Program Overview & Explanation
There are three purposes of the COOC Seal Certification Program.
- To provide producers and marketers with a standardized method of grading their 100% California olive oil as extra virgin.
- To provide consumers and retailers with assurance that the oil they purchase is in fact extra
- To provide producers and marketers who meet the certification standard with a means of distinguishing their products in the marketplace.
Overview of Process
To gain certification, a COOC member must complete a chemical analysis and a sensory evaluation of a representative sample of a lot. Once a sample has been submitted and an oil has met both the chemical and organoleptic criteria (See Standards), the producer qualifies for use of the COOC Seal of Certification.
Mixing of multiple harvest years is not permitted.
You will need to submit your oil(s) to a COOC-approved lab for chemical analysis in order to assess alignment with the standards. A copy of the report is required to complete the submission form.
- All representative samples submitted must have an identical lot designation as the chemical report and submission documents.
- Micro-producers and Producers under 5,000 gallons: You will submit a sample of your oil to the COOC Sensory Panel for organoleptic evaluation. The Sensory Panel will evaluate your oil to ensure that it is free of defects and meets the criteria to be certified as extra virgin grade. Feedback regarding the oil’s positive attributes for marketing and assessment purposes will also be provided. Please note that the sensory evaluation is always done in a blind setting; the Panel will never know the producers
- Producers over 5,000 gallons (Members in Tiers 4-6 only):You may submit a sample of your oil to the COOC Sensory Panel for an organoleptic evaluation as explained above OR you may provide record of a sensory analysis completed by a AOCS recognized panel to ensure that it is free of defects and meets the criteria to be certified as extra virgin grade.
The submission period runs from November 1 through March 31 annually. To achieve certification of your oil, please refer to the checklist on pg. 16(Producers)/20(Private Label Entities) for all required documents, paperwork, submission instructions and payment. The Sensory Panel will not evaluate oils until all required items have been received.
Oils submitted after March 31st are subject to late fee charges. No oils will be accepted after April 30th. A certification is valid only for the specific oil submitted for evaluation, unless it is a blend composed entirely of certified lots of the same harvest year. Seal Certification is a mandatory program and all producers must submit their olive oils for certification annually; failure to submit your oils annually will jeopardize membership. No Seal Certifications will be done from May through October. New members who join on or after May 1st will qualify for the Seal Certification Program with the next harvest.
The Taste Panel
Established in 1998, the COOC Taste Panel is a highly trained and knowledgeable group of expert professionals that ascertains if defects as well as desirable attributes of extra virgin olive oils are present during a sensory assessment of the oil. The sensory assessment for the purpose of Seal Certification is conducted in accordance with scientific protocols that do not account for subjectivity (CDFA Grade and Labeling Standards for Olive Oil, Refined-Olive Oil and Olive-Pomace Oil, Section 9). The assessment’s purpose is to evaluate the oil solely on its inherent attributes and characteristics rather than a perception by an individual panel member. The Sensory Panel meets on a frequent schedule for the dual purpose of tasting oils for the Certification Program as well as for continual training and accreditation exams (Eight per year).
Oils will be evaluated in the order of completed submission and in a timely manner, based on harvest volume. Per parameters set forth by international standards, the Program is restricted to the number of evaluations completed during organoleptic sessions. After an oil has been evaluated, you will be notified via email by the COOC within three business days. If your oil passes and meets all requirements, you will be eligible to use the Seal for the purpose of marketing and sale. For any oil that is evaluated as not meeting the COOC Standards for the extra virgin grade designation, COOC representatives are available to review the chemical analysis and sensory evaluation with the producer, in an effort to identify ways to overcome documented deficiencies. If results do not meet the Standard for extra virgin grading, members may contact the COOC to have the oil reassessed in a secondary evaluation. No more than 30 days may elapse from the time of the notification and the second evaluation.
Olive oil is one of the most common victims of food deception in the world today and has been plagued with adulteration, fraud and deception for thousands of years. It is simply far easier and more profitable to offer a dated olive oil, mix in cheaper oils or low-grade olive oil, and pass the diluted concoction onto the unsuspecting public as “extra virgin olive oil.” Without governing and enforceable standards, the American public has been unable to make informed decisions to distinguish high quality olive oils, from these adulterated or inferior products. Simply put, the American public may be “confused” and “deceived” about the true virtues and flavor of freshly pressed olive oil. This confusion is likely suppressing the domestic sale of fresh and high-quality extra virgin olive oil, particularly from California.
In 1992, a number of California olive oil producers came together to develop a set of governing standards and a certification program to distinguish and promote the highest grade of olive oil from California. These founding members also acknowledged the importance of educating the American public about the true flavor and health benefits of these California fresh products. The Certification Program allows olive oil producers to submit their products to an audit program with a series of rigorous chemical and sensory tests in order to earn the legal right to display the COOC Seal of Certification and the California Fresh Membership Mark on approved products and marketing materials, a seal of certification and brand promise that the oil is the freshest olive oil available on the market, with a content of the highest quality and purity.
As the demand for domestic olive oil increases, the California olive oil industry is now uniquely situated to penetrate and educate the American public about these products of exceptional quality with the authorized use of the COOC Seal of Certification and the California Fresh Membership Mark.
As a COOC member, you are bound to the Statement of Mission & Code of Ethics. Any oil, be it from California or elsewhere, should be labeled in such a way that it is not misleading or confusing to the consumer. All marketing and promotion of any oils should be consistent with the standards. It is incumbent on the member to ensure that they practice faultless truth in labeling of all their respective products. The COOC is committed to upholding the highest standards within the industry.
