In 2013 the European Commission reversed its decision to ban refillable bottles of olive oil from restaurants in Europe, before it came into force.
The measure was presented as a bid to end food fraud and protecting consumers from being served with inferior oils at their table but was withdrawn by Romanian Agricultural Commissioner Dacian Ciolos after being subjected to significant amount of criticism and some ridicule
The rule was criticised by the leaders of France and the Netherlands and the UK with the then British PM David Cameron accusung the Commission of unnecessary interference.
And when the Commission’s plans became public it became clear that consumers did not support the plans either.
“This is crucial in my view, so I’ve decided to withdraw this proposal and not submit it for adoption,” the Agriculture Commissioner said in a press statement at the time, as he attempted to deflect a barrage of pointed questions. “I wanted to come here today to demonstrate that I’ve been very alive to the current debate in the press.”
“It was really a very simple measure that was positive for everyone. It represented a positive first step in the implementation of the EU Commission’s Action Plan to improve the viability, quality and competitiveness of the EU olive oil sector – a product which has many nutritional and health benefits.”
The rule was supported by 15 other EU countries, including major producers such as Italy, Spain and Greece.
So in 2017 after Greek health authorities discovering some new cases of adulterated olive oil in unsealed containers on restaurant tables, decided to go ahead with making law the now forgotten EU directive, with the law coming to force on 1 Jan 2018.
Surprisingly enough, as the new tourist season gets on its way, many tavernas across the country are already applying the new law requiring the use of sealed disposable containers.
The terms of the law were was put forth by the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE) and approved by the Finance Ministry in order to safeguard quality standards to the benefit both of local producers and consumers, the ANA-MPA news agency reported.
According to GSEVEE, olive oil served at the table accounts for 4-5 percent of domestic production, or 10,000 tons. Many restaurants already provide 100 ml bottles of olive oil to diners, at a cost of around 1 euro per bottle.
While the measure may benefit the packaging industry, as a piece of legislation it suffers many of the ills of Greek legislation which tends to create additional layers of bureaucracy where existing legislation offers adequate consumer protection. This law appears to have been through limited consultation in its planning stages and may create more problems that the ones it intends to remedy, as is the case with a lot of other blanket legislation produced through the Greek law making process,
In this particular case, a country which year after year falls behind EU recycling targets has added to its massive recycling deficit several thousand tonnes of plastic containers that will very likely end on a beach near a tourist resort.
The producers are not guaranteed to benefit either, as there is no guarantee that the catering industry will turn to local produce if they can source individually packaged portions of imported EEVOO at a lower cost. (If further proof is required, next time you have a hotel or café breakfast just check the origin of your individual portion of butter, honey or jam).
Not is it likely to eliminate the risk of determined unscrupulous individuals coming up with more ways to break the law, given the motivation of making higher profits from individual portions of ‘salad oil’.
A petition started by Plastic Free Greece urging the Greek government to reconsider this law has collected over 1500 signatures in a just few hours.
Sign the petition here
Petition English text (also available in other languages)
Unfortunately the Greek law forbidding the use of refillable containers for olive oil in restaurants will have a negative impact on the environment – look at these new PLASTIC disposable containers being introduced in Rhodes, which will be washing up soon on a beach near you….not exactly the government’s intention of promoting high quality glass bottle sealed and properly labelled olive oil…this law IN MANY CASES will just create MORE PLASTIC NON-RECYCLABLE TRASH. No high quality extra virgin olive oil would ever be packaged in such a container. Greek tavernas, particularly the simpler ones, will end up selling poor quality olive oil (produced possibly not in Greece) and packaged in this ugly plastic container. The small Greek farmer loses, the tourist loses, and Greece, the nation, loses as its landfills and seas continue to fill up with single-use disposable plastic.