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Safeguarding Consumers from Olive Oil Fraud

Posted by Charles W. Parrott, Deputy Administrator, Specialty Crops Program in Food and Nutrition
May 11, 2016
USDA Quality Monitored Seal
Olive oil producers, bottlers and consumers can be assured that olive oils with labels bearing the USDA’s Quality Monitoring Program (QMP) seal are pure and authentic.

Olive oil is a staple in many American kitchens. But, this popular product has also been the focus of concerned consumers who want to understand and trust the quality of the oil they buy.

To help the entire industry—olive oil producers, bottlers and consumers—ensure that products are pure and authentic, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides the Quality Monitoring Program (QMP).

The program allows produce suppliers and food companies to have products inspected by USDA based on specific internal standards or the U.S. grade standards. USDA acts as an objective third-party to evaluate commodities, such as canned, frozen, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Olive oil was added to the program in 2012. Currently, two olive oil companies participate in the QMP.

Under the QMP for olive oil, USDA verifies the chemistry of the oil for its quality and purity and uses a sensory panel to evaluate the oil’s flavor profile. Evaluations are based on the U.S. grade standards for olive oil. USDA also makes random and unannounced plant visits to review production processes, quality assurance measures and records to make sure that standard operating procedures are in place and practiced by production employees.

These measures help olive oil producers and bottlers provide olive oil that consistently meets the quality stated on the container and meets consumers’ expectations. Olive oil labels with USDA’s QMP seal provide consumers the assurance that the producer has taken proactive steps to ensure their product is authentic.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition