Olive oil is classified in various categories, depending on its quality and characteristics. Olive oil quality is classified based on a specific methodology and international standards set by the regulations implemented by the International Olive Oil Council.

According to Regulation 865/2004(EC) (29-04-2004), Annex I, Virgin Olive Oils are classified as follows:

Virgin Olive Oils

Oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions that do not lead to alterations in the oil, which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation or filtration, to the exclusion of oils obtained using solvents or using adjuvants having a chemical or biochemical effect, or by re-esterification process and any mixture with oils of other kinds.

Virgin olive oils are classified and described in detail as follows:

Virgin Olive Oil

Virgin olive oil having a maximum free acidity, in terms of oleic acid (acidity), of 0.8 g per 100 g (0.08%), the other characteristics of which comply with those laid down for this category.

Virgin Olive Oil

Virgin olive oil with good taste and smell, having a maximum free acidity, in terms of oleic acid, of 2 g per 100 g (acidity: 0.8 – 2%).

Lampante olive oil

Virgin olive oil with bad taste and smell, unsuitable for consumption, whose acidity is over 2%. Suitable only for refining or industrial use.


The authenticity and quality of olive oils is determined on the basis of their physical, chemical and organoleptic characteristics, as set under Reg. 2568/91 (EEC), modified on 11-10-2016.

In order to ensure that the presence of these characteristics is determined uniformly, this Regulation establishes methods of chemical analysis and organoleptic evaluation. The quality of olive oil may be significantly degraded, even during the growth of the olive, because of its contact with parasites, microorganisms, humidity, oxygen, intense light, temperature, and it is determined through organoleptic evaluation (panel test) and measurement of certain physico-chemical parameters, such as acidity, peroxide value, absorbance coefficients K270/K232/delta-K, etc.

The remaining check parameters are determined in order to collect information related to the authenticity of olive oil, i.e. to detect the presence of any seed oils or other impurities (stigmastadiene, delta-ECN 42, waxes, saturated fatty acids in position 2, sterols, sterols' composition, etc.).

In brief, the quality characteristics of olive oil are divided in 2 main categories:

1. Organoleptic characteristics, determined by colour, smell, taste, thickness, clarity.
2. Physical and chemical characteristics, i.e. olive oil acidity and its content in various other substances.

Three of the main evaluation criteria are the following:

The degree of olive oil acidity means its content in oleic acid. According to the International Olive Oil Council standards, olive oil is edible when its acidity is below 3.3 degrees (3.3%).

It is the so-called “rancidness” of the olive oil, mainly attributed to the unsuitable conditions to which olive oil is exposed after its processing in the oil mill (unsuitable storage containers, exposure to sunlight, etc.). Oxidation is determined on the basis of lab measurements and, mainly, by measuring peroxide value.

The colour of olive oil mostly depends on the pigments present in the fruit at the time of harvesting. It may vary from dark green to light green, with many hues in between. Pleasant smell and taste are specific properties that may be attributed to the area where olive trees grew, as well as to their cultivation method. Bitterness indicates that the fruit was harvested before ripening.

Detailed Characteristics Table

Olive oil characteristics (acidity, peroxides, waxes, etc.), types and limits per category (extra virgin, virgin olive oil) are detailed in Regulation 2568/91 (EEC) and Annex 1.

A summary of characteristics and limits can be found below:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge


Descriptions in accordance with Article 118 of Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 shall be considered as the name under which the product is sold as referred to in Article 3(1 (1) of Directive 2000/13/EC.

The labelling of oils as referred to in Article 1(1) shall bear, in clear and indelible lettering, in addition to the description referred to in the first paragraph of this Article, but not necessarily close to it, the following information on the category of oil:

For extra virgin olive oil: “superior category olive oil obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical means”.

For virgin olive oil: “olive oil obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical means”.

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