Business, Economics and Jobs

European Union to ban refillable olive oil jugs


Olives hangs from the branch of an olive tree on July 25, 2012, near Petrochori, Greece.


Sean Gallup

Olive oil addicts, beware: the European Union has moved to ban refillable olive jugs and bowls from restaurant tables, and will now require all olive oil to be served in pre-packaged and factory made bottles, equipped with a dispensing nozzle. 

The European Commission says the move was made both to improve hygiene and to cut down on olive oil fraud, in which customers are served a different and lower quality oil then the one they thought they had ordered — an occasional problem at less-than-honest Mediterranean eateries. 

"We are just making clear that when you want to have olive oil of a certain quality in a restaurant, you get exactly the one you are paying for," said EU spokesman Olivier Bailly of the move, according to Sky News, adding that the EU was merely "protecting consumers." 

The ban will come into effect on January 1, 2014, wrote the BBC, which added that Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy are the EU's largest olive oil producers, and have also been hardest-hit by the ongoing economic crisis. 

Meanwhile, restaurant owners and non-industrial olive oil producers were up in arms over the move, claiming that it would pose serious problems for both small farmers and authentically-minded restaurants, while protecting the interests of industrial oil makers. 

"This will affect us. It is about choice and freedom of choice. We buy our oil, which we have selected from a farm in Spain, to serve our customers," said restaurant owner and food writer Sam Clark to the Telegraph. "Yet more packaging is not going to be eco-friendly and will limit choice to more mass produced products," he added. 

Critics also claimed that focus on a relatively small-time issue will do few favors for the already questionable reputation of the European Union in a time of economic crisis.

"They should let the people decide what olive oil bottles they want to use and not dictate uniformity from the center," said Ukip MEP Paul Nuttall, according to Sky News. "This ridiculous move is even contrary to their often repeated call in favour of reusing goods."

However, the European Comission's inroads into the dinner table aren't set to extend much further: according to the Daily Mail, the body has "no plans to impose similar restrictions on packaging for butter, salt, pepper and other dinner table essentials."