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Europe Reviews Olive Oil Quality Benchmark

Feb. 2, 2012
Julie Butler

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Dacian Cioloş

The European Commission has begun con­sul­ta­tion over pos­si­ble changes to its rules on olive oil test­ing.

EC Agriculture & Rural Development Commissioner Dacian Cioloş announced the move recently in response to a call for the alkyl esters para­me­ter for EVOO to be low­ered.

He was respond­ing to a writ­ten par­lia­men­tary ques­tion from Italian mem­bers who had asked if the Commission intended to review EU reg­u­la­tion 61/2011 in order to bring it into line with the new mar­ket require­ments by bring­ing the alkyl esters para­me­ter down from 75 mg/kg to 30 mg/kg and thus guar­an­tee­ing the qual­ity of gen­uine extra vir­gin olive oil.”

In their pre­am­ble, the mem­bers said the cur­rent thresh­old — 75 mg/kg — was not strin­gent enough to pro­tect pro­duc­ers and pre­vent the spread of impure mix­tures con­tain­ing lam­pante oil, which are still too often avail­able on the mar­ket owing to the fall in extra vir­gin olive oil prices.”

The start of the 2011 – 2012 olive oil pro­duc­tion year has in fact once again been char­ac­terised by whole­sale pur­chase prices that are too low and can­not even cover pro­duc­tion costs. This has jus­ti­fi­ably given rise to a strong reac­tion on the part of pro­duc­ers and oil pressers, who are exas­per­ated by the adul­ter­ation that causes dis­tor­tions of the mar­ket and ignore the rights of con­sumers,” they wrote.

Does it (the EC) not con­sider it of fun­da­men­tal impor­tance to ensure that con­sumers are pro­vided with guar­an­tees as to the actual com­po­si­tion of the oil they pur­chase and are not mis­led but given accu­rate infor­ma­tion at the time of pur­chase?” they also asked.

In a writ­ten reply on January 27, Cioloş said that the lim­its set for the alkyl esters para­me­ter were in con­for­mity with the opin­ion of the EU expert chemists group and with the rel­e­vant work car­ried out by the International Olive Oil Council.

Regarding olive oil qual­ity, the Commission has recently ini­ti­ated a con­sul­ta­tion with the rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers in order to exam­ine the oppor­tu­nity of pos­si­ble adap­ta­tions of the olive oil stan­dard,” he said.

Meanwhile, the alkyl esters para­me­ter is also on the agenda of the EC’s advi­sory group on olives and derived prod­ucts, which does not rep­re­sent EC opin­ion but can­vasses the point of view of agri­cul­ture-related com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The min­utes from one of its meet­ings last year noted, after debate on whether changes to the para­mater were needed, that, “…before mak­ing an offi­cial request for the revi­sion of the method, mem­bers of the group should gather suf­fi­cient data and get more expe­ri­enced.”

The Commission (rep­re­sen­ta­tive) noted the con­cerns of the par­tic­i­pants but high­lighted the need to have a water­tight case sup­ported by data. Moreover, con­cern­ing the evo­lu­tion of the rate of alkyl-esters over time, the only avail­able infor­ma­tion is a paper say­ing that a pri­ori the rate of alkyl-esters could increase over time. However it seems that if the ini­tial rate is low, the increase would not be hap­pen­ing over time.”

In con­clu­sion the Commission will wel­come any sci­en­tific evi­dence which will demon­strate the oppo­site or any pro­pos­als for new meth­ods. The chair pro­posed to wait one more year in order to gather more data on the mat­ter,” the advi­sory group min­utes con­cluded.

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