` Barjol Says Recent Fraud Cases Show Countries are 'Cracking Down'

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Barjol Says Recent Fraud Cases Show Countries are 'Cracking Down'

Feb. 21, 2012
By Julie Butler

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Olive oil has been get­ting a lot of bad press lately. Thanks to the release of Tom Mueller’s book, Extra Vir­gin­ity: The Sub­lime and Scan­dalous World of Olive Oil, recent alle­ga­tions of fraud in Italy and Spain, and of sub­stan­dard oil in Aus­tralia, its qual­ity has been called into ques­tion glob­ally.

Olive Oil Times asked the Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil — as the inter­gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion that brings together both olive oil and table olive pro­duc­ing and con­sum­ing stake­hold­ers — what it is doing to pre­vent fraud and pro­tect olive oil’s image.

In his response, IOC Direc­tor Jean-Louis Bar­jol began by explain­ing that while the IOC sets stan­dards for inter­na­tional trade in olive prod­ucts, it has no power to enforce them. Nev­er­the­less, the IOC Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tariat encour­ages Mem­ber States to do all they can to pre­vent fraud­u­lent trade in olive prod­ucts,” he said.

Mr. Bar­jol responded to ques­tions by email.

What more can be done to pre­vent fraud and pro­tect con­sumers?

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(IOC) Mem­ber states must remain vigilant.They have pledged to adhere to the des­ig­nated stan­dards (grades) for olive oils and olive pomace (as set out in the 2005 Inter­na­tional Agree­ment on Olive Oil and Table Olives) in their inter­na­tional trade, and to also encour­age their use for domes­tic trade. This is why as many coun­tries as pos­si­ble should become mem­bers of the Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil.

What impact does news of fraud alle­ga­tions — such as in Spain last week with Oper­a­tion Lucerna and in Italy late last year with the results of the Coldiretti inves­ti­ga­tion — have on the sec­tor? Does it leave a ques­tion mark over the qual­ity of olive oil in gen­eral?

There’s no rea­son this sit­u­a­tion has to call into ques­tion the qual­ity of olive oil. On the con­trary, it shows that these coun­tries are crack­ing down to ensure our stan­dards are adhered to, and that’s also got to deter unscrupu­lous traders from mak­ing money via dis­hon­est and unfair means.

As for Oper­a­tion Lucerna (in which Span­ish police recently dis­man­tled an alleged fraud ring), that did not involve olive oil as such, but mix­tures of palm. avo­cado and sun­flower oil which were sold as if they were olive oil, and with­out VAT being paid.

What is the IOC doing to pro­tect both con­sumers and the image of the olive oil sec­tor in light of such cases?

The IOC will con­tinue to study new meth­ods of analy­sis and fraud detec­tion. It will also keep edu­cat­ing con­sumers about the def­i­n­i­tions of olive oil and encour­ag­ing pro­duc­ers to focus on qual­ity.

As you know, among the gen­eral objec­tives for the IOC set out in the 2005 Inter­na­tional Agree­ment on Olive Oil and Table Olives on the stan­dard­iza­tion of inter­na­tional trade in olive oil and related prod­ucts are the fol­low­ing:

- To estab­lish inter­na­tional stan­dards enabling:

prod­uct qual­ity con­trol;
fair inter­na­tional trad­ing;
fair inter­na­tional trad­ing;
pro­tec­tion of con­sumer rights;
pre­ven­tion of fraud­u­lent prac­tices.

- To facil­i­tate the study and appli­ca­tion of mea­sures for har­mo­niz­ing national and inter­na­tional laws relat­ing, in par­tic­u­lar, to the mar­ket­ing of olive oil and table olives;

- To encour­age har­mo­niza­tion of the cri­te­ria for the def­i­n­i­tion of geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tions granted by the Mem­bers with a view to their inter­na­tional pro­tec­tion;

- To encour­age the expan­sion of inter­na­tional trade in olive oil and table olives, draw­ing up and updat­ing prod­uct trade stan­dards and improv­ing qual­ity.

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It should be stressed, how­ever, that while it is true that it sets inter­na­tional stan­dards for for­eign trade in olive prod­ucts, the IOC has no exec­u­tive” role, in other words it has no power to enforce these stan­dards. Nev­er­the­less, the IOC Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tariat does encour­age Mem­ber States to do all they can to pre­vent fraud­u­lent trade in olive prod­ucts.

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