A statement from Rebecca Taylor MEP regarding the amendment made to EU Marketing Standards for olive oil (Commission Regulation 29/2012) that will require, from 1 January 2014, bottles in the catering sector to be non-refillable and non re-sealable.
This formed part of a package of measures, including improved labelling provisions, intended to protect the image and quality of EU olive oil. This follows concern about the substitution of high quality extra virgin olive oil with cheaper alternatives such as olive-pomice oil.
Whilst the UK government welcomed some of the new rules on improved labelling, it did not support the bottle ban, as it was thought this may lead to unnecessary waste and place added burdens on businesses. The ban on non-refillable bottles was only one element in the new Regulation. DEFRA supported the labelling provisions and so the UK chose to abstain on the package as a whole.
This type of EU Regulation could only be blocked if a Qualified Majority of Member States were to vote against it. In this case most Member States (including Italy) voted for the proposal so a UK negative vote would have made no difference to the end result. Technically, the relevant Committee delivered ‘no opinion’ as there was neither a Qualified Majority for or against. In those circumstances, the Commission can adopt the proposal under its own powers. This is expected to happen shortly.
I understand that a number of colleagues are planning to question the Commission on this decision which my colleague Danny Alexander MP has described as ‘pretty silly’.
On the specific issue of refillable containers, it is unclear at this stage how far this extends. We believe that the use of jugs or dishes for serving olive oil are exempt, and questions are being tabled to the Commission to clarify this.
The UK Government are drafting legislation to implement these measures, and will hopefully take a pragmatic approach.