Oil Classification

The Classification

There are three main EU regulations governing the olive oil industry:

  • EEC Regulation  1513/01 describes the different classifications of olive oils and defines the basis for their classification.
  • Another important regulation, 2568/91, with its numerous subsequent changes, (reg. 299/2013 being the most recent), defines the methods of analysis and limits for which each class must comply.
  • Finally, a third European Community Regulation 1019/02 defines some important rules for marketing and labelling olive oil or food products claiming to contain olive oil.

EEC Regulation 1513-2001 The classification of olive oils


oils obtained from olives by mechanical or other physical processes only, under conditions that do not lead to oil deterioration and that have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decanting, centrifugation and filtration.
a) Extra virgin olive oil with maximum free fatty acids of 0.8%
b) Virgin olive oil with maximum free fatty acids of 2.0%
c) Lampante Olive oil with free fatty acids over 2.0%, not edible if not previously refined.


maximum free fatty acidity of 0.3%.
An oil obtained from high acidity oils, or serious sensory defects (lampante oils) subjected to an industrial refining process that reduces the acidity, eliminates the oxidised substances and organoleptic defects. While maintaining the same fatty acid composition, typical of virgin olive oil, rectified oil is virtually odourless, free of beneficial substances such as polyphenols. Cannot be sold if not in bulk.


having a maximum free fatty acidity of 1.0%.
Olive oil is a mixture of oil that has been corrected with virgin or extra virgin oils.  Due to its characteristics it is recommended for frying (a nutritional alternative to seed oils) or for cooking.


Oil obtained from olive pomace through an extraction process with the use of solvents or by other physical processes.


Oil obtained by refining crude olive-pomace oil, with a free fatty acidity content, expressed as oleic acid, not more than 0.3 g% and having other characteristics which comply with those laid down for this category. Also refined olive pomace oil may not be sold if not in bulk.


Oil obtained by blending refined olive pomace oil with virgin olive oil, and having a free fatty acidity of not more than 1%
Pomace oil is therefore a mixture of oil extracted from pomace through the use of solvents, then adjusted with the addition of a minimum % of virgin oils.


All seed oil is extracted from seeds through the use of solvents. First the seeds are dried, then ground, then hexane is used, in short, it is the same  extraction process used for olive pomace. Finally seed oil is subjected to the refining process.

The refining process

Oils not covered by extra virgin or virgin classes or because they have acidity greater than 2% or because they have significant organoleptic defects are called lampante and their use in food is only possible after an industrial process that corrects the defects, so-called REFINING or CORRECTION
This consists of three stages:
1. DE-ACIDIFICATION: the oil is treated with a solution of caustic soda in order to reduce acidity to almost zero. In fact, the acidity, or free fatty acids, reacts with the soda to form soaps. Next, the oil is "washed" with water to remove the soaps. At the end of this stage the oil is said to be neutralised or de-acidified.
2. BLEACHING: Oxidised substances in a "lampante" oil are removed by putting the oil in contact with active "charcoal" or bleaching clays. At the end of this phase the oil has a very pale, straw yellow colour, similar to the colour of common seed oils.
3. DEODORISATION: the oil is heated to over 200° C under a vacuum to remove any unpleasant odours. At the end of this phase, the "corrected" oil is practically odourless and has a mild, pleasant flavour of almonds.

The process of extraction through the use of solvents

Virgin pomace, or the dried remains of pressed olives, still contains a small amount of oil.
To retrieve it, the pomace it is sent to oil extractors where it undergoes a drying process.
Subsequently, the dried pomace is mixed with a solvent, hexane, which melts all the oils.
At this point the solid part is separated from the solvent, which now contains oil called "esanolio".
The solvent is removed by distillation and the residue of oil is called CRUDE OLIVE POMACE OIL.
It has a naturally elevated acidity level, an unpleasant taste and retains all the oxidised substances that were formed during pomace storage. To make it edible, it must undergo (as we have seen for lampante oil) a refining process.
From it we derive the refined POMACE oil, which is a slightly coloured, tasteless and odourless oil.

EEC REGULATION 2568-1991 Characteristics of Olive oils and Methods related thereto

This Regulation establishes, for the first time at EU Community level, the characteristics of quality and purity which each olive and pomace oil must meet, it lays down the methods of valid analysis for all EU Community countries, and sets the value limits for analytical parameters that identify the olive oil and its product categories.
For the first time a sensory "Panel Test" method is applied to define the category for a food product.
In the years that followed up until now, many methods of analysis have been modified or replaced and new methods of analysis have been introduced; also the limits of analysis have undergone changes.
The following is a schematic list of the main ones:

1429/1992 Determination of trans isomers and related limits
1683/1992 Introduction of a specific organoleptic vocabulary for analysis
183/1993 Introduction of wax method, combined nomenclature change
656/1995 Introduction of stigmastadienes method
2472/1997 Introduction of the ECN42 method in place of trilinolein
379/1999 Governs how samples are taken for analysis
1513/2001 New names for olive oil
796/2002 New method of preparing methyl esters, a new Panel Test method, reintroduction method for alkanols
1989/2003 Sampling, the decision making model for verifying compliance
702/2007 New method for lipase
61/2011 Modifications to the method for the PANEL TEST
299/2013 Modifications to the spectrophotometric exam and ECN42

The following, is the table of the characteristics of olive oils, as per modications from the reg. 299/2013, annexed to Regulation 1989 of 06/11/2003 which is the last update for limits on quality characteristics and purity of olive oils

EEC Regulation 29/2012 Olive oil marketing Regulations

This Regulation lays down rules on labelling specific to olive oils, and integrates the more general EEC Regulation 2000/13 on labelling and presentation of foodstuffs and related advertising.

Among the most salient topics covered is Article 3 "required information" to be placed on the label for extra virgin, virgin, olive oil, pomace oil categories. Article  4: the declaration of origin, which is mandatory, may relate to a single Member State or non-EU, in other words the community.

Article 5: the indications of "squeezed" and the like, and those of acidity are subject to veracity controls and are however, governed.