growers have also questioned the increased cost involved in conducting the extra testing that will be required to accurately determine best-before dates. Some say that the cost of testing will more than double from $142.25 to about $354.00 for each oil. This is a significant cost, particularly for small growers.
McFarlane said that the AOA understands this concern, and is working with testing laboratories to develop a lower cost test option using NIR (near infra-red) that will in future allow more growers to cost effectively substantiate their best-before dates. However, he did not indicate when this option would be available.
He did note that the extra testing cost will only be necessary if a signatory needs certification of a 2 year best-before date. If signatories are happy to apply a more conservative best-before date in the absence of objective test data, the cost will be zero.
What extra testing is required?
McFarlane said that potential best-before date is best determined from the lowest value derived from the following 3 estimations: Rancimat® (INDuction time), Pyropheophytins a (PPPs) % and 1,2 Diacylglycerides (DAGs) % testing:
- hours of induction time (IND) at 110ºC x 1 = expected shelf life (in months)
- (17.0% – PPPs) / 0.6% = expected shelf life (in months)
- (DAGs – 35.0%) / FFA* factor = expected shelf life (in months)
*FFA factor = 1.7% (if FFA < 0.4%); 2.1% (if 0.4% < FFA < 0.6%); or 2.5% (if FFA > 0.6%)
Note: If bottling / selling 2017 harvest oils, these oils should be retested to objectively determine remaining shelf life.
At present, only those seeking the seals of OliveCare® and that of the Californian Olive Council need to undertake any of the extra testing stated above.