EU shelves plans to ban refillable olive oil jugs

Refillable bottle of olive oil (file photo)
Image caption British PM David Cameron said the ban proposal shouldn't even have been "on the table"

The EU has dropped plans to ban restaurants from using refillable jugs and bowls of olive oil, after they drew consumer criticism and even ridicule.

The policy would have forced restaurants to only serve olive oil in tamper-proof packaging, labelled to EU standards, as of next year.

The move had been aimed at avoiding "consumers being tricked", Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said.

But critics, including British PM David Cameron, accused the EU of meddling.

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

'Too bizarre for words'

Mr Ciolos acknowledged on Thursday that the ban plan had failed to muster sufficient support.

"I have seen and heard strong views expressed by consumers," he told reporters.

"As a consequence I am withdrawing the proposition."

But he continued to defend the idea, saying restaurants were potentially misleading customers by serving cheap or old olive oil in containers presented as new.

He said he would convene producers, traders, restaurateurs and consumers "round the same table" in a bid "to find a better way".

Mr Cameron earlier said the proposal was a sign of unwarranted EU interference. The British leader has been facing growing pressure at home from eurosceptics who want Britain to leave the EU.

"This is exactly the sort of thing that the European Union shouldn't even be discussing," he said on Wednesday.

"It shouldn't even be on the table, to force a pun so to speak. So this shouldn't arise."

Meanwhile Dutch PM Mark Rutte called the ban "too bizarre for words".

"I think it is incomprehensible to come with this sort of proposal at a time like this," he said.

"It will add to the burden on the hospitality industry and inspectorate. It is also bad for the environment because you cannot refill the jar and so lots of glass is wasted."

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.

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