Recommendations for Smoke and Fire Tainted Olives

[UPDATED: This information was originally shared in the October Newsletter. It has been updated as new resources and recommendations have been shared.] 

Many of you and your trees have been affected by the rampant wildfires throughout the state. The COOC has been liaising throughout the industry with those who have experienced similar damage in the past, and those representing chemistry labs, to determine what the implications of this damage (if any) may be.

At this point, the information is not conclusive. Based upon information shared from producers, lab managers and online resources, we have included below our best recommendations for assessing and minimizing smoke flavor transferring from the fruit to the oil.

The exposure to smoke can lead to the presence of Benzo(a)pyrene which can be measured, as well as sensory issues. 

Currently, there are no limits in the olive oil regulation for USA for Benzo(a)pyrene, but in other countries this limit is about 10-15 ppb. While not listed in the US Standard, Benzo(a)pyrene is included in the list of Prop 65 (toxic chemicals) which is sometimes requested when trading oil.

More information:

Additionally, there is considerable concern that ash coating on the outer skin of the fruit could lead to a defect if not properly washed off prior to milling. In order to mitigate contamination:

-Ensure any smoke-impacted fruit is washed thoroughly prior to milling

-Ensure that the water from any tainted fruit is completely changed in the mill and not recirculated

-Crush with slightly larger grids that you would normally use to avoid emulsification in processing due to excess water 

-Limit malaxing times to no more than 45’ to 1 hour max at the lowest possible (but reasonable) temperature

Additional Resources:

Smoke Taint - The Australian Wine Research Institute
Note that this resource refers to the effect on grapes, and not all information is transmissible to olives.

Smoke Taint in Olives - McEvoy Ranch Fresh Press Blog

Six Misconceptions About Smoke Taint - Wines & Vines Blog

Thank you to Chris Calvert (Ciarlo Fruit and Nut), McEvoy Ranch, Natalia Ruiz (Modern Olives) and Lilliana Scarafia (Agbiolab) for sharing information with COOC and its members. 

Consider Showing Your Support for Those Impacted

Recently, wildfires took a toll on many of our member growers and producers, as well as our friends, neighbors and fellow farmers throughout the state. Hillsides and houses were singed, crops were threatened and livelihoods were lost. In a movement of support, the COOC is acting to raise money to be granted to the recovery effort on behalf of the California olive oil industry. This fund will act as a portal to receive donations which will then be provided to the North Bay Fire Recovery Fund*, a fund established by The Farmer's Guild and Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and administered by a coalition of diverse, local organizations. The goal is to provide relief to help families and individuals recover, as well as to support grassroots initiatives that build resilience in the face of future catastrophe. Funds will be provided to victims, including our family farms, farmworkers and those suffering losses not covered by insurance or served by traditional relief services.

In addition, so as to ensure the needs of those within our olive oil community are addressed with this relief funding, the COOC will be administering an online registry for those who have been affected by these fires.

We invite anyone who has been impacted to REGISTER to become eligible to receive aid.
This information will be provided to the administrators of the North Bay Recovery Fund who will manage the prioritization and disbursement of funding.

We hope you'll join us by giving a donation or portion of your sales towards this effort, as a showing of support from the entire California olive oil industry.

Make a CONTRIBUTION to Wildfire Relief from the CA Olive Oil Industry

Ways to show support:

-Make a tax-deductible cash donation

-Nominate the sales from one item, online or in-person, to benefit this cause

-Select a day, weekend or event from which a portion of all sales will be donated to the fund 

Total amounts from all efforts may be accounted for through a contribution to the portal Wildfire Relief from the CA Olive Oil Industry.

*The North Bay Fire Recovery Fund is currently held under the CAFF 501(c)3 and all donations are tax-deductible. The North Bay Fire Recovery Fund is overseen by a coalition of diverse, local organizations including: The Farmers Guild, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, North Bay Organizing Project, Daily Acts, the School Box Project, Arlene Francis Center, Sebastopol Grange, Sierra Club Redwood Chapter and Conservation Action.