Dacian Cioloş

The European Commission has begun consultation over possible changes to its rules on olive oil testing.

EC Agriculture & Rural Development Commissioner Dacian Cioloş announced the move recently in response to a call for the alkyl esters parameter for EVOO to be lowered.

He was responding to a written parliamentary question from Italian members who had asked if the Commission intended to review EU regulation 61/2011 “in order to bring it into line with the new market requirements by bringing the alkyl esters parameter down from 75 mg/kg to 30 mg/kg and thus guaranteeing the quality of genuine extra virgin olive oil.”

In their preamble, the members said the current threshold – 75 mg/kg – was not stringent enough to protect producers and prevent the spread of impure mixtures containing lampante oil, “which are still too often available on the market owing to the fall in extra virgin olive oil prices.”

“The start of the 2011-2012 olive oil production year has in fact once again been characterised by wholesale purchase prices that are too low and cannot even cover production costs. This has justifiably given rise to a strong reaction on the part of producers and oil pressers, who are exasperated by the adulteration that causes distortions of the market and ignore the rights of consumers,” they wrote.

“Does it (the EC) not consider it of fundamental importance to ensure that consumers are provided with guarantees as to the actual composition of the oil they purchase and are not misled but given accurate information at the time of purchase?” they also asked.

In a written reply on January 27, Cioloş said that the limits set for the alkyl esters parameter were in conformity with the opinion of the EU expert chemists group and with the relevant work carried out by the International Olive Oil Council.

“Regarding olive oil quality, the Commission has recently initiated a consultation with the relevant stakeholders in order to examine the opportunity of possible adaptations of the olive oil standard,” he said.

Meanwhile, the alkyl esters parameter is also on the agenda of the EC’s advisory group on olives and derived products, which does not represent EC opinion but canvasses the point of view of agriculture-related community representatives.

The minutes from one of its meetings last year noted, after debate on whether changes to the paramater were needed, that, “…before making an official request for the revision of the method, members of the group should gather sufficient data and get more experienced.”

“The Commission (representative) noted the concerns of the participants but highlighted the need to have a watertight case supported by data. Moreover, concerning the evolution of the rate of alkyl-esters over time, the only available information is a paper saying that a priori the rate of alkyl-esters could increase over time. However it seems that if the initial rate is low, the increase would not be happening over time.”

“In conclusion the Commission will welcome any scientific evidence which will demonstrate the opposite or any proposals for new methods. The chair proposed to wait one more year in order to gather more data on the matter,” the advisory group minutes concluded.

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