`Spanish Consumer Group Finds Nearly One in Three Olive Oils Mislabeled - Olive Oil Times

Spanish Consumer Group Finds Nearly One in Three Olive Oils Mislabeled

Oct. 26, 2012
Julie Butler

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A Spanish con­sumer orga­ni­za­tion which says that nine out of 34 extra vir­gin olive oils it tested were really vir­gin grade, and one was lam­pante, is stand­ing by its claims despite threats of legal action by major olive oil com­pa­nies.

Hojiblanca and ArteOliva were among those threat­en­ing to sue for dam­ages. They were joined by oth­ers includ­ing Acesur, super­mar­ket chain Condis and the Association of Edible Oil Bottling and Refining Companies (ANIERAC) in accus­ing the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) of not observ­ing proper prac­tice in its testing.

But the OCU says that it sub­jected the 34 EVOO and 6 vir­gin olive oil sam­ples to a tast­ing panel and bat­tery of phys­i­cal and chem­i­cal tests.

While the major­ity of the sam­ples were of the qual­ity stated on their label, the OCU said its tests found that nine brands mis­led con­sumers by sell­ing an oil labeled as extra when it turned out to sim­ply be vir­gin.” On aver­age, con­sumers were pay­ing €1 more for extra vir­gin than vir­gin olive oil, it said.

The nine sam­ples came from plas­tic bot­tles from the Aliada, Condis, Consum, Coosur, Eroski, Hojiblanca and Ybarra brands, a glass bot­tle from Oli Sone (LIDL), and a tetra pack from Arteoliva.

Of the nine, all were rated very bad” under OCU’s panel test results cat­e­gory but seven rated very good” under what OCU called fruit qual­ity analy­sis. The Coosur sam­ple rated good” under this cat­e­gory and the Aliada one accept­able”.

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Furthermore, an EVOO from Maeva and a vir­gin olive oil from Olilán were found to be lam­pante and there­fore unsuit­able for sale with­out being (chem­i­cally) refined” OCU said in a press release.

Relevant con­sumer and agri­cul­ture author­i­ties in Spain have been informed of the results to inves­ti­gate if any action should be taken.

Despite the prob­lems iden­ti­fied, there are good qual­ity prod­ucts avail­able at rea­son­able prices, OCU said. With olive oil, as with many other prod­ucts, a high price is not always indica­tive of quality.”

Hojiblanca and ArteOliva threaten legal action

In a press release, Hojiblanca said it would sue OCU for not com­ply­ing with test­ing reg­u­la­tions such as on the num­ber of sam­ples to be taken and analy­sis protocol.

It also said stressed that it had reli­able inhouse and exter­nal test­ing results” — both by chem­i­cal ana­lyis and tast­ing pan­els — prov­ing that the cat­e­gory of its olive oil found by OCU to be vir­gin, was really EVOO.

An ille­gal analy­sis of a few bot­tles is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of mil­lions of liters- Hojiblanca Spokesperson

In no way do Hojiblanca, its mem­ber coop­er­a­tives and their thou­sands of olive farm­ers cheat or defraud any­one” it said.

Samples from an Hojiblanca brand EVOO in a glass bot­tle and two sam­ples from Cordoliva pro­duc­sts, also from the Hojiblanca sta­ble, were cleared by OCU, an Hojiblanca spokesman told Olive Oil Times.

This is one of the rea­son we dis­agree. An ille­gal analy­sis of a few bot­tles is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of mil­lions of liters” he said.

And Felipe Silvela, ArteOliva spokesman, tweeted that the com­pany would also sue the OCU for dam­ages. ArteOliva won“t allow the OCU to unfairly ruin the pres­tige and integrity of this com­pany” he said.

Consumer rights

The OCU did not respond to requests from Olive Oil Times for more infor­ma­tion about its testing.

Hojiblanca made ref­er­ence to the pos­si­bil­ity of oils dete­ri­o­rat­ing under super­mar­ket light.

But OCU Director Jose María Múgica said in a blog today that con­sumers have the right to know that the prod­uct they buy is what the label says it is — regard­less of the length or con­di­tions of its time on a super­mar­ket shelf.

OCU Director Jose María Múgica

We ana­lyze prod­ucts in the state in which they reach the consumer.”

If they think they are buy­ing extra vir­gin olive oil, then the bot­tle should con­tain extra virgin,not vir­gin or lam­pante” he said.

And it should be extra vir­gin that they buy when they buy it, be it fresh from the mill or after months on the shelf.”

Reaction in Spain’s olive oil sector

While the recent rain is a rea­son for cheer in Spain’s belea­guered olive oil sec­tor, there was an air of despon­dency in some social media cir­cles yes­ter­day amid the wide­spread pub­lic­ity of this case.

While some pro­duc­ers said it was a wel­come wake-up call, oth­ers said it was sad and lam­en­ta­ble” and would harm both Spanish exports and domes­tic consumption.

Panel test

In its state­ment, Hojiblanca said that for some time the olive oil sec­tor had been rais­ing prob­lems with the uncer­tainty of the tast­ing panel method”.

The stan­dard­iza­tion of panel test­ing had been promised by the rel­e­vant author­i­ties in the Andalusian regional and Spanish cen­tral gov­ern­ments and also by European Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Cioloş as part of his Olive Oil Action Plan, it said.

Among other objec­tives, the lat­ter plan aimed to stan­dard­ize these tast­ing pan­els pre­cisely to avoid vary­ing results’ for the same prod­uct and thus also reports like this that in no way help the Spanish food sec­tor, espe­cially in these times of cri­sis” Hojiblanca said.

An EC Spokesman on Agriculture told Olive Oil Times today that in July this year the Member States were invited to describe prob­lems they have encoun­tered with the func­tion­ing of the panel test and to pro­pose solutions.”

There have been no detailed responses so far and the com­mis­sion has now sent out reminders” he said.

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