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New Major at Hebrew U: Olive Oil Expert

Students at Hebrew University will have a new major to choose from: Olive oil certification
By David Lev
First Publish: 2/17/2013, 5:23 PM

Olive trees are among the bounty of the Land of Israel
Olive trees are among the bounty of the Land of Israel
Israel news photo: Hana Levi Julian

Students at Hebrew University will have a new major to choose from: Olive oil certification. With olive oil exports a big business in Israel, educated experts are needed to ensure that the production of olive oil remains at the highest quality, and that the pure olive oil products are not adulterated with less expensive and lower quality oils.

The course curriculum is being set according to the standards of worldwide organizations of olive oil producers, such as the Madrid-based International Olive Council, who have strict criteria for the standards of olive oil; which ones can be labeled with specific terms (such as “extra virgin first press”), the size and maturity of olives used in production of specific oil types, the clarity and acidity of oil, and others.

According to Hebrew University, students will learn how to differentiate between different oils according to these standards, receiving a license in olive oil expertise from international organizations. With the license, said the school, graduates will become members of the certification organizations, and testimony they give in court about quality of oil – such as whether a particular oil has been adulterated with non-olive oil, or whether an oil is not of the quality claimed – will be accepted as expert testimony by Israeli and international courts.

According to Dr. Adi Na'ali, director of the olive division of the Israel Produce Association, over 20% of supposedly “extra virgin” olive oil sold in Israel is actually of lesser quality. Most of the phony oil is imported, Na'ali said.

Israel produced about 18,000 tons of olive oil last year, most of it labeled as "extra virgin," considered the highest quality olive oil.