Europe

U.K. Defines New Ban on 'On-Tap' Olive Oil Sales

Sep. 5, 2014
By Olive Oil Times Staff

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The agency respon­si­ble for enforc­ing a new ban on the sale of “on-tap” olive oil in the United Kingdom has pro­vided new details on what would con­sti­tute such a sale.

The ban was announced on August 20, when the Rural Payments Agency updated its “Olive oil reg­u­la­tions and inspec­tions” after Article 2 of Commission Regulation 29/2012, as inter­preted by a 2006 deci­sion by the European Court of Justice, dis­al­lowed the sale of all unfla­vored olive oils on tap, the agency said.

Few details were pro­vided for the new rule, which could impact hun­dreds of small busi­nesses who oper­ate “fill-your-own” shops where olive oils are dis­pensed from stain­less tanks called “fusti.” Catering to con­sumers’ grow­ing inter­est in qual­ity olive oil, the shops, where cus­tomers are invited to taste before buying, are part of an inter­na­tional retail trend.

Critics of the con­cept say the shops are often ill-equipped to handle, store and dis­pense olive oil, and that they bypass Europe’s stricter label­ing laws.

Seeking clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the new rule, Olive Oil Times posed ques­tions to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) on August 24. Today, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive responded, con­ced­ing the ques­tions “raised com­plex legal issues which have needed to be fully explored,” about the pro­hi­bi­tion it posted on its web­site that gave mer­chants until this December 13 to stop so-called “on-tap” sales.

Question: When exactly does the vio­la­tion occur in an on-tap shop?

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RPA: A breach would occur when, for exam­ple, rel­e­vant olive oil is presented/offered for sale in a drum which has no intact seal, and that oil is drained from the drum and bought by a con­sumer. It makes no dif­fer­ence if the con­tainer (bottle) into which that oil was drained was sealed before the sale, and that seal remained intact at the moment of sale.

Question: What was the basis for this rule? Was there a debate on ban­ning these types of stores?

RPA: An ‘on-tap’ method of mar­ket­ing rel­e­vant olive oil is not allowed under the pro­vi­sions of Article 2 of Commission Implementing Regulation 29/2012, as those pro­vi­sions have been defin­i­tively inter­preted by the Court of Justice of the European Union in Case No C‑489/04 (Alexander Jehle, Weinhaus Kiderlen – v – Land Baden-Wurttemberg).

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Question: What if a store filled bot­tles in the back room and labelled each one to comply with the reg­u­la­tions?

RPA: This would not be pro­hib­ited by Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 29/2012 on mar­ket­ing stan­dards for olive oil, pro­vided the oil was bot­tled and sealed before the oil was presented/offered for sale to final con­sumers, and the seal remained intact at the moment of sale. Anyone hold­ing olive oil, from extrac­tion up to, and includ­ing, the bot­tling stage must keep entry and with­drawal reg­is­ters for each cat­e­gory of oil they hold, in accor­dance with the details on gov.uk.

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Question: What if con­sumers were simply able to taste oils from bulk con­tain­ers that dis­played all the nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion about the oils inside — to decide whether to buy a sealed, fully-labeled bottle of it?

RPA: Such tast­ing would not be pro­hib­ited by Commission Implementing Regulation 29/2012. However, it should be noted that Article 2(3) of Directive 2000/13 pro­hibits pre­sen­ta­tion or adver­tis­ing of food­stuffs which could mis­lead a pur­chaser to a mate­r­ial degree par­tic­u­larly as to the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the food­stuff or by attribut­ing to the food­stuff prop­er­ties which it does not pos­sess. Therefore, if the olive oil for tast­ing misled a prospec­tive pur­chaser in a mate­r­ial way about the olive oil they even­tu­ally bought, this would be a breach of the rel­e­vant pro­vi­sions of the Directive and the Regulation, to be enforced by the rel­e­vant local author­ity.

The rule, which will take effect December 13, 2014, applies to extra virgin, virgin, and refined olive oils, and olive pomace oil. Flavored olive oils, such as those infused with garlic, are not affected.

Under the new reg­u­la­tion, virgin olive oil labels must des­ig­nate a coun­try of origin; refined oils don’t have to. Anyone bot­tling olive oil will need to keep detailed records that would be sub­ject to inspec­tions by the RPA at any time.