Spain has objected to the release of a report to the European Commission on its audits of the accuracy of olive oil labels for the year 2012, after Olive Oil Times requested a copy under the Commission’s transparency policy.
Spain told the Commission that releasing the report would “prejudice the commercial and economic interests of the olive oil sector in general and companies involved in control in particular.”
The information contained in it “refers to monitoring activities and this information is intended for internal use,” it said.
Italy reported receiving no verification requests
Meanwhile Italy, the world’s next biggest olive oil producer, agreed to release its report, which — sticking closely to the wording of the governing regulation — said that in 2012 it received no requests for label verification under the relevant provisions of E.U. regulation 29/2012 on marketing standards for olive oil.
Under article 8 of that regulation, E.U. member states must take samples and conduct tests upon receiving a request to verify the truth of the indications on an olive oil package — such as that the oil is extra virgin grade or of a certain origin. These requests may be made by the Commission itself, an operators’ organization in the member state, or the control body of another member state.
Article 10 requires that by March 31 each year the member states send the Commission a report on the verification requests they received the previous year and the outcome. According to the Commission, Spain’s report this year was dated April 11 and Italy’s February 7.
Problems with label compliance check system
Last year, Olive Oil Times requested copies of the label verification reports the Commission had received in the previous three years by Spain, Italy and Greece and was told that in that period one report from Spain and two from Italy were received, all of which indicated no label verification requests had been made.
On being questioned then about the seeming flaw in compliance control, European Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Cioloş promised tighter scrutiny of the truth of olive oil labels.
Regulation on tighter labeling checks on hold
In March, the Commission published new rules under which member states must beef up their checks on whether olive oils conform to regulation 2568/91, which defines chemical and organoleptic characteristics.
States will have to do at least one targeted check annually per thousand tons of olive oil marketed within them, and provide more detailed reports by May 31 each year on the outcome.
The checks must be based on risk analysis which takes into account factors including the price of oils in relation to other vegetable oils, the countries of origin and destination, and the relevant blending and packing operations.
However, a similar plan for more effective checks of compliance with the labeling and marketing rules in regulation 29/2012, and more detailed reports to the Commission, is now in limbo.
An amendment to that regulation would have required member states to check the accuracy of olive oil labeling, “in particular the conformity of the sale name of the product with the contents of the container,” on the same risk analysis basis.
But these changes — which had been set for adoption by the Commission next month — were in the same amending regulation that would have banned refillable olive oil bottles from restaurant tables and were withdrawn last week by Cioloş over opposition to that measure.
A spokesman said the Commission wanted first to meet with consumer and restaurant organizations over the latter issue before deciding how to proceed.
Olive Oil Times has asked the Commission to review its decision not to release Spain’s latest label verification report.