New regulations designed to prevent and detect olive oil fraud in the European Union appear likely to go ahead after votes taken by a key committee in Brussels last week.

As reported in Olive Oil Times last month, EU member states would have to do at least one targeted check annually per thousand tons of olive oil marketed in them and send more rigorous reports to the European Commission (EC) on their testing, and any person or entity holding bulk olive oil would have to keep a register tracking stock entry and withdrawal, under just some of the measures proposed.

After months of debate, the changes won majority support in a February 6 vote by the Management Committee for the Common Organisation of Agricultural Markets, which includes agricultural experts from the EC and the 27 EU member states.

However because the yes vote was not big enough to be what is called a qualified majority, the draft amendments (to EU regulation 2568/91 on olive oil characteristics and analysis methods) must now undergo a written process of adoption by the EC, an EC Agriculture spokesperson said.

Better protection and information for consumers

In an indicative vote, the Management Committee also supported a separate group of measures designed to better protect and inform consumers in the EU, the world’s biggest producer, consumer and exporter of olive oil.

Those measures, contained in draft amendments to the EU olive oil marketing standard (regulation 29/2012), include stricter labeling rules to ensure the category and origin of an olive oil is prominent and easy to read on packaging.

Another provision would effectively ban refillable olive oil cruets from restaurant tables in the EU.

This set of amendments will now be sent to the Geneva-based World Trade Organization Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade, which will have 60 days in which to share its comments, if any, after which the Management Committee will hold a formal vote.

Bolstering the image of EU olive oil

The new measures – generally intended to apply from January 1 – are designed to “reinforce the position of the EU olive oil sector in the European and global markets.”

“The image of olive oil is a major asset that must be protected and one that is closely linked to quality and compliance,” the spokesperson said.

The changes are part of European Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Cioloş’s action plan for the EU olive oil sector, released for discussion in June.

Absent: changes to chemical parameters

Under short term action to protect the quality and authenticity of virgin oils, the Cioloş plan said the International Olive Council (IOC) would be asked to expedite its work on certain chemical parameters.

It referred to reducing the limits for stigmastadienes and alkyl esters, definitive adoption of the global method for the detection of oils other than olive oils, and adoption of a diglycerides and triglycerides test.

Asked why such changes – keenly awaited by some in the sector – were not in the draft amendments, the spokesperson said the EC was awaiting further response from the IOC.

A lack of quorum at the 100th session of the IOC Council of Members last November prevented the adoption of reports on these issues prepared by relevant IOC working groups.

EC documents show a closing sitting for that session of the Council of Members had been scheduled for February 25-26 but the IOC said on Friday that there was currently no date set for the meeting.

IOC tender canceled

In September, the IOC called for tenders for an international study of the elasticity of demand for olive oil to be submitted by November 5. But late last month it announced that the call for tenders had been canceled. Asked for the reasons, the IOC told Olive Oil Times they were of a technical nature and would be explained to IOC members at their next meeting, yet to be scheduled.

In late October, the IOC also canceled its “Best Olive Article Competition” – carrying a €5,000 prize – after the October 1 entry deadline, saying it did not receive enough entries for it to go ahead.

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