NZ’s $35M Olive Oil Wars

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The other day I got an email from some PR flunky wanting me to push their product for free while no doubt tucking a company with a claim that they’re a “Social Media guru”. Matilda was pushing Bertolli olive oil and apparently it would be good for trafic and my blog to push their product for free. (more on that that in a later post)

I’m a fan of olive oil, and had heard via the tip line of a war going on within NZ’s olive oil industry.

So while Matilda missed the boat, the thought of a war within the olive trees sounded interesting.

The more I looked, the murkier it got. As always there’s a few clowns, and one of them has to be the so-called industry association Olives New Zealand (ONZ). It’s never quite recovered from a dodgy judging scandal a few years back.

It was just a minor problem. One of Olive NZ judge Margaret Edwards awarding her own olive oil first price in the 2008 Olive New Zealand awards.  Makes you wonder what’s going on when TV3’s removed the item “Olive oil judge caught out judging her own product” covering the story.

But it doesn’t stop there. Olive NZ couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery.

Just a year later Olive NZ was mired in controversy again after it said they’d only judge olive oils that had their own Olive NZ sticker on it – which doesn’t meet International Olive Council (IOC) trade standard requirements.

Then jump forward a year or two and the olive wars flare up once again, this time with Fair Go hacking into the issue making a complete mess of its testing of olive oil.   

Who did Fair Go have a chat to about olive oil… none other than controversial expert Margaret Edwards who says on her website “she is the leader of the New Zealand Sensory Panel for Olive Oil that is recognised by the International Olive Oil Council…”

You’d think Fair Go would have checked this wouldn’t you. If they did maybe they would have also discovered that MFAT notified the IOC that the Olives NZ Sensory Panel had been dissolved. Whoops.

Maybe they would have done some research and read The Olive Oil times who reported only two months earlier in March 2012 on “the Demise of Olive New Zealand’s Sensory Panel” saying;

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But hell, why not plough ahead and re-ignite an entire olive oil industry. Good one Fair Go.

The result was a complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority who slammed Fair Go’s olive oil show. How much of a slapping? You decide.

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – references to IOC accreditation were inaccurate and gave greater status to the testing than was justified – broadcaster was put on notice that the testing was not “IOC accredited” but nevertheless made statements of fact to that effect – upheld

Makes you wonder why Margaret Edwards didn’t say anything…

[19]  Here, the sensory testing was not carried out in the laboratory for which the supervisor was awarded IOC recognition, even though the people on the sensory testing panel were apparently qualified to carry out testing of the kind. As we have said, it is clear from the information we have, and from the IOC website, that the laboratory is key. We therefore think it was inaccurate to suggest that the panel and its supervisor were IOC accredited when that testing was not carried out in the laboratory specifically given recognition by the IOC.

Fair Go takes one in the chops.

[29]  We are therefore satisfied that the broadcaster did not make reasonable efforts to ensure that the programme was accurate and did not mislead viewers. The broadcaster, having had its testing process challenged, carried on making claims of status that were not correct.

But where is Margaret Edwards in all of this? Mmmm seems to be still flogging herself around the world including Olive Japan as one of their 2013 Judges.

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What a mess for Olive NZ.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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