EU finds time to tell restaurants how to serve olive oil

Sat May 18, 2013 11:20am EDT
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By Charlie Dunmore

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Critics ridiculed European Union bureaucrats on Saturday for taking time off fighting the euro zone's debt crisis to impose strict new rules on how restaurants serve olive oil.

From January 1, 2014, eateries will be banned from serving oil to diners in small glass jugs or dipping bowls, and forced instead to use pre-sealed, non-refillable bottles that must be disposed of when empty.

The European Commission said the move is designed to improve hygiene and reassure consumers the olive oil in restaurants has not been diluted with an inferior product.

But critics say the rules are a sop to Europe's olive oil producers, and will only add to the frustration felt by many towards a bloated EU bureaucracy regarded as out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Europeans.

"If the European Union was logical and properly run, people wouldn't be so anti-Europe. But when it comes up with crazy things like this, it quite rightly calls into question their legitimacy and judgment," said Marina Yannakoudakis, a British Conservative member of the European Parliament.

The Commission said its proposal was supported by 15 out of 27 EU member governments, including the continent's main olive oil producers - Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal - which are among the countries worst affected by the euro crisis.

"The fact that the EU is the world's major producer of olive oil - for up to 70 percent of the olive oil globally - perhaps this is even more than just a good consumer story for European citizens," commission spokesman Oliver Drewes told reporters.

Yannakoudakis said the Commission's defense of the plans highlighted how out of touch their priorities were.   Continued...

Bottles of olive oil are lined in a factory in Dos Hermanas, near the Andalusian capital of Seville September 21, 2012. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo