From 1st January it has become illegal to use the traditional cruet sets on tables which dispense olive oil, and as from now it must be presented in sealed bottles with labels to denote the quality, origin and production date. And then after opening, even if you only use a drop, it must be thrown away!
The Spanish government has introduced this law after a setback in the EU parliament last year when at first EU wide legislation was passed and then following lots of criticism from ecologists and politicians it was reversed. David Cameron, UK prime minister, said he was against such legislation and commented: “This is the sort of thing that deservedly gets the EU a bad name.” Ecologists also argued that the waste packaging and added costs to both producers and customers made little sense and was simply protectionism.
The Spanish olive lobby did not give in and the new legislation is the result of pressure in Spain and follows Portugal and Italy who already have such laws in place. It is indeed true that oil often gets mis-labelled with virgin being sold as extra virgin by unscrupulous dealers and the Spanish government thinks this latest law will help stamp it out. They also argue it is to protect the consumer who might add a little to his salad or dip his bread into a dish of extra virgin oil when in fact it is only virgin!
A large part of the problem stems from 2010 when olive oil prices dropped by 25% causing severe problems for the many small growers (often the only income for an extended family) and who only get one pay day each year. This decrease was as a result of over production and lower demand, mainly due to the economic crisis, and with cheaper oil from emerging markets adding to the problem.
As restaurateurs we don’t think this legislation will help at all and the bigger worry is whether the government will decide to legislate on what is used in kitchens where by far the larger consumption takes place. Many restaurants will ignore the law and some may get around the problem by using an alternative oil such as walnut or rape seed and having olive oil available on request. Either way the law will not produce the hoped for result.
For the record we never use anything except our local grown “Periana Gold” extra virgin oil for everything except high temperature frying when it is not suitable.