The main aim of the IOC’s recent mission to the United States of America (USA) was to strengthen the ties between this intergovernmental organisation and the American country, which is the world’s main importer of olive oil. Ranging from a political and diplomatic level to the industry level, the IOC sought to introduce to US government representatives and industry leaders in the field of olive oil the important work that the Organisation is undertaking, particularly in terms of its efforts regarding research and standardisation.
Thanks to the invaluable support of the IOC’s strategic US partner, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the mission has proved highly beneficial, marking the culmination of efforts spanning the last several years. It has helped make the interaction between the IOC and US government and industry representatives more seamless, it has brought them closer to the Organisation’s work in the olive oil sector, and has paved the path for the continuous strengthening of the cooperation between the IOC and the American government.
Activities around the IOC’s recent mission to Washington D.C.
In this line of thought, on October 23, 2023, Jaime Lillo, IOC Deputy Executive Director and soon-to-be Executive Director, as well as Mercedes Fernández Albaladejo, Head of the Standardisation and Research Unit, travelled to Washington D.C.
On Tuesday 24 October, the IOC delegation met with Honourable Representative Mike Thompson, in his office where a lively conversation took place during which the IOC and the activities the Organisation carries out were presented. The Californian elected representative in the US House of Representatives showed great interest in olive oil and in the IOC, and he reaffirmed his support to help the Organisation achieve its objectives in the USA.
On Wednesday 25 October, a meeting at the US Capitol took place. This informative event was aimed at US congressmen and other members of the US Congress, and counted on the participation of Honourable Representative Mike Thompson, among other participants.
A diplomatic event in the format of a seminar and a tasting lunch took place on the next day, Thursday 26th, at the world-famous restaurant Zaytinia by José Andrés under the title “Olive oil and the Mediterranean diet: Expanding pathways for a healthier America”. Event participants had the opportunity to learn about the IOC’s work and taste Mario Solinas award-winning virgin olive oils. The event was attended by representatives of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), particularly Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Jenny Lester Moffitt; the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS); the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS); as well as diplomats from IOC member countries who are some of the major exporters of olive oil to the US market, such as Argentina, Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Tunisia and the European Union. Several producers and representatives of the US olive oil sector also attended the meeting.
Bilateral meetings held on the margins of the IOC’s mission
A number of important bilateral meetings took place on the sidelines of the IOC’s recent mission to Washington D.C.
The IOC met with the heads of the FDA and Dietary Guidelines by videoconference (October 20) where they presented the IOC’s work and its mission in the olive oil sector, particularly in regards to standardisation. The meeting participants took stock of the olive sector’s current reality and also spoke about the US nutritional dietary guidelines.
A meeting with USDA representatives (October 24) also took place during which the strong relationship between this institution and the IOC was reinforced. Among other issues, the attendees discussed the continued support of the AMS to IOC-organised activities, as well as the benefits and specifics regarding a potential accession of the USA to the IOC and the International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives 2015.
This was followed by another encounter with representatives of the AMS, FAS, Codex and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The meeting participants touched on the status of the revision of the Codex standard in view of the upcoming meeting of the Codex Committee on Fats and Oils (CCFO), scheduled for February 2024 in Malaysia. The encounter was also an opportunity for clarifying certain details and technical aspects regarding the IOC’s role in Codex’s work and the international standardisation of olive-based products.
Other bilateral meetings between the IOC, CIA and USDA also took place, during which the current state of affairs was evaluated and future activities were discussed.
The IOC delegation also had the opportunity to meet with the Ambassador of Spain to Washington D.C., Santiago Cabanas, who offered the Organisation his support for the holding of future events in the USA (October 30).
This diplomatic and political mission will unquestionably open new avenues for the future relationship between the IOC and the USA.
Over the last few years, the IOC and the USA have been drawing closer, the latter having acted as an observer in several meetings of the IOC’s Council of Members. In fact, the IOC has a strategic partner in the USA with whom it has collaborated on a range of topics, particularly through the Organisation’s Standardisation and Research Unit. The CIA, a non-for-profit gastronomic academic institution established in 1946 in New York, signed a collaboration agreement with the IOC in 2020. Since then, both entities have collaborated on a wide range of successful projects, such as the Plant Forward Kitchen and related conference, Tomorrow Tastes Mediterranean, Menus of Change, and several tasting sessions, among other activities.
At the 116th session of the Council of Members in November 2022, the members’ representatives voted in favour of the proposal that the IOC was to organise a diplomatic and political mission to the USA where it would set up a series of events in collaboration with the CIA aimed at US congressmen and representatives from the government and the country’s olive oil sector.