Home » Olive oil: we learn to read the label

Olive oil: we learn to read the label

by Ada Parisi
5 min read
Olio di oliva: impariamo a leggere l'etichetta

We face a complicated topic: we learn to read the label olive oil. How many times have you read in the supermarket the label of a bottle of olive oil and of not being able to distinguish important information from the secondary ones? To read “Unfiltered oil”, “sweet oil”, “cold extraction” without knowing exactly what these expressions indicate? According to you if an oil is produced in the EU means that it is produced in Italy? And what are the mixtures of non-EU oil? What is the expiration date of an olive oil?

European laws on labeling in general, and therefore also on the labeling of olive oil, It is based on the theoretical principle that the protection and health of consumers must be guaranteed so “high”. The consumer, in practice, It must be adequately informed about the food they consume. Therefore, the label allows the consumer to obtain information on food and, at the same time, It is a communication tool for producers. An opportunity to clearly describe what the consumer is going to buy.

Not always, though, the consumer knows read the label carefully to what the law requires or allows you to write. for that, Today we learn together to read the label olive oil to buy it consciously. And for the best use of this ITALIAN EXCELLENCE TO DEFEND AND PROMOTE.

extra virgin olive oils with denomination

There is a very important precondition for all our talk:

the law prohibits the sale of bulk oil is the final consumer, both restaurants and canteens

For OIL BULK means the one sold in a package that does not have a hermetic closing system. In summary: you can not go to a mill with a drum or carboy brought from home and buy olive oil.

This means that the sale of olive oil is only allowed in closed containers of a maximum capacity of five liters (25 liters in the case of restaurants). This applies to the extra virgin olive oil, for the virgin, for oil composed of refined and virgin oils and, Finally, for that olive pomace. The locks must lose their integrity after the first use and must be labeled in accordance with law. In cases of extra virgin and virgin olive oil, the packaging must also be provided with a specific cap antirabbocco. This is to avoid that the containers can be tampered with or filled with products other than those stated.

We learn to read the label olive oil: THE MANDATORY

Olive oil label must contain 11 mandatory information, which can be affixed to both the front and the back label.

  1. sales description
  2. origin (only for extra virgin and virgin olive oil)
  3. category
  4. net amount
  5. minimum period of conservation
  6. storage conditions
  7. commercial manager
  8. number of production lot
  9. nutritional information
  10. collection campaign (only for extra virgin and virgin)
  11. seat of the packaging plant

We learn now in detail to read the label of any package of olive oil.


There are four types on the market, as we explained in the article OLIVE OIL, RATINGS AND DIFFERENCES: HERE BECAUSE’ IT IS NOT’ ALL THE SAME:

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • virgin
  • olive oil, composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils
  • olive pomace oil

Extra virgin olive IGP Tuscany: we learn to read the label


The indication of origin is mandatory for the oil and extra virgin olive oil virgin. Is’ prohibited for olive oil (composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils) and the olive-pomace. The virgin and extra virgin olive oil may be the source

  • Italian: means that the olives are harvested in Italy and that the grinding has taken place in Italy
  • European Union: It indicates that the olives have been harvested in the European Union countries (in one or more countries) and that the grinding has taken place in the European Union

Now let's see what are the types of designations of origin appearing on the label:

  • When the label is written: “Italian product”, “product Spanish”, “greek product”, This indicates that the oil is from that very European state. The origin can also be assigned to one non-European State.
  • The oil can also be obtained from a mixture of various oils. If the oil is obtained with mixtures of olive oil from more than one European or extra European state, you may find the following sentences: blend of olive oils originating European Union – blend of olive oils not originating in the European Union – blend of olive oils originating and non-originating European Union European Union.
  • In label it is also reported the case in which the oil belongs to a Dop (Protected designation of origin) or a PGI (Protected geographic indication). PDO and PGI are not exclusive names in Italy but the European Union Countries. It represents for the consumer maximum guarantee of quality when buying.
  • It is not enough to read the words on the label “crushed in Italy”, to be assured that it is an Italian oil. This because, when the olives have been harvested in a European country or extra European other than where the headquarters of the processing mill, indicate it is mandatory. You might find, For example,, but also the wording: “Oil extra virgin olive oil obtained in Italy from olives harvested in Tunisia”.

