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The European Union (EU) has introduced new olive oil quality and labelling regulations, Olive Oil Times wrote.

Introduced at the end of last month, and published in the EU’s official journal, theDelegated Regulation 2022/2104 and Implementing Regulation 2022/2105 combine previous regulations to improve efficiency and create a more homogenous EU olive oil market, the 30 November report said.

The European Commission (EC) said a comprehensive update was necessary from “the experience acquired over the last decade [which] shows that certain aspects of the regulatory framework need to be simplified and clarified.”

Olive oil quality – particularly with organoleptic and chemical profiles – set it apart from other vegetable and seed oils, and these qualities increased the importance of fraud prevention in the sector, the EC said.

According to the new regulations, olive oil profiles must be analysed using protocols developed by the International Olive Council (IOC) – of which the EU is a member – which require the use of panels of selected and trained tasters.

“To ensure uniformity in… implementation, minimum requirements for the approval of panels should be set out,” the EC wrote. “In view of the difficulties that some member states encounter in setting up tasting panels, the use of panels in other member states should be authorised.”

The EC’s new integrated labelling regulations require highly visible and easy-to-read labels, containing information about the product’s contents.

The label should also inform consumers about the product’s storage conditions, as “numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that light and heat adversely affect the quality of olive oil,” the EC said.

“The labelling regulations are meant to ensure that adequate and correct information on the product enables the consumer to choose,” Roberta Capecci and Roberto Ciancio, officials at the Italian central inspectorate of quality protection and fraud prevention of agri-food products (ICQRF), told Olive Oil Times.

“Sometimes markers use messages that attract the attention of the consumer, emphasising product characteristics not covered by the… rules and which may not comply with EU and national provisions,” they added.

Current European food safety regulations prohibit misleading information on labels regarding quality, production process or food origin.

“The EU regulation… implemented in regulation 2022/2014 provides for more specific rules related to olive oil origin, the procedures concerning the supply of certain mandatory details, the rules governing the optional particulars concerning the method of production, such as cold-pressed, extract/first pressing and for the chemical and organoleptic characteristics of the oil and the harvest year,” Capecci and Ciancio added.

Labels should also inform the consumer of the product’s origin, the EC said, including whether it is a blend of olives or olive oils from different regions or countries.

“As a result of agricultural traditions and local extraction and blending practices, directly marketable virgin olive oils may be of quite different taste and quality depending on their place of origin,” the EC wrote.

The only specific regional indications allowed on labels relate to PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) certifications. All other products must be labelled according to the country of origin, not its regions or provinces.

Other aspects covered by the new regulations include the “age of the product” declared on the labels.

“Operators should be allowed to indicate the harvest year on the label of extra virgin and virgin olive oils but only when 100% of the contents of the container come from a single harvesting year,” the EC wrote.