The European Union is to ban olive oil jugs and dipping bowls from restaurant tables in a move described by one of Britain’s top cooks as authoritarian and damaging to artisanal food makers.
The small glass jugs filled with green or gold coloured extra virgin olive oil are familiar and traditional for restaurant goers across Europe but they will be banned from 1 January 2014 after a decision taken in an obscure Brussels committee earlier this week.
From next year olive oil “presented at a restaurant table” must be in pre-packaged, factory bottles with a tamper-proof dispensing nozzle and labeling in line with EU industrial standards.
The use of classic, refillable glass jugs or glazed terracotta dipping bowls and the choice of a restaurateur to buy olive oil from a small artisan producer or family business will be outlawed.
Sam Clark, the food writer, chef and proprietor of the award winning Moro restaurant in London, told The Daily Telegraph that the ban would stop him serving his customers specially selected Spanish olive oil in dipping bowls with bread when they are seated at their table.
“This will affect us. It is about choice and freedom of choice. We buy our oil, which we have selected from a farm in Spain, to serve our customers,” he said
“Yet more packaging is not going to be eco-friendly and will limit choice to more mass produced products.”
The European Commissions justification for the ban, under special Common Agriculture Policy regulations, is “hygiene” and to protect the “image of olive oil” with a measure that will benefit struggling industrial producers in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal.
From the beginning of next year, Britain, which abstained during a vote of national food experts on the issues on Tuesday, must enforce the ban via local authority food inspections of restaurants.
Officials defended the ban as a protection for consumers who would know that they were getting a safe, guaranteed product with proper labeling of its origin and with tamper-proof, hygienic dispensers.
“This is to guarantee the quality and authenticity of the olive oil put at the disposal of consumers. The aim is to better inform and protect consumer. We also expect hygiene to be improved too,” said an official.
Then I want space-aged smartphone food verification labels on every item ordered at a restaurant.
Have there been any microbial outbreaks to support such a ban?