Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

An E.U. Uproar over Olive Oil ; New Rules for Restaurants Are Hastily Withdrawn after a Storm of Ridicule

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

An E.U. Uproar over Olive Oil ; New Rules for Restaurants Are Hastily Withdrawn after a Storm of Ridicule

Article excerpt

After the European Union last week approved changes to the way olive oil would be served in restaurants, a chorus of critics weighed in, and the European Commission has rescinded the measure.

It was a slip-up on a Continental scale.

As the European economy reels from austerity and joblessness, the European Union took time last week to approve changes to the way olive oil would be served in restaurants.

The leaders of Britain and the Netherlands condemned the ban on cruets and dipping bowls as small-bore and wrong-headed, and a chorus of critics -- including a growing number of politicians in Britain -- seized on it as an example of Brussels bureaucracy at its worst.

On Thursday, the European Commission announced in a hastily called news conference that the measure, to take effect on Jan. 1, would be rescinded. Yet even that did not stop the invective.

"This was a ridiculous and draconian idea that should never have gone so far," Martin Callanan, a member of the European Parliament for Britain's Conservative Party, said on Thursday. "Rather than tackling a double-dip recession, the commission is worried about double-dipped bread."

Olive oil is big business in Europe, not just in sales -- the Union is the world's largest producer, with up to 70 percent of the global market -- but in reputation.

The measure, which required that restaurants serve olive oil in sealed, clearly labeled and non-reusable containers, had a serious purpose, according to its proponents. It offered a better guarantee of hygiene, they said, and labels would ensure the quality and authenticity of olive oils. It also offered suppliers an opportunity to promote brand awareness.

Fifteen of the Union's 27 governments supported the rule. They included the Continent's main producers -- Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal -- which have been among the hardest hit by the crisis in the euro zone. Portugal has had similar measures in place since 2005.

It was opposed by other governments in the non-olive-producing north, including Germany. …

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