Blog: Dean BestWhy Italy is right on olive oil

Dean Best | 4 March 2008

The Italians like a good debate – the tumultuous scenes in the country’s legislature in recent years is testimony to that.

And when it comes to food, there are fewer races more passionate than the Italians.

Right now, it’s olive oil – and the perceived heavy-handedness from the EU – that’s stirring growers throughout Italy into a frenzy.

The European Commission has written to the Italian government to complain about rules obliging olive oil producers to state the source of their olives on bottles.

Brussels says Italy’s rules on olive oil breaks EU law, which only permits a voluntary labelling system.

However, the Italians believe – with some justification – that their system has helped combat fraud in the sector and gives consumers greater awareness of what they are buying.

“I think it is legitimate that when you buy oil from Umbria, you want the olives to come from Umbria,” one Italian journalist wrote last week. "But Brussels couldn't care less about that. For them, it's good enough for the olives to be European, Europeanised olives."

With Spain breathing down Italy’s necks in the race to be the world’s largest exporter of olive oil, it is little wonder that the Italians are concerned about preserving the USP of their products and promoting quality.

And, if Italy’s winegrowers have to state where their grapes come from, why shouldn’t olive oil growers?


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