photo of oil and olives

© Eugene Bochkarev |

olive oil

It takes about 4 to 6 kilograms of olives to produce 1 liter of olive oil. A tree produces 15 to 50 kilograms of olives each year, with great year-to-year variation. One hundred to 250 trees can be grown on a hectare.

The International Olive Oil Council adopted standards at a meeting on 6 June 1996, and these have been followed in Europe and Australia.


Grade     Maximum free
oleic acid
suitable for
extra virgin ≤1% ≥6.5 produced by a mechanical process. No additives.
fine virgin ≤2% ≥5.5
virgin ≤3.3% ≥3.5
lampante virgin olive oil   >3.3% <3.5
refined olive oil   ≤0.3   Olive oil produced in the manner of virgin olive oil, but which had acid or taste/smell characteristics that kept it from qualifying as virgin olive oil, and was subsequently processed to remove those faults. Alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) may be added.
olive oil      mix of refined and virgin oils
olive-pomace oil crude olive-pomace oil        
refined olive-pomace oil   ≤0.3   extracted from pomace with solvents
olive pomace oil   mix of crude and refined oils  

The United States standards date from 2 March 1948 and are much less sophisticated than those adopted by the IOOC. There were four grades, “Grade A, U.S. Fancy,” “Grade B, U.S. Choice,” “Grade C, U.S. Standard” and “Grade D, substandard.” The maximum “free fatty acid content, calculated as oleic,” was 1.4%, 2.5% and 3% respectively. In 2004 American growers were agitating to adopt stricter European standards.


Codex Alimentarius Standard 33-1981 (Revised 1-1989)

European Union Standard:

International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives, 2005:   See the Annex.

The website of the North American Olive Oil Assn. provides, among much other information, guidelines on substituting olive oil for butter:

The current United States standards may be seen at:

Rafeal Frankel, Shmuel Avitsur and Etan Ayalon.
History and Technology of Olive Oil in the Holy Land.
Jay C. Jacobson, translator.
Arlington, VA: Olèarius Editions (P.O. Box 906, Arlington, VA 22216)

home | food index | search |  contact drawing of envelope |  contributors | 
help | privacy | terms of use