From July 1 2009, all virgin and extra virgin olive oil will have to be labeled with the country of origin under a new European Community rule. The current optional labelling, dating from 2002, 'has proven insufficient," the EC has announced.
"Consumers were still being misled about the true characteristics and origin of certain products," said their statement. See
These new labeling requirements mean that olive oils originating from just one country will have to carry the name of the EU-member state, or of the third country or of the Community.
Blends will be labelled either as "blend of European Community olive oils", "blend of non-EU olive oils" "blend of EU and non-EU olive oils" or equivalent information.
Certain terms such as 'fruity', 'green', 'mature', 'mild' and 'well-balanced' - which have recently been defined by the Madrid-based [url=http://www.internationaloliveoil.org/web/aa-ingles/corp/publications/aa-publications.html International Olive Oil Council may also be used on virgin and extra virgin olive oil labels for oils complying with the definitions. The new rules will apply from 1 July 2009.
The EC said in its statement that 'these rules complement the rules for specific oils which are protected as part of the system of geographic Indications and are designed to offer further guarantees to consumers that what they buy in a sealed container corresponds with their preferences and expectations."
How many countries in the world will have to comply with this European Community ruling if they want to export to mainland Europe? Practically anywhere on the planet: these days, olive oil is produced anywhere on the planet which has lots of sunshine.
This magnificent tree's ancient roots lay in in a region from roughly the southern Caucasus to the Iranian plateau and the Mediterranean coasts of Syria and Israel/Palestine (Acerbo).
From there, the trees spread to Cyprus and Crete, and on towards Anatolia or from the island of Crete towards Egypt.
Archeologists have found evidence dating from the 16th century BC showing that the Phoenician seafarers/traders started disseminating the olive throughout the Greek isles, later introducing it to the Greek mainland between the 14th and 12th centuries BC where its cultivation increased and gained great importance in the 4th century BC.
Olive-tree rescue movement:
Many of these European olive-trees are so old that the families who used to own them have died out or moved away – and the locals have lost their historical links with this tree. An impromptu archeological olive-tree rescue culture has sprung up over this past century, in which people recognise these ancient groves and rescue them from destruction.
Recently building engineer Timur Kabaklarli, 32, became the owner of 1,500 olive trees after he saw them being cut for coal mining during a business trip to the ancient city of Stratoika, near the Yesilbagcilar town of Yatagan in Turkey. see
From the 6th century BC onwards, the olive spread throughout the Mediterranean countries reaching Tripoli, Tunis and the island of Sicily. The Romans used olive oil not only for consumption, but also as a skin-cleanser and a medicine.
Local families often handed down their ancient olive groves from generation to generation, and thus continued the expansion of the olive tree to the countries bordering the Mediterranean, using it as a peaceful weapon in their conquests to settle the people.
It was introduced in Marseilles around 600 BC and spread from there to the whole of Gaul. The olive tree made its appearance in Sardinia in Roman times, while in Corsica it is said to have been brought by the Genoese after the fall of the Roman Empire.
Olive growing was introduced into Spain during the maritime domination of the Phoenicians (1050 BC) but did not develop to a noteworthy extent until the arrival of Scipio (212 BC) and Roman rule (45 BC). After the third Punic War, olives occupied a large stretch of the Baetica valley and spread towards the central and Mediterranean coastal areas of the Iberian Penisula including Portugal.
The Arabs brought their varieties with them to the south of Spain and influenced the spread of cultivation so much that the Spanish words for olive (aceituna), oil (aceite), and wild olive tree (acebuche) and the Portuguese words for olive (azeitona) and for olive oil (azeite), have Arabic roots.
With the discovery of the Americas (1492) olive farming spread beyond its Mediterranean confines.
The first olive trees were carried from Seville to the West Indies and later to the entire American Continent.
By 1560 olive groves were being cultivated in Mexico, then later in Peru, California, Chile and Argentina, where one of the plants brought over during the Conquest - the old Arauco olive tree - lives to this day.
In more modern times the olive tree has continued to spread outside the Mediterranean. Today, it is farmed in places as far removed from its origins as southern Africa, Australia, Japan and China.
That's the oil which the European Union is now intending to label for its country of origin. see