Saturday, April 21st, 2018

New EU Olive Oil Regs Divide Europe

As reported in this Sunday Telegraph story that I collaborated on from Italy, the new EU laws regulating labeling, distribution and serving of olive oil have divided Europe, but found widespread support in Italy, where olive oil exports are booming. It remains, along with wine and luxury goods, one of the outperforming sectors in hard economic times.

From 1 January 2014, restaurants in Europe may only serve olive oil in tamper-proof packaging, labelled to EU standards, which include information about origin and quality of the oil.

The EU’s new regulations have caused a stir, but in Italy, similar laws have been in place for the last two months, having passed Italian parliament in late 2012. the “salva olio” law, otherwise known as “Mongiello Law” was named after the centre-Left senator, Colomba Mongiello, who first signed it into effect. Sen Mongiello said Italy can be proud that it paved the way for adopting stricter regulations at the European level.  Not everyone is happy about it, as the Telegraph piece notes.

But in Italy, the move has been met with support. The association of agricultural producers Coldiretti called the new regulations “a barrier against fraud and tricks that so often hit the condiment most loved by Italians.”

Sergio Mei, executive chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Milan, said their restaurant already uses branded bottles of olive oil, both for cooking and at the table, where smaller-sized bottles are placed as opposed to dispensers. He favours the stricter regulations.

“Knowing the exact origin of olive oil being used in the restaurant is an additional guarantee of quality,” Mr Mei said.

Still, there are bound to be some who are bound to be sorry to say goodbye to the “oliera” the refillable olive oil jar with spout that was once ubiquitous on the tables of small osterias and trattorias, along with vinegar, salt and pepper shakers, as well as grated parmesan (if you ordered pasta). 

Italy, which produces an average 500,000 tons of olive oil a year (of which 60 per cent is extra virgin) was one of the 15 member states to back the initiative (along with Spain, Greece, Portugal, France, Ireland, Cyprus, Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland, Romania and Malta).

As I wrote in this piece back in June of 2012, Italian authorities have been cracking down on counterfeit oil, increasingly a global business. While most Italians have such a discerning palate, they know when they’ve been served poor-quality oil, some customers abroad can’t tell the difference, making foreign markets and attractive and easy target for olive oil fraud. The new EU regulations, say Italian producers (and the newly appointed agricultural minister) can only benefit one of the country’s most beloved “Made in Italy” products — l’olio buono.


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