It was an encouraging story, showing what happens when a government is willing to create a focused program and allocate funding to the objective.
One of the recurring themes of the standards discussion was the problem of chemical profiles that are based on a particular region. The profile of an olive oil will vary tremendously depending on the olive variety used and the climate where the olives are grown. A classic example of this is are the campesterol and 7 stigmastenol levels of Israeli oils made from the Barnea variety. These oils will regularly fall outside the IOC limits for those fatty acids and sterols.
Such natural variation in olive oil has led to some of these levels being set differently in national standards; the campesterol limit is: 4.5 in the USDA standard, for example, instead of the: 4.0 of the IOC standard. Mailer points out that the variability of the chemical profile of olive oil from places like Australia can be huge since their olive growing region extends from the tropical to the cool temperate.
Whereas the sterols and fatty acid profile of an olive oil are examined to assure authenticity, other tests are aimed at assessing quality and freshness. The free fatty acid level, peroxide value and UV absorbency are the traditional tests used for this purpose. During the short course, there was extensive discussion of two other tests that have been in use in the Northern European olive oil trade since at least 2006 and are incorporated into the recently adopted Australian standard for olive oil: pyropheophytin (PPP) and diacylglycerols (DAGs).
Support for the use of PPP and DAGs as indicators of olive oil age and quality was presented by Claudia Guillaume of the Modern Olives laboratory in Australia in the form of findings from three years of research on olive oil storage and quality assessment.