` Andalusian Minister Under Fire for Blaming Olive Oil Preservation, Not Fraud - Olive Oil Times

Andalusian Minister Under Fire for Blaming Olive Oil Preservation, Not Fraud

Aug. 14, 2011
Julie Butler

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The Andalusian Government is under harsh crit­i­cism from Spanish con­sumers, pro­duc­ers and jour­nal­ists for fail­ing to con­clude an olive oil fraud inves­ti­ga­tion now nine months old.

The for­mal inquiry by the regional depart­ment of health began last November after analy­ses of 24 batches of olive oil on sale in Jaén and Córdoba indi­cated that, in 15, the con­tents were infe­rior to what was indi­cated on the label­ing. In most cases this involved a lower qual­ity oil being sold as extra vir­gin olive oil or vir­gin olive oil.

Last week Health and Consumer Affairs Minister María Jesús Montero announced that, while the inquiry was still under­way, the inves­ti­ga­tors had found that in most cases the prob­lem was not one of fraud but of poor preservation.

The major­ity of the busi­nesses have been able to show that at the time of bot­tling, the prod­ucts were in the con­di­tion indi­cated in the label­ing,” Montero said. According to Spanish news­pa­per El País, the min­is­ter went on to explain that, like wine, olive oil lost organolep­tic qual­i­ties if not trans­ported and stored in appro­pri­ate con­di­tions includ­ing sta­ble tem­per­a­tures. She said the anom­alies detected sug­gested the short­com­ing lay in the dis­tri­b­u­tion and sales chain.

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We are think­ing of a cam­paign to advise con­sumers on how to check that the bot­tle they have selected for pur­chase has been cor­rectly pre­served,” she said. Montero refused to name the brands being inves­ti­gated until the end of the inquiry.

Industry groups reacted angrily, say­ing the Minister’s com­ments, far from pro­vid­ing clar­ity, had cre­ated con­fu­sion and shown a fail­ure to take seri­ously the pos­si­bil­ity of fraud.

Rubén Sánchez, spokesman for con­sumer group Facua, told Europa Press that he could not under­stand why the inquiry was tak­ing months when tests could be done in a mat­ter of hours. He said that con­sumers deserved prompt and clear details of the results of the tests.

Secretary-gen­eral of agri­cul­tural union COAG-Jaén, Rafael Civantos, said he was astounded not only that it had taken nine months to get some infor­ma­tion – after repeated calls for it from COAG – but that the mes­sage had been that it was not fraud, just incor­rect preser­va­tion. The gov­ern­ment needs to take this mat­ter, which equally affects agri­cul­tur­al­ists and con­sumers, seri­ously. Furthermore, it needs to explain in detail the results of its test­ing.” Civantos also demanded that the names of the brands under inves­ti­ga­tion be made public.

Journalist Ginés Donaire, whose beat with El País includes the olive oil sec­tor, tweeted on July 7, Seven months have passed and the regional gov­ern­ment is still yet to make pub­lic the names of the com­pa­nies involved in the olive oil fraud. Who is it protecting?”

Last week, after Montero’s announce­ment, he tweeted: If there’s no oil fraud, who’s going to pay for its dete­ri­o­ra­tion on the shelves. Were nine months of inves­ti­ga­tion nec­es­sary for this?”

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