A Crash Course in Olive Oil Politics

No one in America knows more about extra-virgin olive oil better than writer, traveler, food authority and historian Nancy Harmon Jenkins. The James Beard Award-winning author’s Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil is a hybrid investigative report, cultural history and cookbook. Here, a quick, deep dive into olive oil politics.

The International Olive Council decides what olive oil is good enough to be called “extra virgin.” Who are they?
The International Olive Council was established by the United Nations in 1959. They represent all of the olive-producing countries—countries that rely on olive oil as a major part of their agriculture. It’s an industry group that promotes the industry as well as the consumption of olive oil. Because of this, it wants a very broad embrace of all kinds of olive oil producers—including those not making very good olive oil.

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