Food Law News - EU - 2002

Commission Press Release (IP/02/859), 13 June 2002

OLIVE OIL - New marketing standards for olive oil will protect shoppers

The European Commission today adopted new rules laying down clearer marketing standards for olive oil intended to help shoppers throughout the EU. This decision provides a clear framework for the labelling and presentation of olive oil in the shops. It also covers the presentation of mixes of olive oil with other vegetable oils as well as foodstuffs highlighting in the label the presence of olive oil. The Regulation is an implementation of the quality strategy launched by the Commission and is part of a package to consolidate the market for olive oil. "To meet our goal to better promote olive oil, we need more coherent rules. With today's decision, olive oil will have to be marketed in clearer way. Shoppers will see uniform rules and clear labelling across the EU", said Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries.

In July 2001 the Council adopted a Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) 1513/2001 of 23 July 2001) which prolonged the existing aid regime by three marketing years (2001/2002 to 2003/2004) and which had particular provisions with regard to a new classification of olive oil setting four categories: "extra virgin olive oil", "virgin olive oil", "olive oil composed of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil" and "olive-pomace oil". Today's Regulation is an answer to the request by the Council and the European Parliament to lay down marketing standards for olive oil as part in the EU strategy for promoting the quality of olive oil.

To better protect the consumers, the new rules lay down the requirement that olive oil should not be sold in containers of more than five litres with a closing system where the seal is broken after first use and has proper labelling including the above-mentioned descriptions of the various categories of olive oils.

With regard to mixtures of olive oil with other vegetable oils, the new regulation prohibits to highlight the presence of olive oil on the label, unless olive oil represents a minimum of 50% of the oil.

For promotional purposes, the food industry is increasingly making use of the positive image of olive oil to sell margarine, sauces, mayonnaise, canned products like vegetables and fish. If the manufacturer wants to highlight a reference to the product containing or being based on olive oil on the label, the Regulation lays down new requirements in addition to provisions which already exist. Immediately following the reference to olive oil, the food manufacturer must either indicate the share of olive oil in the total weight of the product or the percentage of olive oil as percentage of the total fat contained in the product on the label.

Current legislation such as the labelling directive and the yellow fats regulation remain in force. The new Regulation enters into force on 1 November 2002. It foresees a transitional period in order to allow existing containers and labels to be exhausted. However, as far as labelling of the new definitions and descriptions is concerned, it is applicable as from 1 November 2003.

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