The controversial ruling was quickly condemned by restaurateurs across the UK earlier this week as more unnecessary interference by the EU.It was initially thought that the traditional use of classic, refillable glass jugs or dipping bowls would be completely outlawed, ending the choice of a restaurateur to buy olive oil from small producers.
But an EU official has today confirmed to the SRA that the new regulation, passed in Brussels last week, only covers ‘100 per cent olive oil' and the addition of salt or a herb would therefore be exempt. Therefore, bottles of chilli oil or dipping bowls of olive oil with added salt can remain on the tables.
SRA managing director Mark Linehan said provenance was at the core of the association's principles, so it was 'sympathetic towards efforts to highlight the source of any product'.
“However, we do have serious misgivings about singling out olive oil for special treatment, particularly as it would appear that this new regulation could have significant waste and packaging implications," he said.
“We trust that whichever body polices this regulation in the UK will apply common sense.”
In effect, the new regulation means that from 1 January 2014 restaurants will only be able to serve 100 per cent olive oil in pre-packaged, tamper-proof factory bottles which adhere to EU labelling standards.
It is part of an EU initiative to help olive oil producers hit by rising operating costs and falling profits in recent years. The proposal, made by the European Commission, was supported by 15 of 27 EU-member governments - Britain abstained from the vote.
An EU spokesman said: “If it’s extra virgin, we want the consumer to know that and also want people to know what country it comes from.
“There has been widespread misleading of consumers and the Commission has been pushing for international definitions and rules for some time.”
On Monday, BigHospitality conducted a readers poll about the EU's new regulation. Out of 222 responses, the vast majority disagreed with the ruling. (Vote here).
The SRA has said it ‘maintains concerns about the new regulation’, primarily because of the potential for extra packaging and waste – a spokesman for Agriculture and Rural Development at the European Commission said he was not aware of any measures to counteract these possible side effects.
Linehan has written to Commissioner Dacian Cioloș; to establish if the issues of extra packaging and waste have been considered to ensure minimal environmental impact.
Other critics see this new regulation as a vain attempt to support a struggling olive oil industry and representative of a bloated EU beaurocracy. Europe’s largest producers of olive oil - Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy - are among those hardest hit by the economic downturn.