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The discovery of a live mouse in the olive oil cruet on a Paris restaurant table has prompted renewed calls for a ban on the refillable containers.

Italian singer and TV presenter Jo Squillo claimed she was lunching with friends in the historic Le Marais district during last months’s Paris Fashion Week when the incident occurred. A waiter took the cruet and trapped mouse away but there was no apology, she later told journalists.

“The restaurant owner explained that Paris was full of mice and restaurants could not help such things,” she said.

Italian and Spanish Members of European Parliament on need for cruet ban

Now a group of 22 Italian and Spanish Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) has renewed a call for a ban on restaurants, hotels and bars serving olive oil in unmarked and refillable oil containers.

“Following the latest very serious incident mentioned above, does the Commission plan to resubmit the regulation intended to introduce the requirement for restaurants and canteens to serve olive oil only in certified and labeled non-refillable, single-use bottles, in order to guarantee consumers’ basic right to know what they are consuming?” they wrote in a recently published written question to the European Commission.

The Commission was close to imposing such a ban but in late May – amid a political storm and media ridicule over the issue – European Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Cioloş put it on ice, saying it lacked broad consumer support.

He said at the time he would instead meet with representatives of consumers, restaurants, and olive oil producers to seek a better way to “provide better information to consumers about what they’re eating and to avoid any cheating.”

Claims ban would increase transparency, health protection for consumers

The MEPs, mainly from the European People’s Party, also say in their question that the proposal “would have been very useful for combating the phenomenon whereby oil bottles are refilled, which guarantees the consumer neither transparency nor safety with regard to the product.”

“Has the Commission assessed the impact on European consumers of the lack of transparency regarding the actual content of oil cruets, not only in financial terms, but also in terms of health protection, given that the refilled product, as well as generally having inferior organoleptic properties, is of lower quality?”

They also asked if the Commission had considered that the move would have also served to promote European extra-virgin oils, “something repeatedly stressed by the Commission as necessary, thus providing more complete information for a genuine product and guiding consumers more towards European brands.”

European Commission says consultation continuing

In answer to another question on the ban, Cioloş said in July that “over the coming months the Commission will resume its work on clarifying whether action must be taken at European level to meet the needs of all stakeholders in the olive oil sector.”

A spokesperson for Cioloş told Olive Oil Times last week that regarding “the meeting of Commissioner Cioloş with representatives of the olive oil and catering sectors, the Commissioner encouraged all participants to continue their discussions.

The now-postponed draft regulation that included the cruet ban, regulation (EC) No 29/2012 on marketing standards for olive oil, also other proposed measures – generally well-supported in the olive oil sector – such as for clearer label information on olive oil packaging, and tougher penalties for and more checks on mislabeling.

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