As the body of evidence supporting the benefits of olive oil consumption continues to grow, food manufacturers are increasingly keen to produce foods which contain the oil.
The olive oil factor also plays a key role in the marketing of many of these products, and this is one of the factors which has prompted the European Commission to introduce new regulations governing the marketing of the oil.
"For promotional purposes, the food industry is increasingly making use of the positive image of olive oil to sell margarine, sauces, mayonnaise and canned products like vegetables and fish," the Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler said in a statement.
"To meet our goal to better promote olive oil, we need more coherent rules. Olive oil will now have to be marketed in clearer way. Shoppers will see uniform rules and clear labelling across the EU," Fischler added.
In practice, this means that if a manufacturer wants to market or label a product as being based on or containing olive oil, in addition to existing regulations governing the labelling of the product, they must either indicate the share of olive oil in the total weight of the product or the percentage of olive oil as percentage of the total fat contained in the product on the label.
The new regulations, which will come into force on 1 November 2002, set out clearer standards for the marketing and labelling of olive oil and products containing the oil, and complements existing rules governing the production of the oil.
In July 2001 a new classification of olive oil was drawn up covering four categories: extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, olive oil composed of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil and olive-pomace oil. The new rules lay down the requirement that olive oil should not be sold in containers of more than five litres with a closing system where the seal is broken after first use and has proper labelling including the above-mentioned descriptions of the various categories of olive oils.
They also prohibit manufacturers from noting the presence of olive oil in a blend with other oils if the blend contains less than 50 per cent olive oil.