USDA Grades of Olive oil


Grades of olive oil can be a little confusing.Olive oils are graded by production method, acidity content, and flavor.

The hierarchy for grades of olive oil is:

extra-virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, and virgin olive oil not fit for human consumption (lampante virgin olive oil). Lampante virgin olive oil is the lowest level of quality among the virgin olive oils and must be refined before consumption.

(a) “U.S. Extra Virgin Olive Oil” is virgin olive oil which has excellent flavor and odor (median of defects equal to zero and median of fruitiness greater than zero) and a free fatty acid content,expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams,and meets the additional requirements as outlined in §52.1539, as appropriate.

(b) “U.S. Virgin Olive Oil” is virgin olive oil which has reasonably good flavor and odor (median of defects between zero and 2.5 and median of fruitiness greater than zero) and a free fatty acid content,expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 2.0 grams per 100 grams,and meets the additional requirements as outlined in §52.1539 as appropriate. Olive oil that falls into this classification shall not be graded above “U.S. Virgin Olive Oil” (this is a limiting rule).

(c) “U.S. Virgin Olive Oil Not Fit For Human Consumption Without Further Processing” sometimes designated as “U.S. Lampante Virgin Olive Oil,” is virgin olive oil which has poor flavor and odor (median of defects between 2.5 and 6.0 or when the median of defects is less than or equal to 2.5 and the median of fruit is zero),a free fatty acid content, expressed as oleic acid, of more than 2.0 grams per 100 grams, and meets the additional requirements as outlined §52.1539 as appropriate. Olive oil that falls into this classification shall not be graded above "U.S. Virgin Olive Oil Not Fit for Human Consumption Without Further Processing" (this is a limiting rule). It is intended for refining or for purposes other than food use.

(d) “U.S. Olive Oil” is the oil consisting of a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oils fit for consumption without further processing. It has a free fatty acid content, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 1.0 gram per 100 grams, has acceptable odor and flavor characteristic of “virgin olive oil,” and meets the additional requirements as outlined in §52.1539 as appropriate. Olive oil that falls into this classification shall not be graded above “U.S. Olive Oil” (this is a limiting rule). The maximum level permitted of total alpha-tocopherol in the final product is 200 mg/kg.

(e) “U.S. Refined Olive Oil” is the olive oil obtained from virgin olive oils by refining methods that do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure (basic glycerin-fatty acid structure). It has a free fatty acid content, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams, is flavorless and odorless and meets the additional requirements as outlined in §52.1539 as appropriate.

Olive oil that falls into this classification shall not be graded above “U.S. Refined Olive Oil” (this is a limiting rule). The addition of alpha-tocopherol is permitted to restore natural tocopherol lost in the refining process. The maximum level is 200 mg/kg of total alpha-tocopherol in the final product.

For the full text of grades of olive oil,please see:

USDA Standards PDF

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