Why Choose Certified Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil?The parameters and rationale for choosing a high-quality, certified organic extra virgin olive oil.
Extra virgin organic olive oil production as regulated by the European Community and the US Department of Agriculture (the NOP).
For some time now organic production of extra virgin olive oil has been regulated as stipulated by EEC Regulation 2092/91 and EEC Regulation 2078/92. These regulations issued by the European Community allow Organic Farms to be identified as such through the inspection of their work by dedicated organizations such as Bioagricert (www.bioagricert.org).
The inspection authorities control the farms to be sure the farms are using only natural fertilizers and no chemicals, but above all that pesticides, herbicides, weed killers, or other substances considered to be potentially dangerous for living organisms are not used.
An olive oil labeled as extra virgin organic must conform both to the regulations regarding extra virgin (EC Reg 2568/91 and subsequent modifications, by Reg EC 1513/2001, and EC Reg 796/2002), as well as to those regarding organic production (EC Reg 2092/91).
In order to be marketed as such, an extra virgin olive oil must:
- contain a high percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids (e.g. oleic acid between 55% and 83% of total fatty acids);
- show a level of free acidity of less than 0.8%;
- contain a peroxide content of less than 20 meq O2/kg oil.
The number of polyphenols, partly responsible for the flavor of the oil, varies from oil to oil.
To produce an extra virgin olive oil of high quality that contains high concentrations of monounsaturated fatty acids (mostly monounsaturated oleic acid) and a relatively high value of polyphenols calls for the following measures:
- ensuring that the olive varieties (cultivars) are of good quality and healthy, i.e. not pest infested;
- picking the olives directly from the trees when the skin of the fruit has only partially changed color (when it is half green and half brown) – that is, picked at a relatively early stage, which varies annually according to weather conditions but usually closes by mid-November;
- keeping the picked olives in ventilated containers to prevent overheating;
- avoiding letting the olives overheat due to long storage times at the mill;
- milling the olives within 24/48 hours of harvest;
- recognizing that cold pressing obtains excellent results, as long as:
- the temperatures recommended in the case of the continuous method are not exceeded; and
- cold pressing is done in the true sense of the term COLD PRESSING.
By respecting the rules above, one obtains a high-quality product that contains:
- a high content of oleic acid, polyphenols and vitamin E;
- a low free acidity (less than 0.4%);
- a low concentration of peroxides.
Two important caveats:
Polyphenols belong to a mixed class of compound molecules that includes a variety of substances. In olive oil there are at least nine different kinds; two of these – Tyrosol and Hydroxytyrosol – in an oil of good quality, produced according to good standards and of good vintage, should not exceed 4-5% of the total polyphenol content. Notice that no provision of EEC Regulation 2568/91 requires an analysis of the various classes of polyphenols, but the DOP rules require determination of their total content.