Olive Oil

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Changed on: 26.05.2021

Olive Oil

Olive oil is made from the fruit of the olive tree and has been valued for its flavour, ingredients and positive effects on the human body for many hundreds of years and recognised as a high-quality food. About 1.2 litres of olive oil are consumed per capita in Austrian households (Statisik Austria, Consumption Survey 2009/10).

Main cultivation areas include Greece, Italy, Spain and other Mediterranean countries. The category “Native Olive Oil Extra” must meet the highest standards. Most olive oils on the market carry this mark. 

Different Quality Categories

Olive oil is produced in eight different quality categories. In retail, only four categories, namely “Native Olive Oil Extra”, “Native Olive Oil”, “Olive Oil” and “Olive Pomace Oil”, may be marketed. Mixtures of the same quality category, even of oil from different countries, are permitted. Thus, “Native Olive Oil Extra” may also feature the phrase “Mixture of olive oils from the European Union”, for instance.

Native olive oils are oils that are obtained from olive tree fruit solely using mechanical or other physical processes under conditions that do not lead to a deterioration of the quality of the oil and using fruit that have not been treated by means other than washing, decanting, centrifugation and filtration. “Olive oil” and “Olive pomace oil” are a mixture of native olive oils and refined olive and olive pomace oils.

The exact regulations are defined in Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013 on establishing a common organisation of the markets for agricultural products.

Properties and Measurement Criteria

The physical, chemical and organoleptic (sensory) properties of the eight different olive oil categories, maximum levels and the appropriate analysis processes are regulated by Regulation (EEC) No. 2568/1991.

Odour and Flavour Enhancing Properties of Olive Oil

No other oil has such a multitude of different odours and flavours. Olive oil can be mild, but also bitter and tangy. Properties such as fruitiness, bitterness and tanginess are considered positive. The characteristic fruitiness ranges from fruit aromas (apple, various citrus fruit, almond, banana, mango, ripe or green fruit) and vegetables (artichoke, tomato, olive) to expressions such as “freshly cut grass or leaves” or various herbs and spices.

This sensory plethora has many roots and is key to determining quality. One essential factor is the type of olive, which has a considerable effect on the oil’s characteristic properties.

Additionally, area of cultivation and climate, soil quality, the olives’ condition and the degree of ripeness during harvesting and the necessary care and attention during the oil production process play a significant role.

Native olive oil extra must have a minimum level of fruitiness, according to EU Regulation and must not have any defects (such as rancid, fusty, muddy, muddy-moist or vinegary).

Chemical Parameters

The Regulation also includes many requirements with regards to chemical properties (acid levels, peroxide number, composition of fatty acids, trans fats content, K values, etc.), in addition to sensory features. Both sensory and chemical parameters help in the testing of olive oil, in particular when determining whether the label “native olive oil extra” is used correctly.

Testing the Quality of Olive Oil

The relevant sensory and chemical examinations are carried out at the AGES Institute of Food Safety Linz. The institute also cooperates with an oil panel that is recognised internationally by the International Olive Council (IOC) to evaluate sensory properties. Such an olive panel consists of eight to 12 specially trained testers, according to Regulation (EEC) No. 2568/1991. These experts assess the oils using precise standards from the Regulation with regards to their fruitiness and defects on a 10-part scale.

Olive oil is not only tested for freshness and pureness by AGES. The examinations also encompass tests for residues to find out about contents such as pesticides, plasticisers, solvents, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) or other contaminate.

The AGES Institute for Food Safety Linz analyses approximately 200 olive oil samples every year, 90 percent of which are native olive oils, on average.

A total of 62 samples (10 %) were complained about between 2011 and 2013 because they were labelled “native olive oil extra”, but did not meet the requirements defined by Regulation (EEC) No. 2568/1991 in terms of their sensory and/or chemical properties. However, there were no complaints with regards to residue tests conducted during this period, which means that there were no transgressions of maximum pesticide levels in the olive oils tested.


Dr. Daniela Schachner
Phone: +43 50 555-41730
Wieningerstraße 8
4020 Linz

Dr. Daniela Schachner
Phone: +43 50 555-41730
Wieningerstraße 8
4020 Linz