Laws Governing Olive Oil Sector in Spain Set to Change

Updated legislation will require the implementation of a new traceability system and change labeling requirements.

By Daniel Dawson
Mar. 19, 2020 12:03 UTC

A series of new qual­ity stan­dards for olive oil and olive pomace oil in Spain will be cod­i­fied into law later this year.

The mea­sures include the imple­men­ta­tion of a new trace­abil­ity sys­tem through­out the pro­duc­tion chain, the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of how olive oil is reg­u­lated com­pared with veg­etable oil and changes to label­ing require­ments.

The bet­ter the knowl­edge of a prod­uct is, the more each of the links in the chain ben­e­fits, espe­cially the pro­ducer and the final con­sumer.- Juan Vilar, sec­tor ana­lyst and con­sul­tant

The new stan­dards were pro­posed by the Agrifood Industrial Technology Center (Ainia), a non-profit focused on agribusi­ness, and have been work­ing their way through Spain’s leg­isla­tive process since 2018.

From our point of view, it is nec­es­sary that this leg­is­la­tion is updated since the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion for olive oil is from 1983,” José María Ferrer, the head of food pol­icy at Ainia, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:Olive Oil Standards

In addi­tion to try­ing to replace reg­u­la­tions that have been in exis­tence for many years, it is also nec­es­sary to try to adapt the leg­is­la­tion to the new real­ity of the olive sec­tor,” he added.

The role of tech­nol­ogy in trace­abil­ity is one of these new real­i­ties. The new mea­sures will require data from olive oils to be tracked through every step of the pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion process.

However, no sin­gle method to do so has been leg­is­lated, which Ferrer believes will pro­vide flex­i­bil­ity for dif­fer­ent sized oper­a­tions to adopt prac­tices appro­pri­ate for their respec­tive bud­gets.

Traceability sys­tems aim at the pos­si­bil­ity of find­ing and fol­low­ing the trail, through all stages of pro­duc­tion, trans­for­ma­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of a food, and this can be done in very dif­fer­ent ways and con­se­quently with a very vari­able cost,” Ferrer said.

In spite of the added cost that imple­ment­ing trace­abil­ity sys­tems will incur on pro­duc­ers, Juan Vilar, an ana­lyst and con­sul­tant, believes the long-term ben­e­fits far out­weigh the short-term costs.

The bet­ter the knowl­edge of a prod­uct is, the more each of the links in the chain ben­e­fits, espe­cially the pro­ducer and the final con­sumer,” he told Olive Oil Times.

This is espe­cially true in the case of blended extra vir­gin olive oils, in which olives of many dif­fer­ent prove­nances and vari­eties are processed in the same tank. The new trace­abil­ity sys­tem would require this infor­ma­tion to be ver­i­fied, pro­vid­ing reg­u­la­tors and con­sumers with a clear pic­ture of what is in every bot­tle.

While imple­men­ta­tion and enforce­ment are likely to be a chal­lenge for all involved, Vilar believes the new mea­sures will help pro­mote olive oil as a healthy prod­uct.

This monop­o­liza­tion of the process, from the field to the shelf, is essen­tial to be able to know in detail every­thing that hap­pened in each link of the chain,” Vilar said. The more infor­ma­tion and trans­parency, the bet­ter a sec­tor devel­ops, espe­cially one of a nutri­tional nature.”

Along with adding trans­parency to the olive oil pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion sec­tor, the new mea­sures will also sep­a­rate how olive oil is reg­u­lated com­pared with veg­etable oils.

More effec­tive reg­u­la­tions, in turn, could trans­late into lower pro­duc­tion costs for farm­ers and dif­fer­en­ti­ate how the pub­lic per­ceives olive oil in com­par­i­son to veg­etable oils.

The fact that a norm is exclu­sive to an area makes it more use­ful,” Vilar said. This level of spe­cial­iza­tion entails more thor­ough man­age­ment and a more tai­lor-made legal treat­ment, there­fore, it could only be pos­i­tive.”


Ferrer said that this change would stream­line the bureau­cratic process. Since olive oil and veg­etable oils are fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent – the for­mer being a phys­i­cally extracted fruit juice while the lat­ter is pro­duced using chem­i­cal sol­vents – it makes sense that dif­fer­ent sets of rules gov­ern their pro­duc­tion.

If the dif­fer­ent types of [veg­etable oils] that can be pro­duced are bet­ter defined, this is pos­i­tive for all agents in the food chain,” Ferrer said. Consumers will be able to bet­ter under­stand the prod­uct they buy. The indus­try will have much clearer rules of the game and there­fore the con­trol and super­vi­sion work of the com­pe­tent author­i­ties will be eas­ier and more effec­tive.”

The new mea­sures will also change label­ing rules, includ­ing the adop­tion of stricter lim­its on what can be called olive oil.

The men­tion olive oil’ may only be used for the des­ig­na­tion of the oils referred to in this stan­dard, as pro­vided for by reg­u­la­tion,” the new leg­is­la­tion reads. In par­tic­u­lar, it can­not be used in com­bi­na­tion with other words to name any other oil.”

A com­mon prac­tice across the food indus­try is to mix extra vir­gin olive oil with canola oil or another type of veg­etable oil and then sell the prod­uct under a label that empha­sizes the olive oil. The new mea­sures aim to cur­tail this prac­tice.

While clear­ing up con­sumer con­fu­sion, Ferrar said that the imple­men­ta­tion of the rule may lead to some dis­rup­tion for pro­duc­ers.

On the one hand, it will have a pos­i­tive impact in terms of clar­ity regard­ing the infor­ma­tion that is trans­ferred,” he said. On the other hand, there is an eco­nomic impact in terms of the need for new labels and other mea­sures related to con­sumer infor­ma­tion.”

However, Vilar believes the ini­tial cost of chang­ing labels and repack­ag­ing prod­ucts will be com­pen­sated over time.

In this case, the entire value chain also ben­e­fits, since you can only accom­pany a prod­uct on the label with the expres­sion olive oil if it really con­tains olive oil,” he said.

Labels on mixed oils will need to clearly define how olive oil was used in the prod­uct and with which other veg­etable oils it was mixed.

The new mea­sures are set to be for­mally set into Spanish law later this year. The gov­ern­men­t’s Board of Food Quality and Coordination will then over­see the imple­men­ta­tion of the mea­sures and their enforce­ment.


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