Written Q&A to EU Commission – Admissible ethyl ester levels in extra virgin olive oil

Question for written answer
to the Commission
Rule 130
David Borrelli (EFDD) – 5th September 2014

Subject:  Admissible ethyl ester levels in extra virgin olive oil

Under Regulation (EC) No 2568/91 of 11 July 1991, most recently amended by implementing Regulation (EU) No 299/2013 of 26 March 2013, the maximum admissible ethyl ester content of extra virgin olive oil is 75 mg/kg.

However, Italian legislation stipulates a maximum ethyl ester content of 10-15 mg/kg, i.e. seven times lower than EU limit.

Clearly the higher EU upper limit is detrimental to the quality of extra virgin olive oil, making it possible to market even a substandard product as prime quality oil, mixing it with recycled oil, while still meeting the generous upper limit for ethyl ester content.

1. Does the Commission agree that the upper limit for fatty acid methyl and ethyl esters for the marketing of extra virgin olive oil is excessively high?

2. What measures will it take to have the regulation amended so as to reduce these limits?

Answer given by Mr Cioloş on behalf of the Commission – 26th September 2014

Commission Regulation (EEC) No 2568/91 defines the chemical and organoleptic characteristics of olive and olive-pomace oil and lays down methods of assessing those characteristics.

The above Regulation was last amended by Regulation (EU) No 1348/2013 which mainly introduced new limit values for the characteristics of oils on the basis of the opinion of chemical experts and in line with the work carried out within the International Olive Council (IOC).

Thereby, former limits of fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) and fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) (75 mg/kg) have been replaced by limits for fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) only, based on the crop year and which are the following:

FAEEs – 40 mg/kg (2013-2014 crop year)
FAEEs – 35 mg/kg (2014-2015 crop year)
FAEEs – 30 mg/kg (after 2015 crop year)

These limits are binding in their entirety and directly applicable in all Member States as from 1 March 2014.

(Source: European Parliament)

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