Labeling Practices Still Not Up to Par in France, Report Finds

The French Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control's recent report finds that misleading marketing information surrounding the sale of olive oil and related products still requires further regulation.

Oct. 10, 2018
By Joanne Drawbaugh

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The French Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) has released its find­ings from a study of olive oil qual­ity con­ducted as part of its annual con­trol plan con­ducted in 2016,” accord­ing to a report pub­lished on the organization’s web­site.

The DGCCRF asserts that the con­trol plan is part of a larger mis­sion to mon­i­tor prod­uct safety and fos­ter the eco­nomic pro­tec­tion of the con­sumer. The results proved less than promis­ing, with 67, or 48 per­cent, of the 139 sam­ples col­lected fail­ing to meet cur­rent stan­dards.

This recent study stems from ongo­ing efforts made by the European Union to effec­tively estab­lish appro­pri­ate mar­ket­ing stan­dards for olive oil and other prod­ucts that incor­po­rate it into their com­po­si­tions.

Regulation (EU) Number 29/2012, passed on January 13, 2012, explains that the dis­tinct sen­sory and nutri­tional traits pre­sented in olive oil ren­der it unique among other veg­etable fats. The doc­u­ment explains that because agri­cul­tural prac­tices vary through­out dif­fer­ent regions, qual­i­ties and tastes [are] remark­ably dif­fer­ent accord­ing to their geo­graph­i­cal ori­gins.” This ulti­mately results in price dif­fer­ences within the same oil cat­e­gory that dis­rupt the mar­ket.” Such dis­tinc­tions dif­fer­en­ti­ate olive oil from other veg­etable prod­ucts, which vary less accord­ing to their coun­try of ori­gin.

The DGCCRF’s report fol­lows its 2015 olive oil con­trol plan, whose results were pub­lished in 2017. At that time, it was noted that adverse weather con­di­tions, the preva­lence of the olive fly and the pathogen Xylella fas­tidiosa had increased the commodity’s price, and that this price pres­sure, which increases com­pe­ti­tion, is the cause of fre­quent fraud that results in high rates of non-com­pli­ance.” That report noted that 41 per­cent of tested prod­ucts did not com­ply with reg­u­la­tions.

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The 2018 report states that most of the defi­cien­cies observed by inves­ti­ga­tors relate to prod­uct label­ing.” Labeling dis­crep­an­cies found by the DGCCRF are essen­tially clas­si­fied into dis­putes of organolep­tic traits or non-com­pli­ance with phys­io­chem­i­cal para­me­ters.” While analy­ses did find some mis­lead­ing label­ing relat­ing to sen­sory descrip­tions, the report focuses on incor­rect mar­ket­ing infor­ma­tion related to the absence of an indi­ca­tion of the ori­gin,” and a lack of oblig­a­tory men­tions of net vol­ume and the cat­e­gory of oil.”

Several spe­cific areas of con­cern made them­selves evi­dent through­out the study and could aid in the mod­i­fi­ca­tion of stan­dard­ized label­ing prac­tices. Strikingly, the DGCCRF deter­mined that the rate of non-com­pli­ance” for offend­ing prod­ucts was higher when the indi­ca­tion of ori­gin is not pre­cise and when the oil comes from coun­tries with the largest vol­ume of pro­duc­tion.”

Other offenses were found, includ­ing a com­pany that mar­keted in the food cir­cuit an olive oil clas­si­fied lam­pante by the lab­o­ra­tory” and another that sold prod­ucts under the name extra vir­gin olive oil,’ while analy­sis revealed that it was a mix­ture of veg­etable oils.” In total, this round of test­ing resulted in 71 warn­ings, 39 injunc­tions, and 3 pre­fec­tural decrees of destruc­tion.”

The pro­por­tion of prod­ucts dis­play­ing anom­alies grew from 41 to 48 per­cent since the DGCCRF pub­lished its last report of this kind. However, this recent edi­tion states that the rate of non-com­pli­ance found dur­ing the con­trols is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the real­ity of the mar­ket since the con­trols are tar­geted’ accord­ing to the infor­ma­tion avail­able to the inves­ti­ga­tors.”

It still stands to be seen whether the insights gained through the inves­ti­ga­tions will trans­late into appro­pri­ate mea­sures that can effec­tively stymie future trans­gres­sions.





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