Tighter anti-fraud measures and labeling requirements were supported by European olive oil producers at a meeting in Brussels last Thursday, according to Eduardo Martín, general secretary in Seville of Spanish agricultural union Asaja.
Martín, who attended the European farmer federation Copa-Cogeca meeting, said the producers considered various changes canvassed by the European Commission as part of its promised olive oil action plan.
He told Olive Oil Times that among other ideas backed by producers are: requiring that only non-refillable bottles be used for olive oil in bars and restaurants; that best before dates — but not necessarily the harvest year — appear on labels; and that terms such as ‘mild’ and ‘intense’ be banned from them.
Martín said Copa-Cogeca’s olive oil working group supported at the meeting a proposal floated by the EC to set a minimum number of olive oil authenticity tests to be done annually by member states, with a financial penalty to be imposed if these are not carried out, and a requirement that more tests be done if anomalies are found.
This is very well-regarded by producers as increased checks are seen as essential for maintaining quality, he said.
Labeling: best before and harvest dates
As previously reported, the EC is considering various changes to labeling regulations, including on positioning and font size, such as requiring that details of origin appear in the main visual field and in font of at least 5mm in the case of one liter sizes.
Martín said producers are in favor of standardizing the use of best before dates on olive oil packaging but not so keen on including the year of harvest. The latter would only make sense for virgin and extra virgin oil and “would bring neither good nor bad” he said.
Consumer confusion over “mild” and “intense”
Producers also support eliminating use of the terms ‘suave’ (mild) and ‘intenso’ (intense, strong) on labels. Martín said they confuse consumers and are unhelpful.
Non-refillable olive oil containers in restaurants, bars
The EC has also floated making the use of one-way packaging compulsory for olive oil in bars and restaurants in the EU. Martín said currently it is optional for EU states to require this and so far only Portugal has done so.
Producers would like to see the move made compulsory throughout the EU “so that only olive oil that is properly labeled and in non-refillable bottles is used.”
The EC is continuing consultation on its olive oil action plan, key aspects of which are expected to be voted on in December and January.