Producing and distributing food – guidance

Olive oil regulations and inspections

Bottlers, retailers, marketers or distributors of olive oil must make sure the oil, its labelling and packaging, comply with regulations. This applies throughout the EU if the oil is packaged for sale (including online sale) to the consumer.

Olive oil composition and characteristics

The chemical and sensory characteristics of olive oil products must meet the requirements (for their description) in Commission Regulation (EEC) No 2568/91 as amended.

Olive oil labelling, packaging and sealing

The following oils must meet labelling, packaging and sealing requirements under Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 29/2012 (as amended) and Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council:

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • virgin olive oil
  • olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils
  • olive pomace oil

Labelling

Olive oil labels must match the product and must meet the requirements of the regulations.

If olive oil products are marketed in the UK, all the information that must be on the label must be in English or must include an English version.

Regulation 29/2012 states what information must be on the label, and what optional information can also be included.

  • Article 3 states what information must be on the label for certain categories of olive oil
  • Article 4 states that labels for ‘extra virgin olive oil’ and ‘virgin olive oil’ must show a ‘designation of origin’
  • Article 4 states that labels for ‘olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils’ or ‘olive-pomace oil’ mustn’t show a ‘designation of origin’
  • Article 4a states that the label must show any special conditions for how the oil should be preserved, for example, that they must be stored away from light and heat
  • Article 4b states that certain mandatory wording must be grouped together where it can be seen clearly. It must also be the same text and size
  • Article 5 explains what you must do if you want to include optional information on a label

Packaging and sealing

Under Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 29/2012, Article 2, olive oil must be sold in a ‘sealed’ bottle or container that can’t be ‘re-sealed’ after the first time it’s opened. ‘Sealed’ here refers to a tamper-proof seal fitted at the bottling stage. It isn’t the replacing of a screw top or cork. This is to make sure that oil isn’t tampered with after bottling.

Labelling of blends and foodstuff

If olive oil products are marketed in the UK, all the information that must be on the label must be in English or must include an English version.

Regulation 29/2012 states what information can appear on the labels of blends (olive oil and other vegetable oils) and foodstuff with a presence of olive oil.

Article 6.1 states:

  • what words can be used to describe the blend
  • when an image or graphic can be used
  • what information must be on the label if these words, images or graphics have been used (other than in the list of ingredients)

Article 6.2 states:

  • what words can be used to describe the foodstuff
  • what information must be on the label if these words and any images or graphics have been used (other than in the list of ingredients)

Infused (flavoured) olive oils

If the olive oil has been infused with other substances, the sales name on the label mustn’t show terms for pure olive oil. For example, you mustn’t use ‘extra virgin olive oil infused with garlic’.

Regulation 1308/2013, Article 78(2) and Part VIII of Annex VII, state that the following terms can only be used with oils in their pure form:

  • ‘extra virgin olive oil’
  • ‘virgin olive oil’
  • ‘olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils’
  • ‘olive pomace oil’

Also, you mustn’t use additional wording that is restricted for use with pure olive oils under Commission Implementing Regulation 29/2012. For example, in the case of extra virgin olive oil, you mustn’t use the words ‘superior category olive oil obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical means’ if the oil is infused or flavoured.

Outside of the sales name, general food information regulations apply. Local authorities are responsible for these.

If information on the label or packaging doesn’t comply with the regulations, bottlers must correct the label as soon as possible. However, if the information is shown beside the product (for example, a sign on a shelf or attached to an ‘on tap’ container), the retailer must correct the sign/label information immediately.

‘On tap’ olive oil

Pure oil

These oils mustn’t be sold ‘on tap’ in their pure form:

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • virgin olive oil
  • olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils
  • olive pomace oil

Infused (flavoured) oil

Olive oils infused with other substances such as garlic or chilli (flavoured olive oils), can be sold ‘on tap’. However, the information above under ‘Infused (flavoured) olive oils’ applies to the labelling of these products.

Records that bottlers must keep

Anyone holding olive oil, from extraction up to, and including, the bottling stage must keep entry and withdrawal registers for each category of oil they hold.

Under Statutory Instrument (SI) 2014/195 the register must show:

  • details of each delivery

  • details of each despatch or disposal

  • details of any processing undertaken (such as blending or bottling)

  • a calculation of stocks held at the end of each month

  • a record of actual, physical stocks held at the end of each accounting period

Inspections

Under Statutory Instrument (SI) 2014/195, Rural Payments Agency (RPA) inspectors can legally carry out inspections at the premises of any bottlers, marketers, retailers or distributors of olive oil. They’ll take samples of oil and check labels and records.

The inspector will:

  • select the olive oil for chemical and sensory testing and take the necessary samples

  • check olive oil labels to make sure they comply with the labelling requirements

  • examine your entry and withdrawal register, if you are a bottler

  • check that you have documents showing your supplier, so the olive oil can be traced. If you can’t supply this information, the inspector will give you 28 days to provide it to the RPA Olive Oil Sampling Manager

You won’t be paid for oil taken during an inspection.

Once a sample has been tested by the laboratory, RPA will tell you the results and outcome by letter or email.

If you don’t agree with the chemical or sensory analysis of your sample, you can write to RPA within 14 days of receiving the result, to ask for a re-test. If the re-test still doesn’t meet the requirements, you will be issued with a ‘compliance notice’.

If a sensory re-test fails, you will have to pay for it.

What happens if the inspector finds a problem?

If RPA inspectors find that you have not complied with the regulations, they’ll let you know using a ‘compliance notice’. This will tell you what’s wrong, what you must do and the deadline.

If you don’t comply with the ‘compliance notice’ you may be prosecuted.

How to complain about an RPA inspection or decision

If you don’t agree with a ‘compliance notice’, you can write to RPA and ask them to review it. If you’re still not happy after the review, you can appeal:

They must receive your appeal within 28 days of the date on the ‘compliance notice’. Or, in Scotland or Northern Ireland, within the period given in the notice, if that is shorter.

If you’re not happy about the service you’ve received, you can complain to RPA.

Contact

Email: oliveoilcompliance@rpa.gsi.gov.uk