The Spanish government is preparing a royal decree forcing the country’s restaurants and bars to replace refillable oil containers with clearly labelled single-use sachets or bottles of oil.
The announcement, made by Minister of Agriculture Miguel Arias Cañete, came as a shock after the European Union made the decision to back down from the proposal to ban refillable vessels around Europe in May. However, Cañete stressed that due to the historical, cultural and economic importance of olive oil for Spain, the motion was essential to maintain the sector’s strict policy of promotion and information, as well as the maintenance of the “Spain Brand.”
The measure is hoped to prevent refilling of vessels from bulk oil bottles of lower quality without the awareness of customers and consumers, thus preventing the quality fraud that has become common in the olive oil industry.
Apart from concerns surrounding consumer misinformation, the Agro-food cooperatives in Spain have also suggested that there are other disadvantages to refilling oil vessels, stating that such practice can change the organoleptic properties of the oil resulting in undesirable alterations to flavor, odor and color. They pointed out that, with such strict legislation when it comes to olive oil packaging and labeling in the country, standards should not be dropped in the final stage of delivery to consumers. The National Consumer Organization has also supported the motion, stating that it would help to prevent fraud.
However, other organisations are less than happy with the new action, with the Spanish Federation of Hospitality pointing out the “huge economic impact” for restaurant owners and hoteliers. In a poor economic climate, the cost of new disposable packaging, which comes at a far greater cost than refilling bottles, could put further financial pressure on businesses.
Sachets or non-reusable bottles will have to be labelled with information regarding origin, date of manufacture, best before date and quality grade to provide consumers with all the information available about the product and, proponents of the decree say, enhance their knowledge and appreciation of an important part of Spanish culture.