The (Rather Ridiculous) Olive Oil Refill Ban

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Assorted / Ponder
Olive Oil ban EU

I’m aware that many of my readers don’t live in Europe so I’m not sure if you heard about this olive oil ban in the EU. Those that do live here must surely have been amused…

Last week on Saturday I read this article in the BBC stating:

The European Commission is to ban the use of refillable bottles and dipping bowls of olive oil at restaurant tables as from next year.

Apparently it was all down to a labeling issue to ensure you get what you ask for. (As opposed to a hygienic issue, for example).

My instant various thoughts were:

1. Someone in the European Commission must have interests in the olive oil industry, with the main big players.

2. The restaurants must be very unhappy. Especially in the Mediterranean countries, olive oil is such an important aspect of the diet. I have to admit I hadn’t taken much note of the culinary set-up in the restaurants in other Mediterranean countries, but in Spain it is extremely common for each table to have some salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar all in refillable jars. Restaurants like to buy their olive oil in bulk and put them in these lovely jars. Beautiful refillable glass olive oil jar always looks so much classier than a commercial (plastic) bottle with a label. And of course this system must also be more ecological than what the European Commission wants to enforce.

While I’m on this subject, I also want to point out that in Spain you will practically never receive a salad in any restaurant already served with creamy and creative salad dressings. Spaniards are extremely health conscious when it comes to their salad dressings (and may I dare suggest a tad uncreative too sometimes) and will only put some salt, vinegar and extra virgin olive oil on their salads, dressing it themselves.

3. People in Mediterranean area can easily tell the difference between between normal olive oil and extra virgin olive oil just by smelling it and looking at it: it’s thicker when pouring and the colour is richer. So one really does not need a label for olive oil in a restaurant.

4. With the amount of serious problems going on in the EU, surely this means that all those loads of politicians have wasted lots of precious time and money thinking about this?

Anyhow, I wasn’t the only one baffled. It seems that there was so much general embafflement (I may have just invented that word now) and ridicule that now one week later now they have dropped the ban. Here are some articles about it from the BBC, The Guardian and euobserver. There is also this analysis from Forbes.

It’s amusing that the future ban has been dropped. It still doesn’t eliminate the fact that the European Commission has been busy with this olive oil story…

Did you get to see this news? What did you think about it?

Thank you for reading!

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The Author

Australian / Indonesian / Spanish homemade food geek and miserable classical piano player, currently living in Barcelona. Papaya Pieces is the space for my tales and fascinations.

20 Comments

  1. What’s next? Plates of food will be banned in restaurants, in favour of pre-packaged meals in sealed containers? Sheesh…

  2. Embafflement is a great word. It is discouraging sometimes to see what politicians (well, the media and ourselves in general I suppose) decide is an important use of their time. Just this week or last week a politician was debate how appropriate it was for someone in the government to be wearing a vest under their suit in parliament.

    As for the olive oil issue, I’m inclined to agree that there was probably some kind of business interest at play. Really, unless people are keeling over left at right from hygiene issues, it’s pretty stupid to try to bulldoze untold years of traditional practice with bureaucracy. No wonder there are so many financial crises in Europe if its governing body feels it’s appropriate to solve problems that don’t exist by making it more expensive for businesses to trade.

    • You should use the embafflement in a post too ;)
      What? Wearing vests? Really and truly they debate about that? And what can any possible arguments be regarding all that?
      And regarding the olive oil, thank goodness they reversed it because here olive oil is a big part of the Mediterranean culture, it would be sad to mess it up. Also they really would have caused a lot of damage to the smaller olive oil producers (who are the ones that usually make the most amazing quality olive oil too).

  3. Hillarious way of spending citizen tax by making such unimportant regulacy….
    btw, what do the govermant cre even when the customers like to springkle some dirt on ther plates…

  4. I live in Europe, and to say I was distraught when I heard the news is an understatement. Olive oil is such a big part of many food cultures in Europe and I think politicians have made a very, very unwise decision.

    • Yes exactly, apart from the whole commercial part of it, olive oil is such a strong part of European culture, especially in the mediterranean countries. Thankfully the law has been reversed.

  5. Sounds like they are policing something that doesn’t require policing. I wonder how many millions of dollars was spent on this issue?

  6. I think the world is getting more nonsensical with all this ridiculous news….anyway, those beautiful olive oil refill bottles are the charm of Europe. I love seeing it at all tables when i was there last year. taking it away will be a really bad idea. lucky the ban has been dropped…

    • I agree, the refill bottles are beautiful and it would have been such a pity to install such a ridiculous law.

  7. Silly legislation. You’re right when you say someone has interests in the olive oil industry. My main concern is the waste of glass and plastic.
    Aren’t we trying to encourage recycling, not create more trash?

    • Laura I was also very concerned with the ecological side of it, then forgot to write it when I wrote the post. I kept on thinking, hang on theres a point I forgot to write here. We are supposed to encourage recycling.

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