• Politicians condemn EU proposal on banning olive oil jugs in restaurants
• EU says move will prevent fraud and improve hygiene for consumers
As of next year, restaurant customers will only be allowed to use oil from non-refillable bottles with proper content labeling to douse their crusty bread or garden salad, the European Commission announced.
But Treasury minister Danny Alexander branded the move “pretty silly”, while Jeremy Hunt referred to the ban when being interviewed BBC1’s Andrew Marr show, in which he suggested other countries perceived the European economy to be a “joke.”
EU spokesman Olivier Bailly said consumers often get fooled by being served cheap olive oil. Non-refillable bottles would also improve hygiene, he claims.
“We are just protecting consumers,” said Bailly. “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.”
But Hunt, who defended the Conservatives’ stance on the issue of Europe, said: “We look at the European Union and we worry about Britain’s ability to compete in the global race, we look at the regulations and the red tape that comes from Europe, yesterday some new regulation about selling olive oil in restaurants.
“If you go into the boardrooms in New York or Tokyo or Singapore they think the European economy is frankly a joke.”
Alexander sought to defend the EU despite the mooted olive oil ban.
“Silly rules are not the sole preserve of the European Union,” he said. “We did them in local authorities, we’ve swept away many of those in central government too,” he said.
“In fact, those decisions are made by ministers in the European Councils and elected MEPs in the European Parliament. The European Union is the largest single market in the world. Half a billion people, £11 trillion worth of economic activity, 3.5 million jobs dependent in this country on trade with Europe. I really believe that Britain cannot afford to be isolated from our members of the European Union; it’s massively in our interest.”
Paul Nuttal, an MEP for Ukip, said: “They should let the people decide what olive oil bottles they want to use and not dictate uniformity from the center,”
“This ridiculous move is even contrary to their often repeated call in favor of reusing goods,”
The European Commission said that a majority of the 27 member nations backed the move. It has already been compulsory in Portugal since 2006, despite grumbling from restaurant owners early on.
The Commission currently has no plans to impose similar rules on packaging for butter, salt, pepper or any other dinner table staples.
Olive oil is a product which has been prone to widespread fraud in the EU, when cheap produce is sometimes passed off as high-end extra virgin oil from the top regions.
With the move, the EU wants to make sure citizens can be guaranteed they have the exact product they asked for on their plate.
The EU also got backing from the continent-wide farmers’ federation.
“This will ensure a high-quality product for consumers,” said Rafael Sanchez de Puerta of the Copa-Cogecas federation. Also, by displaying the name, origins and storing conditions, this will help to preserve the image of olive oil.”
The EU is the world’s biggest producer of olive oil, accounting for up to 70 percent of global output, the Commission said.
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