European Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Cioloş has promised tighter scrutiny of olive oil labels, on being questioned by Olive Oil Times about seeming flaws in the current system.
European Commission (EC) olive oil marketing laws already provide for checks on label accuracy and require EU member states to report annually on details including how many label verification requests they have received, and their outcomes.
After inquiries with the EC, Olive Oil Times can now reveal how many such label verifications have been reported to the EC in the last three years by the world’s leading producers Spain, Italy and Greece: none.
The EC said that in that period it had received one report from Spain and two from Italy, all of which indicated no label verification requests had been received in the previous year. No reports were received from Greece.
Under the EU olive oil marketing standards, codified in January as regulation 29/2012, various parties can make requests for tests of the truth of label indications — such as that the oil is virgin or extra virgin grade — and the relevant producer countries must report to the EC by each March 31 on their follow up action and any penalties applied.
In light of persistent concerns raised worldwide by consumers, producer groups and government organizations about misleading olive oil labeling, Olive Oil Times asked Cioloş if it seemed strange to him that no requests for verification had been made under these EU laws. We also asked what should be done to increase monitoring and labeling accuracy.
A spokeswoman for Cioloş replied by email that “Indeed, no report was received on verification requests, however there are other communication channels between the Commission and Member States in the olive oil sector, in particular in the framework of Regulation (EC) no. 2568/91, which requests Member States to regularly send information on irregularities noted in the sector.”
“Discussions are already ongoing in the framework of the Single Market Organization Committee in order to make control more effective. The objective is to assess whether an adjustment of the current legislation would be needed, so as to take into account the evolution of the olive oil market.”
“In addition, Commissioner Cioloş plans to present an action plan on the olive oil sector in the coming weeks, probably in the first week of June. This might entail adjusting technical dispositions related to the Commission’s competence in strengthening quality control, protecting consumers and improving labeling.” she said.