ARCHIVE: Olive oil: Frequently asked questions

Do I need a licence to import olive oil?

No, if the olive oil originates within the European Union.

Yes, if the olive oil exceeds 100 kilograms by weight and falls under the following CN codes: 0709 9039, 0711 2090 and 2306 9019. Please see information on imports.

Where do I apply for an import licence?

The Rural Payments Agency deals with the issue of import licences. The number to contact is 0191 226 5207. Please see information on imports.

Where do I get advice on duties? What do I need to clear Customs?

You can obtain information on import duties, duty free quotas and any custom documents which you may require, by contacting the Customs National Advice Services on 0845 0109 000. Please see information on imports.

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I would like to import organic olive oil. What do I need to do?

Certified Organic produce from within the EU can be imported into the UK and marketed as organic, provided it is produced or processed by an operator registered with an approved EU Organic Control Body.

In order to import any organic produce from outside the EU you will need to firstly, be registered with one of the UK  organic control bodies. Secondly, you will need to check whether the country you would like to import from is one of the EU recognised third countries. If not you must apply for an import authorisation from Defra. You should not begin importing before you have this authorisation.

In terms of labelling requirements, an organic product must comply with all other food labelling legislation. The only requirement specific to the organic regulation is that the label must refer to the name and/or code number of the inspection body to which the operator that carried out the most recent preparation operation is subject.

For information assistance on organic imports, please speak to Defra's Organic Branch on 020 7238 5777.

Will Defra test and analyse the quality of the olive oil for me ?

No, the onus is on the importer to ensure that the chemical composition of the olive oil imported, meets the specifications laid down in Commission Regulation (EEC) No 2568/91 (pdf).

It is important these standards are understood and met. You should seek confirmation from your supplier.

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I would like to bottle olive oil in the UK. What do I need to do?

There are standards to be met, if the oil you intend to bottle is virgin or extra virgin olive oil. You must also register with Defra who will provide further details. Please see information and registration form on bottlers.

Where can I get advice on labelling olive oil?

In addition to the general labelling provisions which are laid down in Directive 2000/13/EC, there are specific requirements for olive oil which are laid down in Commission Regulation (EC) No 1019/2002.

These requirements are explained on our website under marketing standards.

I would like to import table olives? What do I need to do?

If you are importing from outside the EU you may need an import licence. The Rural Payments Agency issue import licences. Special restrictions may apply. The number to contact is 0191 226 5207.

You can obtain information on import duties, duty free quotas and any custom documents which you may require, by contacting the Customs National Advice Services on 0845 0109 000. Please see information on imports.

Table olives are regulated by an International Codex Standard for Table Olives. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has responsibility for this. If you wish to obtain further information, please contact the Codex enquiry point on:

Telephone: 020 7276 8164
Email: codex_fsa@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk

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I would like to import a vegetable or nut oil. What do I need to do?

If you are importing from outside the EU you may need an import licence. The Rural Payments Agency issue import licences. The number to contact is 0191 226 5207.

You can obtain information on import duties, duty free quotas and any custom documents which you may require, by contacting the Customs National Advice Services on 0845 0109 000. Please see information on imports.

I would like to import olive oil for personal use. Are there any restrictions?

Personal imports may be imported duty free in certain circumstances. For guidance on importing olive oil for personal use please contact the Customs National Advice Line on 0845 0109 000. The customs codes which cover olive oils are listed on our website.

When olive oil is used as a flavouring, does the percentage of olive oil used have to be declared?

Where the use of olive oil as a flavouring is highlighted outside the list of ingredients using words, images, or graphics, the percentage of olive oil must be declared immediately following the trade description.

When must the percentage of olive oil in a foodstuff be declared under the regulation?

Under Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1019/2002, Article 6(2) when the presence of olive oil in a foodstuff is highlighted on the labelling elsewhere than in the list of ingredients, using words, images or graphics the percentage of live oil must be declared.

Where should the declaration of the percentage of olive oil in a foodstuff appear on the label?

Under Article 6(2) of Commission Regulation (EC) No.1019/2002, the percentage of olive oil relative to the total net weight of the foodstuff must directly follow the trade description. Some businesses may, for example, choose to declare the percentage in the name front-of-pack, however there is no requirement that the percentage must be on the front panel if the trade description is not provided here. It is sufficient for the information to be given with the trade description wherever this is most convenient and at each place the trade description appears (for example, where the trade description is given above the ingredients list) provided the information is easily visible, clearly legible and indelible.

Where more than one food ingredient or category of ingredients contains olive oil, the percentage declaration should accompany the name "olive oil" each time it appears in the trade description.

The percentage of olive oil relative to the total net weight of the foodstuff may be replaced by the percentage of olive oil relative to the total weight of fats, adding the words “percentage of fats”.

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Where the percentage of olive oil relative to the total net weight of the foodstuff may be small, is it necessary for that percentage to accompany the trade description?

Yes, in cases where it is necessary to give a percentage - i.e., where its presence is highlighted.

Is it an offence to show the presence of olive oil on a label where it comprises less than 50 per cent of the product?

Yes, in the case of blended oils, if the presence of olive oil is highlighted by images or graphics (see Article 6(1) of Commission Regulation (EC) No.1019/2002) and it does not account for more than 50 per cent of the blend concerned.

In the case of a blended oil where the highlighting uses words, images or graphics the percentage of olive oil in the blend must be stated directly after the trade description: "Blend of vegetable oils (or the specific names of the vegetable oils concerned) and olive oil x%".

Article 6.1 also prohibits the highlighting of olive oil by images or graphics where the oil blend contains less than 50 per cent olive oil. The percentage of olive oil may still need to be shown in the list of ingredients or in or next to the name of the food if required under regulation 19 of the Food Labelling Regulations 1996 (S.I. 1996/1499), as amended.

In the case of olive oil in a foodstuff, where the presence of olive oil may be highlighted elsewhere than in the list of ingredients, using words, images or graphics, the trade description must be directly followed by the percentage of added olive oil, either in relation to the total net weight of the foodstuff or in relation to the total weight of fats adding the words "percentage of fats" unless the foodstuff in question is governed by other Community regulations specific to that foodstuff.

Must potato chips cooked in olive oil declare the percentage of olive oil?

If this is highlighted outside the list of ingredients, for example in a trade name such as “potato chips cooked in olive oil”, yes.

Page last modified: 14 July 2011
Page published: 14 March 2005