Saturday, 16 October 2021

Bill to strengthen California's olive oil brand signed by governor

Assembly Bill 535, written by Assembly member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom. AB 535 establishes clear guidelines for how companies from the olive oil industry can use the term “California” by requiring companies in their product labeling and marketing to disclose the minimum percentage of California olives on the front of the container in the same font and size as the term “California.” 

This measure will protect consumers and farmers by providing clear information about the source of the olives and olive oils in the products they buy.

“California has the best agricultural products, and the highest environmental and labor standards, in the world. Consumers look for California-grown foods because they associate California with quality. Allowing companies to trick consumers into thinking they’re buying a California product because they slap ‘California’ on their package undercuts everything we’re trying to accomplish as a State,” said Aguiar-Curry.

“Assembly member Aguiar-Curry has done California’s farmers a huge service by bringing the critical issue of truth in labeling to the forefront,” said McEvoy Ranch President Samantha Dorsey. While the passage of AB 535 will directly benefit California’s olive farmers, it also indirectly benefits any farmer growing and selling crops in the Golden State. McEvoy Ranch is celebrating the passage of this bill and will continue to hold open discussions with our customers to ensure that they understand the true value of California grown and produced olive oil.”

“We are pleased to see the Governor sign this bill and take a stand to defend California olive oil,” said the Tribal Council of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. “Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation takes pride in our 100% California olive oil brand, Séka Hills, made with olives grown and milled in the Capay Valley in Yolo County. This legislation will help customers distinguish our premium products from products that are made with olives grown outside of California. This is good for California farmers, this is good for consumers, and we thank Assembly member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry for her continued efforts to protect California agriculture.”

California has had a thriving olive oil industry since the mid-19th century. The state produces approximately 4% of the world’s olive oil from over 75 varieties of olives.

Due to California’s well-established reputation for producing high-quality olive oils, the demand for California olive oil is steadily increasing.

Because of this spike in demand, there has been an increase in branding of olive oil with the term “California” or a California regional designation when the product on shelves is actually blended using oils sourced from other regions of the world, including Spain, North Africa and Argentina. Such blends have been found to contain as little as 14% of Californian olive oil.

As a result, a bottle of olive oil may be advertised and branded as “California” or a specific California region, but actually come from other countries. This has led to consumer confusion, and places California olive farmers and oil producers at a competitive disadvantage.

By establishing stronger guidelines for how olive oil producers follow in their branding, labeling, packaging, and advertising, AB 535 provides consumers with clear information about what they are purchasing.

AB 535 does not restrict blending oils from different sources and destinations, but it makes clear through establishing standards that when “California” is used, the disclosure label will tell the truth. This bill strengthens the integrity of the world renowned California olive oil brand.

Aguiar-Curry added, “This bill will ensure that consumers know exactly what they are buying, and it will help to support our local farmers who are producing world class oils from olives grown here in our California. These companies have made a lot of money by confusing consumers. But, their moment of making a profit off our state is coming to an end.”

AB 535 builds upon previous legislation from Sen. Wolk in 2014, who created the California Olive Oil Commission to distinguish the purity of California olive oil from imported alleged to contain counterfeit ingredients, and thereby penetrate the U.S. market.

The California Olive Oil Commission has found several brands of California olive oil which are currently misleading the public by using a California or regional name on their labels that deceptively imply olive oil grown in California is contained within the product.

Aguiar-Curry represents the Fourth Assembly District, which includes all of Lake and Napa Counties, parts of Colusa, Solano and Sonoma Counties, and all of Yolo County except West Sacramento.

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