How to label and package olive oil and olive oil products, and which records to keep for product inspections.
You must follow this guidance if you bottle, sell (through retail outlets or online) or distribute olive oil in the UK.
Properties of pure olive oil
Pure olive oils are regulated by the Olive Oil (Marketing Standards) Regulations 2014.
Pure olive oils are:
- extra virgin olive oil
- virgin olive oil
- olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils
- olive pomace oil
All pure olive oils must have the correct chemical properties, such as their acidity, fatty acid and sterol composition.
Extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil must also have the correct organoleptic (sensory) properties, such as their smell or taste.
The requirements for pure olive oils are set out in:
- (REUL) Regulation 2568/91 (as amended) for products sold in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales)
- Regulation 2568/91 (as amended) for products sold in Northern Ireland
Labelling pure olive oil
The label for pure olive oils must:
- follow the labelling rules for food sold or given to consumers
- match the product inside its packaging
- include an English translation if the product is sold in the UK
- state the type of olive oil in the main field of vision and in the same sized text, font and colour
- state its designation of origin (where it comes from) for extra virgin and virgin olive oils only in the main field of vision and in the same sized text, font and colour
- display storage advice to keep away from heat and light
Labelling requirements for pure olive oils are set out in:
- (REUL) Regulation 29/2012 (as amended) for products sold in Great Britain
- Regulation 29/2012 (as amended) for products sold in Northern Ireland
Extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil labels
Labels for extra virgin olive oil must display:
- the name ‘extra virgin olive oil’
- its designation of origin or its geographical indication - a protected status against imitation
- the words ‘superior category olive oil obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical means’
Labels for virgin olive oil must display:
- the name ‘virgin olive oil’
- its designation of origin
- the words ‘olive oil obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical means’
For extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oils, labels could also display optional details:
- first cold pressing - oils obtained below 27°C by traditional mechanical pressing
- cold extraction - oils obtained below 27°C by percolation or centrifugal extraction from olive paste
- organoleptic properties - based on an assessment of its taste or smell
- acidity or maximum acidity which must include the peroxide value, wax content and ultraviolet absorption
- harvest year - if all the olive oil was harvested in the same year, you can label it with the month it was extracted from olives, and the year
Label descriptions must comply with olive oil production methods and organoleptic assessment as described in the regulations.
Olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils labels
Labels for olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils must display the:
- name ‘olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils’
- words ‘oil comprising exclusively oils that have undergone refining and oils obtained directly from olives’
You must not add the designation of origin on labels for this category of olive oil.
Olive pomace oil labels
Labels for olive pomace oil must display the:
- name ‘olive pomace oil’
- words ‘oil comprising exclusively oils obtained by treating the product obtained after the extraction of the olive oil and oils obtained directly from olives’ or ‘oil comprising exclusively oils obtained by processing olive pomace and oils obtained directly from olives’
You must not add the designation of origin for olive pomace oil.
Blended pure olive oil labels
Blended extra virgin olive oil is extra virgin olive oil blended from more than one country. Likewise, blended virgin olive oil is virgin olive oil blended from more than one country.
Up to 31 December 2023, blended pure olive oils sold in Great Britain can display ‘Non-EU’ on labels.
From 1 January 2024, blended pure olive oil sold in Great Britain must not display ‘non-EU’ on its label, unless the product was already bottled and labelled before this date. It must display one of the following:
- a list of each country of origin the oil is blended from
- a statement about its origin, such as ‘a blend of oils from more than one country’
- a statement about its trading group origin, such as ‘a blend of olive oils of European Union origin’
For blended pure olive oils sold in Northern Ireland only, you can use ‘non-EU’ on the label, if applicable.
Read the rules on reasonable adjustment timelines to make the change to product labels.
Labelling infused olive oil
For olive oil infused (flavoured) with other substances, such as garlic, the label must not display any reference to a pure olive oil. For example, you must not state ‘extra virgin olive oil infused with garlic’ (or any other pure olive oil infused with another flavour) or ‘superior category olive oil obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical means’.
You can add pure olive oil to the product’s list of ingredients.
Labelling other oils and food products containing olive oil
You must list olive oil in the ingredients for products containing pure olive oil, for example:
- focaccia bread or pizza dough
- ready-made sauces, such as pesto
- other oil blended with pure olive oil
If olive oil is mentioned in addition to the product ingredients, such as sunflower oil blended with pure olive oil, the label should display the words ‘blend of sunflower oil and olive oil’, followed by the percentage of olive oil in the blend (required by Article 6 of Regulation 29/2012).
Packaging pure olive oil
You must not sell pure olive oil on tap.
You must sell it in sealed containers. You must fit a tamper-proof seal to pure olive oil at the bottling stage.
Sealed containers must not be larger than 5 litres.
Bottlers: keep records for inspection
Bottlers must keep records to show at an inspection.
You must keep a record of each type of olive oil you hold. For each pure olive oil, you must record the:
- date and amount of each batch that arrives, and where each batch came from
- date and amount of each batch that you despatch, and where it goes to
- date and quantity of any disposal
- activity taken, such as blending or bottling
- amount of stock you hold at the end of each month
- amount of stock you hold at the end of each financial year
You must record your suppliers’ names and addresses so the olive oil can be traced back to its origin.
Inspections by the Animal and Plant Health Agency
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) can inspect olive oil products, their labels or records at the premises of:
The number of inspections depends on risk assessment, based in part on past compliance or volume of olive oil handled by the premises.
An inspector will:
- take samples of extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil to test sensory and chemical properties
- take samples of olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils, and olive pomace oil to test just their chemical properties
- check that labels follow the relevant labelling rules
- check your records show when your olive oil arrived and left your premises, and where the olive oil came from
APHA will not pay for any oil taken for sampling.
APHA will tell you the inspection results by letter or email. This can take up to 3 months.
If you disagree with the sensory or chemical test result, you can ask APHA to re-test your product within 14 days of receiving the result. If both re-tests fail, you will only need to pay for the cost of the sensory re-test. This can vary from £300 to £600.
If you fail an inspection at any stage of olive oil production, including any re-test, APHA may issue you with a compliance notice.
The compliance notice will tell you what’s wrong, what you must do to fix the problem, and how long you have to do this. You could be prosecuted if you do not comply with the notice.
Appeal against an inspection decision
You can email APHA firstname.lastname@example.org to ask them to review their decision if you disagree with it. If you’re not happy with their response, you can appeal against the decision.
For appeals in England or Wales, your appeal must arrive within 28 days from the date on the compliance notice. For Scotland or Northern Ireland, your compliance notice will tell you what date you must appeal by.
In England or Wales, contact the General Regulatory Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal.
In Scotland, contact the relevant sheriff court.
In Northern Ireland, contact the relevant magistrates court.
If you have a question about olive oil inspections, email APHA email@example.com.
To complain about the olive oil inspection service, follow APHA’s complaints process.