Olive oil testing reveals problems with a third of samples

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

RPA said the programme assesses whether samples meet regulatory quality standards rather than whether they are genuine or fake. ©iStock/KMN Photo
RPA said the programme assesses whether samples meet regulatory quality standards rather than whether they are genuine or fake. ©iStock/KMN Photo

Related tags: Olive oil

Almost a third of olive oil samples tested within a two year period were judged non-compliant, according to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

The olive oil testing programme looked at 131 samples of extra virgin/virgin olive oil, olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin oils and olive pomace oil.

Out of these samples in the last two calendar years, 43 were not compliant with one or more chemical or organoleptic parameters.

RPA is an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Data was revealed after a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) submitted by The Sunday Times newspaper.  

Products or brands not named

RPA refused to name the products or brands implicated. The agency said this information is considered commercial in confidence and disclosure would damage interests of those concerned.

A total of 3,634 tests were done in 2015 and 2016. RPA continues to inspect bottlers, marketers, retailers and distributors, with samples taken at bottling plants and retailers.

There are 29 separate test results for each sample of extra virgin olive oil and 24 separate tests for each sample of olive oil composed of refined olive oils or olive pomace oil.

The UK imports olive oil from countries including Spain, Italy, Chile and Tunisia.

Origin of the olive oil is only known for 98 samples as such information is only permitted on labels for extra virgin and virgin olive oil.

Article 4 of EU Commission regulation 29/2012 states that labels for ‘extra virgin olive oil’ and ‘virgin olive oil’ must show a ‘designation of origin’ and those for ‘olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils’ or ‘olive-pomace oil’ mustn’t show a ‘designation of origin.’

Campden BRI is one of two labs chosen by the RPA to do chemical testing to ensure the authenticity of olive oil imported into the UK.

Quality rather than genuine or fake

The RPA said the programme assesses whether samples meet regulatory quality standards, rather than whether they are genuine or fake.

“Non-compliance with regulatory quality standards may be due adulteration but can also stem from deterioration during storage (exposure to heat and/or light) that may not be the fault of the trader’s supplier.”

Traders that do not meet requirements of the regulations in terms of quality, labelling or record-keeping are issued with a Compliance Notice.

“To avoid impeding the control process or placing traders at an unfair disadvantage it would not be appropriate to disclose details of products or brands that may be subject to further investigation or where remedial action is ongoing or has taken place,” ​said RPA.

“We recognise that there is a public interest in information about the activities of regulatory bodies as it is in the public interest to facilitate the accountability and transparency of public authorities for decisions taken by them, and for their spending of public money.

“Conversely, there is a strong public interest in refusing disclosure of such information that could allow potential competitors to gain access to a company’s commercial information, or the potential to cause a prejudicial impact on the commercial interests of a company, and/or the potential to disadvantage the company’s profits.”

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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