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Olive oil, new purity characteristics

New modification of the purity characteristics of olive oils, which adapt to the recent decisions of the International Olive Oil Council to favor the national and international standardization of the legislation regarding the chemical-physical and organoleptic characteristics of these oils, and simplify the decision-making processes according of the delta-7-stigmastenol content. (1)

The new requirements will come into force from 10 June 2024. From that date, products placed on the market must comply with these provisions in order to avoid risks of crime and the imposition of sanctions on food sector operators.

Marketing standards

The reg. delegate (EU) 2022/2104 was issued to facilitate the implementation of the provisions set out in the reg. (EU) no. 1308/2013 (CMO regulation), repealing the historic reg. (EC) n. 2568/91 and reg. (EU) no. 29/2012 and operating, at the same time, a procedure to simplify the regulations previously in force. (2)

Together with the definition of categories product categories and the related purity and quality requirements, as well as the organoleptic characteristics, the new regulation also clarifies:

  • the oils admissible for mixtures with other vegetable oils and food ingredients (i.e. virgin olive oils - i.e. extra virgin and virgin -, olive oils and olive pomace oils), and the criteria for references to such oils on labelling;
  • the packaging methods of the product to be placed on the market and the information to be reported on the labeling (e.g. sales name), together with the storage conditions;
  • specific indications on the origin of the oils, mandatory for virgin oils and prohibited for olive oils composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils, as well as for olive pomace oils, and of olives, if different from the country of pressing;
  • the references for the conditioning system on the label, in the case of extra virgin and virgin olive oils, olive oils composed of refined and virgin oils, olive pomace oils;
  • optional information admissible only for virgin olive oils, including the words 'first cold pressed' or 'cold extracted', the organoleptic characteristics, the maximum acidity content and the harvesting campaign.

Compliance checks

Compliance checks of olive oils must be carried out by the competent authorities according to the provisions defined by the reg. of execution (EU) 2022/2105 to verify, through the adoption of specific analysis methods on products placed on the market and the control of the relevant documentation (eg traceability registers), the compliance of food business operators (FBOs) with marketing standards established by the delegated regulation. (3)

They are established the obligations that must be carried out by the competent authorities of the Member States, on the basis of the obligations of the FBOs, which can be summarized as follows:

– determination and programming of the minimum frequencies of compliance checks, based on a preliminary risk analysis that takes into account the potential non-compliances identified;

– cooperation between competent authorities of different Member States, in the event of a finding of non-conformity of a product marketed by an operator located in another Member State;

– maintenance of the register, by the FBOs, of the incoming and outgoing movements of olive oils and the relevant documentation to be sent, where requested, to the competent authorities;

– possibility of requesting compliance with the recognition of air conditioning systems, at the discretion of individual Member States;

– methods for the analytical and sensorial verification of olive oil samples taken by the competent authorities, and of the oil content of the pomace and other residues;

– definition of sanctions for irregularities with the provisions of the regulation.

Changes in trading rules

The International Olive Council (COI) is responsible, as defined by the 2015 International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives, concluded by Council Decision (EU) 2019/848 (4,5), for taking decisions and recommendations for the implementation of the provisions of the Agreement, through its Council of Members.

Following the 116th session of 30 November 2022, the IOC adopted decision DEC-III.2/116-VI/2022 which modifies the IOC trade standard regarding the limit of Δ-7-stigmastenol for all categories of olive oil. (6,7) This modification was voted favorably at community level through Council Decision (EU) 2022/2391, which led to the new modification on community legislation. (8)

The new provisions do not affect the limit value for Δ-7-stigmastenol of ≤ 0,5 (% of total sterols), but have removed the decision tree reported in the appendix to Annex I of the regulation. (EU) 2022/2104, inserting specific conditions for each category of olive oil, in the following ways:

  • Extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil. An extra virgin or virgin olive oil that has 0,5 < Δ-7-stigmastenol % ≤ 0,8 is authentic provided that: the apparent β-sitosterol/campesterol ratio is ≥ 28, ΔΕCN42 ≤|0,10|e that all other parameters fall within the limits set in this regulation (ie reg. (EU) 2022/2104);
  • Lampante olive oil. A lampante olive oil that has 0,5 < Δ-7-stigmastenol % ≤ 0,8 is authentic provided that: the apparent β-sitosterol/campesterol ratio is ≥ 28, ΔΕCN42 ≤|0,15|, the stigmastadienes ≤ 0,30 mg/kg and that all other parameters fall within the limits set in this regulation;
  • Refined olive oil and olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils. A refined olive oil or an olive oil composed of refined olive oil and virgin olive oils that have 0,5 < Δ-7-stigmastenol % ≤ 0,8 are authentic provided that the β-sitosterol/campesterol ratio is ≥ 28, ΔΕCN42 ≤|0,15|and that all other parameters fall within the limits set in this Regulation.
  • Crude olive pomace oil, refined olive pomace oil and olive pomace oil. A crude olive pomace oil or a refined olive pomace oil or an olive pomace oil that has 0,5 < Δ-7-stigmastenol % ≤ 0,8 is authentic provided that the stigmasterol is ≤ 1,4 %, ΔΕCN42 ≤|0,40|and that all other parameters fall within the limits set in this regulation.

