‘A solution in search of a problem…’ California olive oil row heats up as producers clash over labeling bill

Existing law requires that the term ‘California Olive Oil’ can only be used on products in which 100% of the oil is sourced from olives grown in California.

AB 535, ​however, goes a step further by prohibiting “any reference to California orany other representation on the principal display panel”​ of olive oil containers that might lead consumers to think all the oil was sourced in the state, including the term ‘California olives, or something substantially similar​” unless 100% of the olives used to produce the oil were grown in California.

Cecilia Aguiar-Curry: Consumers are being misled

According to a press release​ issued by Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, the bill “protects Californian olive growers and manufacturers from being undercut in the market by oils that benefit from using the ‘California’ name to mislead consumers about what they’re buying ​[she cites concerns about blended products featuring “as little as 14% California olive oil​”].”

She added: “Through a loophole in current law, a bottle of olive oil may be advertised as a ‘California’ brand or a ‘California’ company, but the fine print will specify that the oil inside the bottle is not derived entirely from California olives..​. Our State’s name should not be used as a cynical marketing ploy to give the impression you’re buying something you’re not.​”

According to California Olive Ranch​ CEO Michael Fox, however, this is a blatant attempt – backed by some of his competitors – to go after his company’s ‘Global Blend’​ extra virgin olive oil series, which falls foul of AB 535 because it is sold under the California Olive Ranch brand but combines extra virgin olive oils from California and other growing regions in Latin America and Europe (AB 535 prohibits firms from making “any reference to California​” on products featuring anything other than 100% California olive oil). 

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