`Spain Gives General Backing to EU Olive Oil Action Plan - Olive Oil Times

Spain Gives General Backing to EU Olive Oil Action Plan

Dec. 9, 2012
Julie Butler

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World olive oil cap­i­tal Spain has indi­cated its broad sup­port for a range of changes — includ­ing mak­ing best-before dates manda­tory on labels — that could form part of the EU action plan for the strug­gling sec­tor.

Requiring the use of non-refill­able, labeled bot­tles for olive oil served in restau­rants and some changes to organolep­tic and chem­i­cal test meth­ods are also among mea­sures Spain agrees with.


Spain’s Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Cañete, in a July 12 let­ter to European Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Cioloş, said the draft action plan for the EU olive oil sec­tor was regarded pos­i­tively by Spain, but some aspects needed to be refined and there were some defi­cien­cies, such as the lack of a ded­i­cated bud­get for the plan.

Olive Oil Times recently obtained a copy of Arias Cañete’s let­ter under EU free­dom of infor­ma­tion rules. Released by the European Commission, the let­ter came with an eight-page doc­u­ment — both in Spanish — set­ting out Spain’s ini­tial posi­tion on the plan, which Cioloş released in June for dis­cus­sion.

Labeling and mar­ket­ing reg­u­la­tions

The Cioloş pro­pos­als include hold­ing a tech­ni­cal study before address­ing the issue of best-before dates on olive oil labels, and push­ing EU states to require the use of one-way olive oil pack­ag­ing in the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor.

In its response, Spain said print­ing a best-before date on olive oil labels is a basic mea­sure that it has been propos­ing to both the EU and the International Olive Council (IOC), but it should be based on sci­en­tific stud­ies that take into account all fac­tors that can cause changes in olive oil over time.

It said it com­pletely agrees” with the unre­fill­able bot­tles move and intends to require this as part of national reg­u­la­tions for edi­ble veg­etable oils but it should be made manda­tory EU-wide.

Tougher para­maters don’t guar­an­tee qual­ity

The Cioloş draft said there were calls from some stake­hold­ers for tougher chem­i­cal para­me­ters for qual­ity test­ing, and for improve­ments to the panel test.

Spain said any changes to para­me­ters must be stud­ied very care­fully and based on solid sci­en­tific evi­dence. Sometimes a restric­tion in the lim­its doesn’t result in bet­ter oils. Often the worst oils can scrupu­lously com­ply with the lim­its yet have major organolpetic defects,” it said.

Call for new tools to improve panel test

Spain said amid con­cerns from some in the sec­tor who ques­tion its use, there should be research on how to com­ple­ment the panel test with physico-chem­i­cal meth­ods that make the organolpetic method objec­tive.”

It pro­posed includ­ing in the action plan a point on the need to improve the prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion of the test and to pro­mote research on the devel­op­ment of new means of qual­ity analy­sis based on instru­men­tal meth­ods”.

International Olive Council

Spain said it agreed that in order to strengthen the role of the IOC, its mem­ber­ship should be open to con­sumer coun­tries, not just pro­ducer ones.

And it called on the EU to strengthen and exer­cise” its lead­er­ship in the IOC.

Its pres­ence has to be felt not only in debates and sci­en­tific input but also in the orga­ni­za­tion itself, where it must be more con­spic­u­ous.”

Quality con­trol

Under a sec­tion in the Cioloş draft on short term action to pro­tect the qual­ity and authen­tic­ity of vir­gin oils, it was pro­posed that the IOC be asked to expe­dite its work in the fol­low­ing areas:

- Reduction of the stig­mas­ta­di­enes level

Spain said this para­me­ter indi­cates the grade of purity of an oil and in that respect there’s need for cau­tion, because any reduc­tion in the limit could pose prob­lems for the mon­i­tor­ing of the purity of vir­gin oils.” If the level is to be low­ered there should be a col­lab­o­ra­tive trial in labs across the EU to defin­i­tively deter­mine the real limit, it said.

- Adoption of the global method for the detec­tion of extra­ne­ous oils in olive oils

Spain said this method is approved by the IOC but not yet widely used. It would solve many of the prob­lems of blends with other oils, par­tic­u­larly the so-called designer blends’ that meet legal require­ments.”

- Reduction of the alkyl esters limit

This wouldn’t deter use of deodor­ized oils but it is very use­ful for pre­vent­ing the use of lam­pante oils in blends. Good qual­ity oils are usu­ally under the limit so low­er­ing it shouldn’t pose prob­lems, Spain said.

- Adoption of a diglyc­erides and triglyc­erides test

We believe it’s nec­es­sary to set some appro­pri­ate lim­its so that the method can be used to com­bat fraud­u­lent blends and deter­mine fresh­ness,” was Spain’s only com­ment.

- Revision of the cal­cu­la­tion of wax con­tent

Spain sees this para­me­ter as fun­da­men­tal for the detec­tion of pomace in fraud­u­lent blends and of infe­rior oils derived from a sec­ond cen­trifu­ga­tion.

It said there was cur­rently con­sid­er­a­tion of reduc­ing the limit but there’s a need for much cau­tion with cer­tain vari­eties, such as arbe­quina, which behave dif­fer­ently to oth­ers.”

Other points made by Spain included:

- the con­sump­tion of olive oil should be pro­moted in schools in a sim­i­lar way to the EU fruit and veg­eta­bles scheme

- the pri­vate stor­age aid scheme for olive oil should be revised and a sim­i­lar scheme pro­vided for table olives

- self-reg­u­la­tion mea­sures should be con­sid­ered for the olive oil sec­tor, includ­ing allow­ing it to remove sur­plus from the mar­ket.

Key aspects of the Cioloş plan are on the agenda for a December 11 meet­ing of the European Commission Management Committee for the Common Organisation of Agricultural Markets. Among pro­posed changes to be dis­cussed are label­ing, one-way pack­ag­ing in the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor, pri­vate stor­age aid rules, and reg­u­la­tions on the char­ac­ter­is­tics of olive oil and meth­ods of analy­sis.


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