Restaurants and little bottles of oil, excessive interference or quality defense?

Desserts Could this be illegal in the EU?

Some of my colleagues from DAP have already written articles on the new European olive oil packaging regulations for restaurants. I have to confess that when I read the news, my first thought was "don't they have other more important things to worry about than telling a restaurant how to serve oil?" As is often the case, a second distillation of this initial thought made me assess the different positions on this problem. I would like to share the reflections with you because, in reality, it's not just about olive oil, is it?

Countries in favor and countries against. Arguments

The first thing that caught my attention when I studied the news more thoroughly was that all producing countries were in favor, while almost all consumers were against. In Europe this translates into Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal compared to Germany, Belgium, Holland, Austria, Sweden, Denmark. Why these blocks?

Obviously these conflicting interests respond to various arguments. Opponents argue that restaurants should be free to serve olive oil as they see fit. Thus, if they decide to source oil from a specific producer directly, they should not be limited by regulations. On the other hand, by serving all bottled oil, presumably in non-refillable plastic bottles, there would be a greater environmental impact by using non-recyclable packaging. As for the producers, some small producers also argue that they would not have the capacity to make single-dose packaging and this would leave them out of the market for sale to restaurants.

Those in favor make some of the following arguments. Olive oil is a manufactured product that has to meet quality and safety standards, and consumers have to be sure that indeed what they consume is what they ask for. Precisely, olive oil has been the subject of fraud on several occasions. Let's take another example, butter. Nowadays, all the butter that is served in hotels and restaurants is also served in single doses (I do not remember any controversy about it). Of course, there may be other reasons, like it would be more uncomfortable to serve, or more prone to spoilage, but no one puts a stick of butter on us in a hotel or restaurant (at least I don't remember).

In principle, one could argue that everyone there. That if a restaurant puts "olive oil" on you and then it is a mixture of other oils, the consumer is free to choose to go to that restaurant in the future. True, but it is no less true that if the restaurant in its menu "X with olive oil" and then it is not, it is taking advantage of the confidence of a consumer who does not have to know how to distinguish one oil from another. And this brings us to the following.

We label everything or we label nothing

Where do we set the labeling limits? That is to say, by this rule of three, it could be the case that the Santa Pola salt flats decided to promote, together with more salt flats, the fact that salt could only be served in single doses and not in refillable salt shakers. And we can continue with this argument "ad infinitum", potatoes, olives, etc ... Can you imagine bread? Obviously this is a reduction to the absurd and would create more problems than solutions.

The question is whether the consumer is really paying an extra price for olive oil as a dressing or not. That is to say, one thing is to buy a bottle of olive oil, wait for a quality guarantee and that they give you a hoot and another thing is to go to a restaurant that offers a menu of the day with salad and the oil bottle contains oil from one inferior quality. One does not pay for a menu of the day simply because they have olive oil in the oil cans. Of course, the same could be said of table wine, and there yes, generally you are given a sealed bottle even if it is not the best wine.

Compromise Solution

For the moment, the normative proposal is stopped and will surely be the subject of a new round of negotiations by both parties. What could be a compromise solution? It is not very clear and as in almost everything, there are valid arguments on both sides. It is true that if olive oil is a manufactured product and that if butter or wine or water are served sealed, why does olive oil have to be less? On the other hand, it is no less true that avoiding refilling oil cans in restaurants is very much on the limit of what a regulation should contemplate.

If producers want the quality of the olive oil served in northern European restaurants to be guaranteed, perhaps what could be done are good marketing campaigns and information on what an olive oil really is (and I know that are made) and that consumers who want can choose those restaurants that really offer them a quality product. There are good reasons to defend olive oil as a product, but trying to impose its quality through regulation can be like a shot in the foot, and create more harm than good. What would be gained in product "authenticity" may be lost in "branding" and rejection, at least initially.

As you can see, I can't quite see it clearly. I understand that there may be comparative grievances (butter, wine ...) but it seems to me an excessive interference in the relationship of trust and freedom that restaurants must have with their customers.More regulation, more information, more and better inspections? What is your opinion?

Image | by avlxyz En Directo al Paladar | Olive oil to preserve precooked meat Directly to the Palate | Europe recognizes the healthy effects of our olive oil

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