Eligibility and Rights of Usage
The Certification Program and membership is open to all producers in the California olive oil industry, including producers and those entities with private labels.
Companies participating in the program are authorized and granted the right to display and use, as depicted in Attachment A, the COOC Seal of Certification and the California Fresh Membership Mark (herein after recognized as the “Marks”). Active COOC membership and license, also permits use of the copyrighted content and language of the COOC (herein after “Intellectual Property”) in any and all marketing materials for the olive oil which that entity is directly engaged in selling, and which meets the Certification Program criteria. These rights are not transferable to any other entity, or to any other product sold by the Licensee. No other entity is authorized or granted the right to use the COOC Marks and Intellectual Property without written approval by the COOC, executing and returning the application for license, and maintaining full compliance with all COOC Standards and terms of membership. Failure to comply with the COOC Standards, terms of membership and rights of usage as expressed in these documents, may result in termination of membership and potential legal action.
Should the producer fail to meet the EVOO standard, they may not use the Marks nor market or promote their oil in any way other than as olive oil or the designated grade the oil was assigned.
Rights of Termination and Control
As a perishable product, which may over time cease to comply with the Standards, each member agrees to take all reasonable steps to cease the sale and distribution of non-conforming oils. Such steps could include but, are not limited to, removal of the Intellectual Property, including the Marks, as used in connection with the sale and marketing of the non-conforming vessels and advising any third party selling or marketing the vessel of the non-compliance and to recall the product from the shelf until appropriate labels conform to the standards.
All active COOC members agree that olive oil currently certified within the Program, which fail to meet the Standards for certification, pulled via random sampling, or for any reason, will immediately forfeit their rights of usage of the Marks and all other Intellectual Property. In the event of such forfeiture, the member will be required to remove the COOC Marks and other Intellectual Property from those products, materials, and other marketing or related promotional material within 30 days. The member acknowledges that in the event of such forfeiture, its product will no longer be listed by the COOC as certified.
Similarly, those companies that choose to terminate participation in the Program via non-renewal, non-payment, non-compliance or direct cancellation must remove and cease all use of the Marks and all other Intellectual Property owned and used by the COOC, and delete such use from all past, current and future marketing materials, including but, not limited to websites, packaging, labels, and literature, immediately upon termination.
The COOC at its sole discretion and subject to approval by its Board of Directors, reserves the absolute and sole right to amend and change the Standards in Attachment B. Any and all revisions to the Standards will be based on relevant, factual information, and will be adopted purposefully for the commitment of maintaining or improving the overall integrity and quality of the Seal Certification Program
Intellectual Property Owned By The COOC
All members of the COOC, whether active or not, acknowledge that the COOC owns all rights, interest and title in and to the Intellectual Property set forth in Attachment A, and which may be updated at the discretion of the COOC. Specifically, all members acknowledge that the COOC is the owner of all rights, title and interest in and to the Seal of Certification, the California Fresh Membership Mark, and owns the copyright in all written materials or other expressions produced by the COOC or for its benefit. It is acknowledged that the goodwill developed in the Intellectual Property owned by the COOC is for the exclusive benefit of the COOC, and that other than the limited rights of use specifically granted herein, no member has any other right or claim to the Intellectual Property, or right or claim to enforce the Intellectual Property owned by the COOC, without the explicit written authorization of the COOC.
All members of the COOC, whether active or not, shall not contest the validity of the Seal of Certification, the California Fresh Membership Mark, or any other Intellectual Property owned by the COOC, nor make any claim that is averse to the COOC’s right, title and interest in and to its Intellectual Property.
It is imperative that members of the COOC agree to cooperate and not to in any way interfere with the COOC’s efforts to secure protection of its Intellectual Property in the State of California, in any other state or country, nor take any action which would compromise the COOC’s ownership and rights to any of its Intellectual Property, and as a condition of membership, each member waives any right thereto, even if membership is terminated. It is acknowledged that the COOC has the exclusive and sole right to file applications for registration of its Intellectual Property in any and all jurisdictions and to enforce any and all rights to its Intellectual Property, including the Marks. Nothing within these documents grant the member or licensee the right to use any of the Intellectual Property, including any variation or colorable imitation of the Marks, in connection with any domain name owned by a member and/or licensee.
It is acknowledged that it is the purpose of the COOC to certify that the California olive oils made, blended, sold, marketed or distributed by others comply with the COOC Standards, and to license its Intellectual Property, including the Marks for the purpose of promoting the benefits of fresh extra virgin olive oil and advertising that such certification has taken place. It is also acknowledged that the COOC serves as a trade membership organization that is engaged, on behalf of its members, to promote the virtues and benefits of fresh California extra virgin olive oils and educate the public about the benefits of such products.
It is further acknowledged, that by signing the COOC Certification Mark and Intellectual Property License Agreement (herein after recognized as Certification License Agreement) the member desires, as a producer of olive oil, to make, blend, sell, market or distribute California olive oil which complies with the COOC Standards and receive a license to use the Intellectual Property, including the Marks, on the terms and conditions contained within the program.
Subject to the terms and conditions as set forth herein and in consideration of the applicant’s (“Licensee”) active membership and other good and valuable consideration, the COOC grants to the Licensee, a non-exclusive and non-transferable license to use the Intellectual Property, including the Marks, owned by the COOC for the exclusive purpose of the use the License specified herein. Licensee shall make no other use of the Intellectual Property other than the use for which the application has been made.