It may seem strange, but the labels can not use references to smaller areas of origin of the State. You can indicate on the label “Italian oil” but you can not write “Ligurian olive oil”, unless it is a PDO or a PGI (such as DOP Ligurian Riviera or the IGP Toscano).

Olive oil: we learn to read the label to buy consciously


There are four different directions on the label for each ofand four categories of oil on the market. They may be indicated in any part of the label. The extra virgin olive oil is in fact only a squeeze of olive, as anyone who has been lucky enough to attend the EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL PRODUCTION, but it is not the only type of oil for sale.

  • extra virgin olive oil: olive superior oil obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical means.
  • virgin: olive oil obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical means.
  • olive oil (composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils): comprising exclusively olive oils that have undergone a refining process and oils obtained directly from olives.
  • olive pomace oil: containing exclusively from processing oils derivatives of the product obtained after the extraction of olive oil and oils obtained directly from olives. Or: oil comprising exclusively oils obtained by processing olive pomace oil and oils obtained directly from olives.


The net amount is on the label in the same field of vision as the product name. It can be expressed in liters, in centilitri, in milliliters. The numeric value is followed by the unit of measure. The most common formats for olive oil only 500 milliliters, e s 750 milliliters of Litro.


The term minimum durability is the date by which the product does not lose its characteristics, if kept in the right way. Normally, olive oil has a biennial which includes the year in which it is collected and the following: eg 2020/2021. There are two expressions used in labels.

  • “best before…”, if you want to indicate the day and the month of expiry.
  • “preferably to be consumed by the end of…”, in all other cases.


The olive oil packaging must compulsorily bear the signs on Preservation. If we learn to read the label olive oil in fact we also understand how to keep it to enjoy it at its best.

The olive oil should be kept away from light and heat

Otherwise, the risk is that the oil loses its original characteristics (vegetal scents, spicy, Amaro). In the case of extra virgin or virgin olive oils also you run the risk of accelerating the natural process of oxidation and, then, It is likely to go rancid oil.


The name and exact address of the sales manager (common, via, province) It must be indicated on the label. This allows you to track down the manufacturer in case of problems or reports of oil purchased. Is’ You can find the labels of olive oil also expressions like “produced by”, “packaged by”, “produced and packaged by”. They are voluntary and are not binding expressions. What do the?

  • “produced by”: It indicates that the sales manager is the same mill that worked the olives and has produced oil.
  • “produced and packaged by”: means that the company's oil sales manager and who also owns the mill that produced it and packaged it
  • “packaged by”: means that the oil sales manager has packaged the product, but it is said that also owns the mill where the olives were processed.


The lot is an indication on the label that is preceded by the letter “L”. According to the law (231/2017), identifies a group of products packaged in practically identical circumstances, from olives until arriving at the final oil storage.

The lot allows you to trace the entire production and move up from single bottles to the whole processed batch. It is not mandatory to indicate the production batch if the minimum oil durability shall be indicated by the day, the month and year (“best before…”).

Olive oil: we learn to read the label, where there are all the information we need to know to buy consciously


The nutrition declaration covers the energy value. Since December of 2016 is an indication mandatory (with some exceptions). The label must therefore contain mandatorily contain:

  • the energy value in kilo Joule and kilo calories
  • fat and saturated fatty acids in grams
  • carbohydrates and sugars in grams
  • protein in grams
  • salt in grams

Among the optional indications on nutrition declaration we find

  • monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat in grams
  • polyol (o polialcoli) in grams
  • starch in grams
  • fibers in grams
  • the type and amount of minerals and vitamins

The nutrition declaration is not mandatory for the oil that is delivered directly to the consumer by those who produce it in small quantities (also in the traditional way: microenterprises) in corporate outlets or local structures of direct retail.

Olive oil: we learn to read the label. The expiration date


In choosing an olive oil it is better to buy the oil of the latest fundraising campaign, because over time the oil loses its freshness and, in general, lose quality. According to European standards, Extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil may be indicated as the harvest year only if all the oil contained is from this collection.

You can not indicate the harvest year if the oil is made by mixing oil of two different campaigns. The EU Member States may make compulsory the indication of the harvest only to products produced in their territory. For Italy, the obligation may affect the Italian oil, offered to the Italian market.

If an oil is obtained from mixtures of different oils (for example Italy, Spain, Tunisia) the indication of the harvest is not mandatory. A producer can, Anyway, choose to indicate it.
The harvesting campaign is stated on the label before the date of minimum durability. Years must always be two and never one. For example,: 2019/2020. When it sees the month, it indicates the milling period. As you can see, if we learn to read the label olive oil, We know all of the bottle we bought.


