ARCHIVE: Olive oil marketing standards

Commission Regulation (EC) No 1019/2002 (as amended)  on marketing standards for olive oil gives specific provisions for olive oil marketing standards (outlined below), including labelling requirements which are in addition to the general labelling provisions in the Food Labelling Directive.

General labelling requirements

The labelling of most food in the UK is governed by the provisions of the Food Safety Act 1990 and the Food Labelling Regulations 1996, these implement the European Community Food Labelling Directive 2000/13 EC.

The Food Labelling Regulations 1996 require that most pre-packed foods carry a name; a list of ingredients, the amount of the main ingredients used to make the food; a date mark; any special storage conditions or conditions of use; the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or EC seller; instructions for use; and the place of origin of the food, if failure to give it might mislead. The FSA has produced Guidance Notes on the Food Labelling Regulations 1996. The general requirements include provisions covering intelligibility of labels.

Intelligibility of labels

Information on labels of pre-packaged foods in accordance with our food labelling rules must be given in a language which consumers understand, this will usually mean the language of the country in which the food is sold. However, there have been instances where food imported for sale in communities where the majority speak a language other than English has been sold with labels in other languages and this has been accepted by the Courts.

The provisions in the Food Labelling Regulations 1996 on intelligibility are:

38.-(1) The particulars with which a food is required to be marked or labelled by these Regulations or by Regulation 1139/98, or which appear on a menu, notice, ticket or label pursuant to these Regulations, shall be easy to understand, clearly legible and indelible and, when a food is sold to the ultimate consumer, the said particulars shall be marked in a conspicuous place in such a way as to be easily visible.
(2) Such particulars shall not in any way be hidden, obscured or interrupted by any other written or pictorial matter.
(3) Paragraph (1) of this regulation shall not be taken to preclude the giving of such particulars at a catering establishment, in respect of foods the variety and type of which are changed regularly, by means of temporary media (including the use of chalk on a blackboard).

Food law enforcement in the UK is the responsibility of local authorities, usually through their trading standards or environmental health offices. You may therefore also wish to obtain advice from your local authority Trading Standards Department. If you want any general information on food labelling you may wish to contact the Food Standards Agency. Nonetheless, ultimately, decisions on interpretation of the law can only be made by the Courts.

Specific labelling requirements

Article 2 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 1019/2002 states that oils must not be presented to the final consumer in packaging  greater than 5 litre capacity.  It must also  be fitted with a non re-sealable opening system.

Article 3 of the Commission Regulation (EC) No 1019/2002 on marketing standards for olive oil makes provisions for specific label requirements including more precise information on the category of oil. This is in the interest of providing the consumer with better information.

The labelling of olive oil shall bear, in clear and indelible lettering, the following information on the category of oil, in addition to the trade descriptions described above:

a) extra virgin olive oil - 'superior category olive oil obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical means';
b) virgin olive oil - 'olive oil obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical means';
c) olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils - 'oil comprising exclusively olive oils that have undergone refining and oils obtained directly from olives';
d) olive pomace - 'oil comprising exclusively oils obtained by treating the product obtained after the extraction of olive oil and oils obtained directly from olives'
'oil comprising exclusively oils obtained by processing olive pomace oils and oils obtained directly from olives'.

Designation of origin

The provisions for 'designation of origin' are laid out in Article 4 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 1019/2002 and only apply  to extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil.

Olive oils originating from a single Member State or third country shall have a reference to the Member State, the Community or the third country. If the olives were harvested in a Member State or third country other than that in which the mill where the oil was extracted is situated, the designation of origin has to contain the following wording: '(extra) virgin olive oil obtained in (the Community or the name of the Member State concerned) from olives harvested in (the Community or the name of the Member State concerned)'.In the case of blended olive oils originating from one or more Member State or third country, one of the following designations must be used:

  • ‘blend of Community olive oils’ or a reference to the Community
  • ‘blend of non-Community olive oils’ or a reference to the non-community origin
  • ‘blend of Community and non-community olive oils’ or a reference to Community and non-community origin.

If the olive oil is from a protected designation of origin or a protected geographical indication as referred to in Regulation 510/2006, this must be indicated on the label.  This will be effective from 1 July 2009.

Optional Indications / Organoleptic properties.

The indications 'first cold-pressing' and 'cold extraction' may only appear if certain conditions are met. These are laid down in Articles 5(a) and (b) of Commission Regulation (EC) No 1019/2002. Similarly, the conditions regarding optional indication of organoleptic properties and acidity are laid down in Articles 5(c) and (d).

Indications of organoleptic properties relating to taste and/or smell may only apply for extra virgin and virgin olive oils. These terms are referred to in paragraph 3.3 of Annex XII of Commission Regulation (EEC) 2568/1991 and may only appear if they are based on the results of an assessment carried out by the method contained in that Regulation.  These rules shall apply from 1 July 2009.

There is a transitional period. Products sold under trademarks whose registration was applied for before 1 March 2008, and which contain at least one of the terms referred to in paragraph 3.3 of Annex XII of Commission Regulation (EEC) 2568/1991, do not have to comply with the requirements of Article 5(c) of Commission Regulation (EC) 1019/2002 until 1 November 2011.

Under Directive 2000/13/EC, indications shown on the labelling may not mislead the purchaser, particularly as to the characteristics of the olive oil concerned, or by attributing to it properties which it does not possess, or by suggesting that it possesses special characteristics when in fact most oils possess such characteristics.

Blends of oils

The following provisions are laid out in Article 6 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 1019/2002. The percentage of olive oil present in a blend must be declared when it is highlighted on the labelling elsewhere than in the list of ingredients, using words, images or graphics. The presence of olive oil may be highlighted by images or graphics only where it accounts for more than 50% of the blend concerned.

With the exception of tuna and sardines in olive oil, any reference to olive oils on the label of a foodstuff other than on the list of ingredients, and using words, images, or graphics, the trade description of the foodstuff must be followed by the percentage of the oils relative to the total weight of the foodstuff.

Page last modified: 28 September 2009
Page published: 14 March 2005