`U.K. Readies for European Ramp Up of Olive Oil Testing - Olive Oil Times

U.K. Readies for European Ramp Up of Olive Oil Testing

Nov. 22, 2013
Julie Butler

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One com­pany alone con­trols 95 per­cent of olive oil bot­tling in the United Kingdom — a fact that may sim­plify the UK’s com­pli­ance with a new European Union olive oil test­ing regime.

That com­pany — under­stood to be Edible Oils Ltd, part of the Princes group — is among mem­bers of the UK’s olive oil sec­tor that have until tomor­row to respond to a UK gov­ern­ment call for feed­back on imple­men­ta­tion of the new ver­i­fi­ca­tion sys­tem.

From January, EU mem­ber states will each year have to con­duct at least one con­for­mity check — includ­ing chem­i­cal and taste tests — per thou­sand tons of olive oil mar­keted within them, to ensure the oil com­plies with its declared cat­e­gory.


They must also check that oper­a­tors who carry olive oil up to the bot­tling stage com­ply with a new require­ment to keep entry and with­drawal reg­is­ters.

The changes are part of the EU Olive Oil Action Plan and were pro­vided for in recent amend­ments to the EU mar­ket­ing stan­dards for olive oil and were pro­vided for in recent . The aim is to pro­tect con­sumers from mis­de­scribed and adul­ter­ated olive oil prod­ucts.

UK believes 59 annual checks will suf­fice

Documents pub­lished by the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as part of its prepa­ra­tion to imple­ment the new regime, con­tain inter­est­ing insights into both its prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion and the UK olive oil indus­try and mar­ket.

About 59,000 tons of olive oil is mar­keted each year in the UK so Defra pro­poses doing 59 annual con­for­mity checks — the min­i­mum in order to com­ply with the new law. However this will be sub­ject to a risk analy­sis, as also required by the new EU law.

And though there are about 40 olive oil bot­tlers cur­rently trad­ing in the UK, as one accounts for 95 per­cent of the mar­ket by vol­ume and the top four together cover more than 99 per­cent, Defra pro­poses inspect­ing just the four biggest bot­tlers plus four oth­ers, con­duct­ing a total of about 20 con­for­mity checks.

About 15 retail estab­lish­ments would also be vis­ited and 39 con­for­mity checks under­taken.

The UK con­sid­ered apply­ing a more rig­or­ous enforce­ment regime but found no evi­dence to sug­gest it was war­ranted. Any increase in the num­ber of vis­its to bot­tlers would increase bur­dens on indus­try, includ­ing micro-busi­nesses, and would not rep­re­sent value for money,” Defra’s impact assess­ment says.

Costs and ben­e­fits

The UK esti­mates this annual sam­pling regime and oper­at­ing an appeals pro­ce­dure will cost it an aver­age of about £108,517 ($175,000) annu­ally after the first year. That includes out­sourc­ing the olive oil sen­sory analy­sis as this must be car­ried out by an International Olive Council-rec­og­nized panel and there are no such pan­els in the UK.

The pre­lim­i­nary esti­mate of the over­all cost to indus­try — includ­ing staff time spent host­ing inspec­tion vis­its, oil taken for con­for­mity checks, and the updat­ing of entry and with­drawal reg­is­ters — is an annual aver­age of £85,395 ($138,000).

But among the pay­offs will be the pro­vi­sion of ver­i­fi­ca­tion and assur­ance for con­sumers on the reli­a­bil­ity of infor­ma­tion on the qual­ity of olive oil mar­keted in the UK.”

The new regime will also reduce the like­li­hood of poten­tial fraud­u­lent activ­ity, thus avoid­ing unscrupu­lous oper­a­tors gain­ing an eco­nomic ben­e­fit,” the impact assess­ment says.

That ben­e­fit, if an oper­a­tor were to adul­ter­ate their oil with 10 per­cent veg­etable oil, is likely to be 15p (24c) per 500ml bot­tle. This is based on indus­try fig­ures of the whole­sale cost of extra vir­gin olive oil of £2 ($3.20) per 500ml and veg­etable oil at 50p (81c) per 500ml.”

UK indus­try and mar­ket overview

The Defra doc­u­ments also show that of the about 59,000 tons of olive oil mar­keted in the UK a year — all of which is imported — about 40 per­cent is believed to be used in processed prod­ucts and the rest mar­keted as bot­tled oil.

Of the lat­ter, about 15,000 tons is bot­tled abroad and 20,000 tons imported in bulk and bot­tled in the UK.

The value of retails sales of olive oil the UK in 2011 was £145 mil­lion ($234m), up from £140 mil­lion ($226m) in 2009, and the extra vir­gin cat­e­gory accounted for £82 ($132) mil­lion and £80 ($129) mil­lion respec­tively.

Defra said it had been advised by indus­try that the nor­mal mark up for retail sales is around 50 per­cent.”


The EU law requires mem­ber states to set appro­pri­ate penal­ties that are effec­tive, pro­por­tion­ate and dis­sua­sive.” The UK plans to issue com­pli­ance notices in cases of breaches of the EU reg­u­la­tions. Failure to com­ply with a notice will be a crim­i­nal offense, as will be obstruc­tion of inspec­tors, such as fail­ure to pro­vide a reg­is­ter on request.

Summary of feed­back to be shared

The con­sul­ta­tion period opened on October 25 and closes on November 22. Defra will later place a sum­mary of all responses on its web­site.

Edible Oils declined a request from Olive Oil Times to share its views on the pro­posed scheme.


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