Future changes

The Commission is already working on preparing a proposal for a new Council Decision on the position to be adopted by the European Union, relatively new trade rules for olive oils and olive pomace oils, and two analytical methods, based on the decisions (if adopted) of the Council of IOC members, following the 119th session scheduled for 18 to 25 June 2024. (9)

Changes expected are:

– the revision of the commercial standard applicable to olive oils and olive pomace oils COI/T.15/NC n. 3/Rev. 19 (see note 7) to include the new revision of the organoleptic evaluation method of virgin olive oils;

– the revision of the COI/T.20/Doc. method. n. 15/Rev. 10 (Sensory analysis of olive oil – Method for the organoleptic evaluation of virgin olive oils) regarding the reports of the panels of tasters (10);

– the correction of the COI/T.20/Doc. method. n. 28/Rev. 3 (Determination of the content of waxes and methyl and ethyl esters of fatty acids by capillary column gas chromatography) regarding the expression of the results.

Provisional conclusions

Olive oils have recently undergone modification in terms of delta-7-stigmastenol determination, especially regarding the elimination of the associated decision tree.

Further changes are expected to commercial standards, due to new provisions for sensorial analysis by the panel, and to the execution of certain analytical methods for verifying the purity and quality characteristics of olive oils.

The European Union is a member of the IOC and holds 659 participation shares out of 1.000 in total, and is strongly predisposed so that the decisions of the Council of Members, of which it holds representatives, are favorable to the adoption of such changes.

Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna

Footnotes

(1) Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2024/1401 of 7 March 2024 amending Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/2104 supplementing Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council regarding the marketing standards for olive oil. http://data.europa.eu/eli/reg_del/2024/1401/oj

(2) Dario Dongo, Giulia Pietrollini. Marketing of olive oils, reg. EU 2022/2104. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(3) Dario Dongo, Giulia Pietrollini. Olive oils, compliance checks. EU Reg. 2022/2105. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(4) 2015 International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives. http://data.europa.eu/eli/agree_internation/2016/1892/oj

(5) Council Decision (EU) 2019/848 of 17 May 2019 on the conclusion on behalf of the European Union of the 2015 International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives. http://data.europa.eu/eli/dec/2019/848/oj

(6) COI. Trade standard applicable to olive oil and table olives – Decision No DEC-III.2/116-VI/2022. https://www.internationaloliveoil.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/DEC-III.2-116-COMMERCIAL-STANDARD-REV-19-EN.pdf

(7) COI. Commercial standard applicable to olive oil and table olives – Standard COI/T.15/NC No 3/ Rev.19/2022. https://www.internationaloliveoil.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/NC-REV19-IT.pdf

(8) Council Decision (EU) 2022/2391 of 25 November 2022 on the position to be taken on behalf of the European Union within the Council of Members of the International Olive Council in relation to the trade standard applicable to olive oils and olive pomace oils. http://data.europa.eu/eli/dec/2022/2391/oj

(9) Proposal for a COUNCIL DECISION on the position to be taken on behalf of the European Union in the Council of Members of the International Olive Council (IOC) in relation to two analytical methods and the trade standard applicable to olive oils and to olive pomace oils (COM/2024/194 final). https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52024PC0194

(10) COI. Sensory analysis of olive oil – Method for the organoleptic evaluation of virgin olive oils – COI/T.20/Doc. n.15/Rev. 10/2018. https://www.internationaloliveoil.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/COI-T20-Doc.-15-REV-10-2018-ITfl_rev1-1.pdf

(11) COI. Determination of the content of waxes and methyl and ethyl esters of fatty acids by gas chromatography with capillary column – COI/T.20/Doc. no.28/Rev. 3/2022. https://www.internationaloliveoil.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/COIT20Doc.n28Rev-3-ENG.pdf

Andrea Adelmo Della Penna

Graduated in Food Technologies and Biotechnologies, qualified food technologist, he follows the research and development area. With particular regard to European research projects (in Horizon 2020, PRIMA) where the FARE division of WIISE Srl, a benefit company, participates.

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