When the oil is sold to the final consumer, it is mandatory that the label has an indication of the seat of the packaging plant (location and address of establishment).

We learn to read the label olive oil: DIRECTIONS OPTIONAL

On the label of olive oil producer may voluntarily opt to add some statements and information which by law are not mandatory. Between these, on the specific type of oil extraction, on its acidity and a description of the organoleptic characteristics of its oil. These optional indications, however, are still regulated by law.


The words “When cold” It is an indication optional and is only found in extra virgin olive oil labels and the virgin. To get the word “When cold” it is important that the processing temperature of the olive paste and the oil does not exceed the temperature of 27 degrees. There are four terms allowed by the European Regulation (29/2012).

  • First cold press: indicates the oil obtained less than 27 degrees with a traditional type of extraction system through hydraulic presses. What separate the various components of the olive paste, according to the different weight of the molecules (oil and vegetation water).
  • Cold extraction: indicates the oil obtained less than 27 degrees, with a percolation process or spin of the olive paste, with the use of metal plates.
  • It is also possible the words “Cold Product” and “got cold”.


Is’ one of the key features in an olive oil and indicates the percentage of oleic acid per 100 grams of product. Through the degree of acidity it differs an extra virgin olive oil from a virgin oil.

The lower the value of acidity, the higher the quality of olive oil

Although it is not the only parameter by which we evaluate the quality of a product, we can say that a high quality extra virgin olive oil, usually, It has an acidity of between 0,1% e 0,3%. And it is an indicator of the conditions of the olives before harvest. The acidity is formed following the degradation of the fruit cells. If the fruit is poorly maintained or damaged, the acidity is higher and the quality and lower.

The label, you can find indication of the acidity maximum expected at maturity and must always be accompanied by information on other important parameters. peroxides Index (maximum value 20), In terms of wax, absorption of ultraviolet light. The label, one can find expressions like this: “maximum values ​​foreseen at the date of minimum durability”.


Attention, though, not to confuse the acidity with spicy. The acidity of the oil, In fact, It is not perceivable. To know its value need to do a chemical analysis of olive oil. It happens, though, that consumers often confuse the acidity with the feeling of spicy throat. This is a serious mistake, because, in the absence of other defects

spicy is one of the parameters indicating the high quality of an olive oil

Olive oil: learn to read labels. What are the optional particulars?


The extra virgin olive oil labels and the virgin may contain information on the organoleptic characteristics, about taste and smell. Characteristics are identified through a test panel authorized. The panel consists of a group of professional tasters and enabled through a training course for tasting of olive oils. Descriptive terms are fruity, Amaro, spicy, balanced, sweet. These are all terms that we find on the labels and describing the product. And if we learn to read the label olive oil properly we can also find the oil that, level organoleptic, We love it more.

  • FRUITY: in general, It indicates that the oil gives off smells characteristics of a product obtained from healthy fresh fruit, which depend on the variety of olives. At the word “fruity” They can be added to the qualifying adjectives provided by law. They are 12 in all. Then, in labels you may be found among the signs the fruity terms, light fruity, medium fruity, intense fruity, fruity green, fruity green, fruity medium green, fruity green, ripe fruit, fruity mature. fruity mature middle, fruity mature
  • AMARO: the bitter flavor is an elementary and is among the positive attributes of extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil. Among the signs you may then find slightly bitter, amaro means, intense bitterness.
  • SPICY: the spicy attribute, which can be displayed on the label, It refers to the tactile sensation of tingling, characteristic of a product oil in the early stages of the harvest. Is’ typical of an oil obtained from green olives and is perceived throughout the mouth and, in particular, in the throat. On the label you can find directions: slightly spicy, medium spicy, piquancy.
  • BALANCED: a balanced oil is a product that has no imbalances between the fruity and bitter and pungent sensations. Technically, It is said balanced an oil in which the bitter attribute median value and spicy does not exceed two points the median value of the fruity.
  • OIL CAKE: it is strange to think that an olive oil can be sweet. But the law allows manufacturers to indicate on the label this specific feature. An oil is sweet when, in the panel test, bitterness and pungency are less than or equal to the value of 2 out of 10. The oil flavor is delicate, with a very low level of bitter and spicy.

