EU to ban refillable olive oil jugs and dipping bowls

Refillable bottle of olive oil (file photo)
Image caption Soon to be illegal?

The European Commission is to ban the use of refillable bottles and dipping bowls of olive oil at restaurant tables from next year.

From 1 January 2014, restaurants may only serve olive oil in tamper-proof packaging, labelled to EU standards.

The Commission, the EU's executive branch, says the move will protect consumers and improve hygiene.

But critics have accused the EU of unwarranted meddling at a time of economic crisis.

A Pew Research Center poll released on 13 May showed positive views of the European Union are at or near their low point in most of the eight countries surveyed.

European Commission spokesman Oliver Bailly said the olive oil regulation would benefit consumers.

"We are just making clear that when you want to have olive oil of a certain quality in a restaurant, you get exactly the one you are paying for," he told a news briefing in Brussels.

But London restaurateur Sam Clark criticised the ban.

"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 told the Daily Telegraph.

Olive oil is a frequent target of food fraud, with cheaper oils being sold in its place to unwitting consumers.

The EU's largest producers of olive oil - Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy - are among those hardest hit by the economic downturn.