`Unaprol President Urges Europe to Lower Alkyl Ester Limits - Olive Oil Times

Unaprol President Urges Europe to Lower Alkyl Ester Limits

Jan. 8, 2012
Julie Butler

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On November 22 Coldiretti, one of Italy’s main agri­cul­tural orga­ni­za­tions, issued a press release headed, Investigation finds mold in four out of ten olive oil bot­tles on sale.”

The state­ment was released to pro­mote the GeniusOlei project, a joint ini­tia­tive between Coldiretti and Unaprol, the largest con­sor­tium of Italian olive oil pro­duc­ers, to increase knowl­edge in Italy’s olive oil mar­ket and excel­lence in the sec­tor.

It should also be noted,” the press release went on to say, that accord­ing to a sur­vey by Coldiretti, four out of five bot­tles of extra vir­gin olive oil on sale in Italy con­tain mix­tures of dif­fer­ent ori­gins.” Although European Commission (EC) reg­u­la­tions require the ori­gin to be stated on the label, in most cases these details were obscure, the release said. Consumers should do their shop­ping with a mag­ni­fy­ing glass,” it advised.

These and other stark find­ings from the sur­vey, though not exactly new, pro­voked head­lines not only in Italy but inter­na­tion­ally. Four out of five’ bot­tles of Italian olive oil debased,’ wrote The Telegraph.

Italian author­i­ties are inves­ti­gat­ing and importers and con­sumers of Made in Italy’ olive oil are con­cerned.


China’s top qual­ity watch­dog has asked the Italian Embassy to respond to reports of improp­erly labeled olive oil, reports China Daily. And one Olive Oil Times reader summed up the con­fu­sion and wari­ness felt by many con­sumers, ask­ing, How will I know my extra vir­gin olive oil is pure and from Italy?”

Olive Oil Times asked Unaprol pres­i­dent Massimo Gargano to respond.

What would you say to con­sumers who feel they can no longer trust Made in Italy’ olive oil?

Massimo Gargano: In Italy we have the strength and courage to denounce these abuses and these frauds. We do this because we want to pro­tect the image of our Made in Italy’ and main­tain a good rela­tion­ship with con­sumers around the world who believe that are buy­ing Made​in Italy and instead buy a scam. If there is an ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion evi­dently there is a law or rule that has not been abided with.

Consumers around the world can be con­fi­dent that after this inves­ti­ga­tion there will be more clar­ity for their pur­chases. Consumers can choose to buy the real 100% Italian extra vir­gin olive oil because the mar­ket will be cleaner.

With regards to this in Italy the sys­tem of agri­cul­tural pro­duc­ers Coldiretti-Unaprol have cre­ated the con­di­tions to con­cen­trate, and to make rec­og­niz­able on the shelves of retail out­lets the oil com­ing from Italian Agricultural Chains, FAI, signed by Italian farm­ers.

What sort of mea­sures are needed to address mis­lead­ing label­ing and fraud?

In this sec­tor we need more trans­parency and more courage on the part of insti­tu­tions. We do not need new laws, it would be suf­fi­cient to improve and prop­erly enforce the exist­ing ones. The cor­rect appli­ca­tion of European Commission (EC) rules on label­ing through­out Europe, for exam­ple, would already be an achieve­ment.

What should the E.C. do?

The Commission should change its reg­u­la­tion on olive oil alkyl esters before the next olive har­vest. It should reduce the para­me­ters to a max­i­mum of 20 or 30mg per kilo­gram of oil, instead of the cur­rent 75mg, which in real­ity is often up to 150mg in olive oil on sale to the pub­lic.

This would be an impor­tant step for­ward in terms of trans­parency and would put many bad oils off the mar­ket. These oils can be clas­si­fied as extra vir­gin from the chem­i­cal point of view, but actu­ally, the deodor­ized oil becomes extra vir­gin merely by decree, because an EU reg­u­la­tion has made​it pos­si­ble to accept more per­mis­sive para­me­ters.

What should the coun­tries that export olive oil to Italy do?

This prob­lem should not be tack­led by the coun­tries which export olive oil to Italy as we are part of the sin­gle European mar­ket and it is not fea­si­ble to block imports; goods can cir­cu­late freely but every­body must respect the rules, espe­cially those related to pro­vid­ing appro­pri­ate infor­ma­tion to con­sumers.

Is the prob­lem one of mis­lead­ing the pub­lic about the ori­gin of the olive oil or about its qual­ity, or both?

There is an ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion and we have to wait for its com­ple­tion to find out who exactly are the per­pe­tra­tors of this fraud. The data were not given by the pro­duc­ers but by the Italian Customs agency.

The prob­lem is not only the ori­gin but also the qual­ity of the prod­uct. Europe must under­stand that the reg­u­la­tion on alkyl esters (the chem­i­cal com­pounds which develop dur­ing the pro­cess­ing of low-qual­ity olive oils) must be changed to increase the role of tast­ing pan­els. Their opin­ions should be con­sid­ered more impor­tant and com­pelling than chem­i­cal analy­sis.

As long as it is pos­si­ble to pro­mote a flawed oil as an extra vir­gin oil, we will con­tinue to have this kind of prob­lems. If there is clar­ity and trans­parency, the mar­ket will grow, oth­er­wise chaos will reign. At the moment it is not the best who win but the most shrewd.

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