A British consumer-owned food cooperative called Co-op Food has drawn the attention of consumers and plain language campaigners for its unique labeling of its olive oil.
The label, which repeats the words ‘olive’ and ‘oil’ eleven times in two short sentences of just 26 words, features no other information other than the brand name and logo and confusingly describes the product contained as “olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils. Oils comprising exclusively olive oils that have undergone refining and oils obtained directly from olives.”
The label was first snapped by a Letchworth/Leicester resident Daniel Whitear, who uploaded a photo of the bottle to Twitter with this cheeky caption: “When you’re struggling to reach the word count whilst writing an essay.” The tweet has since garnered 35,000 likes and 13,000 retweets.
When you're struggling to reach the word count whilst writing an essay pic.twitter.com/czr48f5EYT
— Dan (@DanielWhitear) May 18, 2017
According to their website, Co-op Food is the UK’s fifth largest retailer with over 2,500 stores, which means that millions of consumers might have come across the product and its confusing label while shopping.
In response to questions from Olive Oil Times, Co-op Food’s public relations officer Megan McGonigle stated that “all retailers are obligated to make this statement on olive oil product labels in order to adhere to the olive oil regulations. Unlike other retailers, Co-op olive oil includes this messaging on the front label rather than the back, in order (to) make it clear to the customer.”
According to official guidance by the UK Government on olive oil labeling, all olive oil products must meet the labeling, packaging and sealing requirements under Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 29/2012 (as amended) and Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council. These regulations primarily deal with ensuring the olive oil features the correct protected designation of origin, protected geographical indication or geographically referenced trademark so that the consumer is not misled regarding the characteristics of the oil in question.
According to these regulations, an olive oil product such as the one being marketing by Co-op Food (in other words, a blend of refined and virgin olive oils and not pure extra virgin olive oil) only needs to state whether or not its olive oils are of European Union origin and whether or not the olives were harvested in a country other than where the oil was produced.
The regulations, however, do state that labeling can feature images or graphics of olives where the olive oil blend being sold contains more than 50 percent pure olive oil (i.e not pomace oil or sunflower oil). This is line with recommendations made by a spokesperson of the Plain English Campaign, a UK organization dedicated to “campaigning against gobbledygook, jargon and misleading public information,” which queried why Co-op Food didn’t go with olive imagery instead of its confusing repetition.