Olive oil: we learn to read the label. There is the new oil?


There are some information that manufacturers can not put the label of olive oil because it might confuse the consumer or mislead. This is information relating to the oil consistency, production methods, the presence or absence of certain ingredients.

Often, these indications may suggest special characteristics that the oil does not possess, or they can highlight some that may be ambiguous for those who buy. If we learn to read the label olive oil, we can also learn to identify the signs false and protect ourselves accordingly.

Expressions such as “genuine oil” or as “Oil obtained only from olives” They can not be used, because all oils should be genuine and all must be obtained solely from olives. Even the words “new oil” it's not usable: “novello” It applies to wine and all the oil Freshly harvested and marketed is “new oil”. The term “new oil” instead it would seem to suggest a different kind of oil from existing ones, in contrast with the EU rules on food labeling. Among other things, the new oil that you buy mostly directly in the mill is not filtered, turbid and not decanted. Is’ therefore subject to highly perishable and must be consumed as quickly as possible.

You can not even put signs type salutistico, except for two precise indications of polyphenols and vitamin E, the formulation of which is fixed by law by EFSA (European Agency for Food Safety) and the European Union.

You can not even write, For example,, that the olives have been harvested in the Sicilian hills, because this geographic reference is in contrast with the rule which is used to indicate only if it is an Italian product. With the exception of products that have a DOP (protected designation of origin) or an IGP (indication of protected origin).

Olive oil: we learn to read the label

The Strange Case unfiltered oil

Surely you've seen in the extra virgin olive oil label olive or to virgin olive oil labeled: “Unfiltered oil”. The words to the law.

Unfiltered oil contains inside droplets of water and olive pulp particles

It is packaged just after squeezing in the mill and has a cloudy appearance. Its scent is more intense and fragrant because of the presence of small parts of the pulp.

On the label you can indicate whether an oil is not filtered. And undoubtedly this type of oil is perceived by consumers as superior quality. But is it? Is’ true that the unfiltered oil has the advantage of being highly perfumed. The disadvantage is, however, a lower resistance to aging. On the bottom of the bottle of oil unfiltered settle, over the time, the microparticles of pulp and core that can trigger oxidation reactions and increase in acidity. An unfiltered oil is therefore less stable than an oil which was filtered.

unfiltered oil, tips for proper storage

Those who buy in the autumn an ​​unfiltered oil just produced, It should be consumed as soon as possible. L'alternative, It is to filter it at home by the spring following the harvest. This operation in fact allows the product to better withstand the natural processes of oxidation.

The oil filtration operation does not significantly affect the chemical and physical characteristics of the oil. Acidity, number of peroxides, chlorophyll, ultraviolet absorption remain almost unchanged. Filtration is an operation that is done on an industrial scale but you can do it at home, using a sieve or cloth and must be repeated every three months. A tip, in general, It is to privilege the extra virgin olive oil and that of virgin olive oil that has been filtered.

source: Mipaaf (Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry); Icqrf (Institute quality control and fraud repression).

Gianluca Atzeni and Ada Parisi Article

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Vito 13 February 2020 - 19:30

Congratulations Ada as olive oil producer I find this article to be extremely exhaustive definitely the result of intense work and a Carthusian. I hope that with your work can make the most of Italian excellence and the more incisive information to inform and protect consumers. Best wishes for your work. Vito

Ada Parisi 13 February 2020 - 22:02

Good evening Vito, Thanks for the compliments. Let's talk a simple and complete language. Olive Oil There are many gaps in us as consumers and some producers can do excellent oils right we value their work. And this part, first of all, from tips on how to choose. We will make other items, including one on the right price for an extra virgin olive oil and nutritional aspects. See you soon.

Alexander 12 February 2020 - 11:37

Hi Ada.
an article interesting!..grazie Ada I did not know the difference and always bought the same oil.
Thanks !

Ada Parisi 12 February 2020 - 13:08

Hello Alexander, thank you for reading it. Oil is crucial but it is a complicated way and, if you do not know enough, risk of making mistakes. I'm delighted to worthwhile! A warm greeting

Catherine 12 February 2020 - 07:47

Ada thanks for this useful article,My family already buys from three years the oil from Sicily Sortino a greeting Catherine

Ada Parisi 12 February 2020 - 13:07

good Caterina, the oil is a key ingredient, indeed seen the nutritional value is a real food. A warm greeting!


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