Wednesday

1st Feb 2023

EU retreats from olive oil ban after wave of ridicule

  • The bowl of olive oil will live to see another day (Photo: Alpha)

The European Commission has been forced to beat a hasty retreat from a proposed ban on jugs of olive oil in restaurants after the idea met with widespread ridicule.

Barely a week after it was announced for "hygiene" and "consumer protection" purposes, the EU commissioner in charge, Dacian Ciolos, rushed to the same press room on Thursday (23 May) to announce he was withdrawing the measure.

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Referring to the "quite strong reactions," Ciolos said he had decided to "not submit it for adoption."

The proposal would have banned jugs and dipping bowls of olive oil in restaurants from next year and was meant to prevent restaurant-goers from being served any old inferior oil.

It had been pushed by big olive-oil producing countries and reached the adoption stage by default - having been given the go-ahead by the European Commission as an insufficient number of member states opposed it.

Critics immediately said it would push small artisan producers of olive oil out of business and was ignoring the fact that fraud mostly takes place before the oil is bottled and not at the restaurant table.

Meanwhile, commission spokespeople, minutes after the proposal was announced, had to field questions on whether consumers were not themselves well able to judge the quality of olive oil.

And whether there would be a special olive oil squad team to ensure it was being enforced.

Subsequent media coverage ensured that the proposal is set to take its place in the hall of fame for odd EU legislation.

Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung said it was the "weirdest decision since the legendary curvy cucumber regulation" referring to now-scrapped laws on the shape of fruit and vegetables to be sold in EU supermarkets.

The UK’s Guardian called it “a doozie” and asked well-known London restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi for his opinion.

"What it means is that there just won't be oil in restaurants any more,” he pronounced.

The proposal was also grist to the mill of those arguing that the EU is too bureaucratic.

"This is exactly the sort of thing that Europe shouldn't even be discussing,” said British leader David Cameron at an EU summit on Wednesday.

But while the oil olive saga is over for now, it may be revisited.

Ciolos said he plans to consult with both consumers and producers before coming up with a new oil initiative.

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