With little fanfare, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is responsible for overseeing EU marketing standards for olive oil in the UK, has banned the sale of “on-tap” olive oils, according to the UK government website. The rule will take effect December 13, 2014.
“On-tap,” or “fill-your-own” olive oil shops, where consumers are invited to taste olive oils dispensed from shiny steel containers called “fusti,” have been opening throughout the UK, the United States and the world. There are estimated to be more than 500 such shops in the US alone.
In the RPA’s Olive Oil Regulations and Inspections, updated on August 20, the agency forbids the sale of olive oils “on tap in their pure form.” The rule 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 by the rule.
The new regulation provides scant details, and it remains unclear exactly when a retailer would be in violation. For example, if a shop invited consumers to merely taste olive oils from bulk containers and sold the oils in pre-filled bottles that comply with labeling regulations, it would not seem to constitute an infraction.
Olive Oil Times asked representatives at the Rural Payments Agency for clarification of the rule, but has yet to receive a reply.
Also 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.
According to its website, the RPA enforces EU standards “through more than 25,000 inspections in wholesale and retail outlets.”
The new ban quickly came under fire by some who said it would harm small businesses and limit the choices of consumers who are only beginning to discover the taste characteristics and health benefits of extra virgin olive oil, while others called it a necessary move to support consumer confidence and the new EU labeling laws.
— EVOO from Spain UK (@great_oil) August 23, 2014