` Andalusia Fines 17 Producers €2,500 for Inferior Olive Oil - Olive Oil Times

Andalusia Fines 17 Producers €2,500 for Inferior Olive Oil

Oct. 5, 2011
Julie Butler

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Andalusian author­i­ties have fined 17 olive oil com­pa­nies 2,500€ ($3,330) each for sell­ing olive oil of a qual­ity infe­rior to what was indi­cated on the label.

But the rel­a­tively mild penalty – the out­come of a for­mal inquiry the regional health depart­ment began more than ten months ago – has failed to sat­isfy con­sumer advo­cacy group FACUA, which says con­sumers have a right to know which brands were involved.

The inquiry started last November after analy­ses of 24 batches of cheap olive oil on sale in Jaén and Córdoba found the con­tents of some were infe­rior to that shown on the label. In most cases it involved a lower qual­ity oil being sold as extra vir­gin or vir­gin olive oil.

In August, Andalusian Health Minister María Jesús Montero announced that the prob­lem was not one of fraud but poor con­ser­va­tion. The olive oil had dete­ri­o­rated after pack­ag­ing, pos­si­bly due to inad­e­quate tem­per­a­ture of other con­di­tions dur­ing dis­tri­b­u­tion or stor­age, but at no time posed any health risk.

Europa Press reported on October 4 that lab­o­ra­tory tests had found that in 17 of the olive oil oil batches there had been a slight decrease in the organolep­tic qual­i­ties of the oil, which the health depart­ment said merely caused it to taste a lit­tle stronger than usual.”

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Citing health depart­ment sources, the El País news­pa­per reported the same day that the health and con­sumer author­i­ties had decided to impose light fines because it was a case of minor infringe­ment rather than delib­er­ate fraud. It also said that the depart­ment had decided not to name the brands involved given the fines were suf­fi­cient penalty.

Under Andalusia’s con­sumer pro­tec­tion laws, it is the respon­si­bil­ity of the com­pany named on the prod­uct label to ensure the goods are of the qual­ity described on the label when sold, unless they can show the dis­trib­u­tor failed to com­ply with trans­port or stor­age con­di­tions.

FACUA said con­sumers should be told which brands had been fined. It also said the gov­ern­ment had effec­tively left all low price olive oil under sus­pi­cion.

El País Journalist Ginés Donaire tweeted that the fraud inquiry out­come amounted to a Solomonic solu­tion.”

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