A new standard of identity for imported olive oil is being considered by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Olive Oil Times reported on 19 June.

The FDA’s proposal followed a citizen’s petition filed in May by the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) and the Spanish olive oil giant Deoleo. The NAOOA said that the standards were necessary to protect American consumers and promote “honest and fair dealing” in the industry.

One of the proposed regulations was a 0.5% free fatty acidity (FFA) maximum for extra virgin olive oil, which was lower than the current 0.8% limit set in international standards.

In Greece, the proposed change was regarded as an illegitimate attempt by Spanish olive oil conglomerates and their US partners to bypass competition from Greece and Italy in the wake of US tariffs on olive oil from the European Union (EU), Olive Oil Times said.

The USA had imposed the tariffs on EU goods, including packaged Spanish olive oils and table olives from both Spain and France, in October 2019 as a result of its illegal subsidies to European aerospace corporation Airbus.

Spain had been hit with a 25% tariff for bottled olive oil to the USA which had cut exports to the American market.

Since the introduction of the tariffs, many Spanish producers had started bottling their own olive oil in Portugal and Tunisia to avoid tariffs, according to market research analysis by the Office of Financial and Commercial Affairs of the Greek Embassy in Madrid.

According to a report by Agro24, at a recent meeting, the Greek Interprofessional Organization of Olive Oil (EDOE) had asked the minister of agriculture Makis Vorides for his intervention to protect the country’s olive oil production. The ministry’s press release of the meeting, however, had made no reference to the request.

In a statement to Olive Oil Times, EDOE said that the proposed changes would cause further harm to Greek olive oil exporters.

“Such measures are not in favour of Greek producers,” it said. “It would be totally different to create a new category of high-quality olive oil with a lower acidity level than extra virgin like the extrissimo classification once proposed.

“Lowering the maximum acidity of extra virgin to 0.5% from 0.8% will degrade several quality olive oils and will create market imbalances and unfair competition among suppliers of the US market with a negative effect on prices and exported volumes of Greek extra virgin olive oil,” the EDEO statement said.