`Greece Flip-Flops on EVOO Labeling - Olive Oil Times

Greece Flip-Flops on EVOO Labeling

By Athan Gadanidis
Dec. 21, 2013 14:34 UTC

Last year Dr. Prokopios Magiatis and Dr. Eleni Melliou from the Athens University announced their dis­cov­ery of a new fast and accu­rate tool to mea­sure key health pro­mot­ing com­pounds found in extra vir­gin olive oil (EVOO) such as oleo­can­thal and olea­cein. Using Quantitive 1H-NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) cal­i­brated to spe­cific fre­quency the amount of these two com­pounds found in EVOO can be accu­rately mea­sured.

At the same time, the EU clar­i­fied the use of health claims placed on the labels of extra vir­gin olive oils that con­tained a base amount of hydrox­y­ty­rosol and its deriv­a­tives: Olive oil polyphe­nols con­tribute to the pro­tec­tion of blood lipids from oxida­tive stress.”

The reg­u­la­tion fur­ther stip­u­lated, The claim may be used only for olive oil which con­tains at least 5 mg of hydrox­y­ty­rosol and its deriv­a­tives (e.g. oleu­ropein com­plex and tyrosol) per 20 g of olive oil. In order to bear the claim infor­ma­tion shall be given to the con­sumer that the ben­e­fi­cial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 20 g of olive oil.”

Using the NMR method of mea­sure­ment, tests were con­ducted on a vari­ety of Greek EVOOs. Many were found to con­tain high lev­els of oleo­can­thal and olea­cein. Olive grow­ers were eager to pub­li­cize their results and sought to get an opin­ion from the Greek author­i­ties on whether the mea­sur­ing of oleo­can­thal and olea­cein was suf­fi­cient to make the above health claim on the label based on the EU Regulation 432/2012.

In the Greek par­lia­ment George Kasapidis, backed by a num­ber of other MPs, tabled a ques­tion to the Minister of Rural Development and Food, Athanasios Tsaftaris, on whether the amount of oleo­can­thal and olea­cein (both deriv­a­tives of hydrox­y­ty­rosol and tyrosol) present in EVOO can be used to jus­tify mak­ing the above claim.


Tsaftaris’ response was neg­a­tive. Oleocanthal and olea­cein can­not be used to make any health claims because they are not included in the EU Regulation 432/2012,” he said.

This was bad news to olive grow­ers who had their EVOOs tested and found they con­tained more than enough quan­ti­ties of oleo­can­thal and olea­cein to qual­ify, but could not pub­li­cize it on the label and the deci­sion by Tsaftaris seemed con­trary to sci­en­tific under­stand­ing regard­ing the nature of polyphe­nols and their deriv­a­tives.

Over the last few months this reporter sent emails and made phone calls to the Ministry of Rural Development and Food ask­ing for clar­i­fi­ca­tion on the sci­en­tific basis of the rul­ing.

On December 5, 2013 — over 7 months after the first inquiry — the National Food inspec­tion Lab (EFET ) con­firmed that indeed oleo­can­thal and olea­cein being deriv­a­tives of hydrox­y­ty­rosol and tyrosol can be used as the basis for plac­ing the claim. Olive oil polyphe­nols con­tribute to the pro­tec­tion of blood lipids from oxida­tive stress’ ” on the EVOO label.

This is a big win for those in Greece who are work­ing on mar­ket­ing Greek olive oil abroad based on its health ben­e­fits. Unfortunately it came a bit late. During the 2012 – 2013 sea­son, Greece had a bumper crop of the high­est qual­ity of EVOOs pro­duced in a long time. Once again these excep­tional EVOOs were sold off mostly in bulk for less than 2.60 euros per liter.

This past sea­son, the Greek olive har­vest was a dis­as­ter due mainly to very high tem­per­a­tures early in the sea­son which caused losses dur­ing the olive tree flow­er­ing stage. At the same time, the olive fruit fly arrived and was not dealt with in a timely man­ner, allow­ing them to spread. Major losses of 50 to 100 per­cent of the olive har­vest were reported in most regions. Many orders will go unfilled and com­mit­ments made will be bro­ken due to the lack of Greek EVOO to fill the demand this year.

Independent olive grow­ers world­wide stand to ben­e­fit with the new tool to mea­sure the health­ful­ness of their prod­ucts amid ongo­ing debates over new qual­ity stan­dards.

Consumers will be able to iden­tify extra vir­gin olive oils by their spe­cific ben­e­fits based on the quan­tity of health-pro­mot­ing polyphe­nols.

The next step would be for the Quantitive 1H-NMR method of mea­sure­ment to be offi­cially cer­ti­fied by the EU or the International Olive Council, and made avail­able to olive oil test­ing labs and olive grow­ers glob­ally.

Do you have an opin­ion you’d like to share in an arti­cle? See our sub­mis­sion form and guide­lines here.

Related Articles