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Olive Oil Labeling Under Spotlight

Dec 2, 2011 12:33 PM EST
Julie Butler

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An inter­na­tional debate has begun in the olive oil sec­tor on issues to do with label­ing, such as whether to require best before’ or use by’ dates.

And one of the most press­ing ques­tions is what to do about often unavoid­able slight changes affect­ing vir­gin olive oil’s organolep­tic qual­i­ties — such as its taste and odor — after its pack­ag­ing.

Virgin olive oil is a prod­uct that does not improve with age and pro­duc­ers run the risk that what was true about their oil at the time it was labeled is no longer entirely true by the time it reaches the check­out. Inadvertent non-com­pli­ance with label­ing reg­u­la­tions can have seri­ous com­pli­ca­tions not only for pro­duc­ers but the over­all rep­u­ta­tion of olive oil.

Government experts from France, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey, and also from the European Commission’s agri­cul­ture direc­torate, met at the International Olive Council’s Madrid head­quar­ters on Thursday to begin dis­cus­sions on these issues.

Also on the agenda was the dif­fer­ences in label­ing laws in var­i­ous juris­dic­tions, includ­ing vari­a­tions from what the IOC trade stan­dard says about label­ing.


Many European pro­duc­ers would also like to see a relax­ation of E.C. restric­tions on the health claims that can be made on labels, envi­ous of the more lib­eral rules in the United States.

An IOC spokes­woman said the meet­ing was an ini­tial one designed to touch base” and estab­lish pri­or­i­ties. It sprang from pri­or­i­ties set for the IOC’s work in a meet­ing of the IOC’s Board of Members.


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