On Tuesday 12 September, 2023, the International Olive Council (IOC) held a briefing at its headquarters regarding the Executive Secretariat’s upcoming mission to Washington DC. The event was an opportunity for the Organisation to present to representatives of IOC Member countries its longstanding collaboration with its strategic partner, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), outline the activities that will take place during the Secretariat’s visit to the United States Congress in October, and mobilise Member countries to provide their support in order to consolidate the IOC’s efforts and cooperation with the American government, federal institutions and stakeholders in the olive oil and food sector. The meeting was attended both in‑person and online by a number of delegates from Argentina, the European Union, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Tunisia, Türkiye, the US and Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The event participants also had the opportunity to taste extra virgin olive oils and dishes made with Mario Solinas 2023 award-winning extra virgin olive oil. The session was led by Mercedes Fernández, Head of the Standardisation and Research Unit, who explained the concept of sensory analysis and its importance for the classification and quality of oils.
The briefing was hosted by the IOC’s Executive Director, Abdellatif Ghedira, and Deputy Executive Director, Jaime Lillo. It also counted on the participation of two representatives from the CIA, namely Michael Sperling, Vice President of Academic Affairs, and Santiago Mas de Xaxàs Faus, co-Executive Director of the Torribera Mediterranean Center. The IOC’s collaboration with the US began approximately eight years ago and, since 2019, the country has participated as an observer, regularly contributing to a number of meetings and events. Taking into account that the US is the main global importer of olive oil and that its population is showing an ever-growing interest in leading healthier and more sustainable life styles, where olive oil is increasingly becoming a fundamental part of the American diet, the IOC is looking to take its cooperation with the American authorities a step forward. To this end, the IOC partnered with the CIA, a prestigious, private non-for-profit college established in 1946 and dedicated to providing the world’s best professional culinary education. With the common goal of translating the olive oil sector’s technical knowledge to practical terms, they have successfully collaborated on a number of projects, such as the “Olive oil and the Plant-Forward Kitchen”, which looks at how olive oil makes Mediterranean cuisine so delicious, creating digital content, and disseminating the IOC standard while raising awareness of the importance of olive oil consumption (and the concepts of tasting, quality, positive and negative attributes, composition, authenticity, etc.) in the educational, scientific, institutional and gastronomic spheres through the regular organisation of tasting sessions. In addition, in collaboration with the CIA and Menus of Change University Research Collaborative (MCURC), the IOC also organised training sessions in extra virgin olive oil tasting for 16 American universities in 2021.
Next month, the IOC Executive Secretariat will travel to Washington DC for a meeting at the Capitol on October 25th and a tasting lunch and seminar on October 26th. Both events will bring together US senators, members of the US Congress and senior staff with oversight of food, agriculture and health, representatives of the American food industry, the wider diplomatic community, and other relevant stakeholders. They will constitute an opportunity for the IOC and the CIA to raise the visibility of the Mediterranean diet and the health benefits of olive oil; increase the collaboration between the US government and industry leaders and the IOC, the EU, the Mediterranean region and beyond; as well as further securing the long-term growth and resilience of the olive oil sector as a major contributor to public and planetary health. The representatives of IOC Member countries that attended the briefing in Madrid communicated their full support for the forthcoming events and welcomed the strengthening of the IOC’s collaboration with the United States.