Different Quality Levels
In Europe, olive oil is divided into quality classes. The European Regulation 1234/2007 (updated by EU Regulation 61/2011) distinguishes these classes. It specifies quality labels, under which olive oil may be sold. These requirements are supplemented by labeling requirements (which must be applied to the label) and guidelines on ingredients and other parameters.
Olive oil is essentially divided into grades
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), (“extra virgin" / "extra virgin olive oil”)
- "Vergine" ("virgin olive oil")
- Lampant oil (also called "olive oil”)
The above are the important classifications.
The quality levels differ as follows:
- For extra virgin olive oil, the olives have to be picked from the tree in an optimal season and processed within a few hours in an oil mill. During processing, fermentation and oxidation must be largely excluded as they lead to qualitative changes. When processing the olives to oil, the temperature ranges must not be exceeded.
This oil must also contain special chemical (ingredients and components) and meet sensory (smell and taste) requirements.
For example, limit values for free fatty acids and the like are given. All the details of the requirements can be found in the EU Olive Oil Regulation.
A virgin olive oil (without the "extra") is produced when the olives are not completely fresh or even damaged, even if the specifications for fermentation and oxidation cannot be adhered to during processing. This is possible by the use of older oil mills by which more oxygen is introduced, but also when the period between harvesting and processing is too long. For oil of this quality level, different specifications apply for production and ingredients such as fatty acids or the like.
Lampant oil used as base from the ground collected, longer situated, rotten, fermented olives. The result of processing is a bad smelling and unpleasant tasting oil. This oil may not be sold for direct consumption untreated at all! It is legally regulated that "lampant oil" may only be consumed for sale after a refining process, with heat, the addition of chemicals and so on. At least by mixing with native oil, the tasteless oil after refining gets its own limited flavor. Often they are extremely cheap offered olive oils in a terrifying quality.