Juan Ramón Hidalgo Moya, Person in charge of Food Legislation and Training at CITOLIVA
Today, Thursday, 14th December, is the day set by the Commission Regulation EU No 432/2012 of 16 May 2012 which establishes a list of permitted health claims made on foods, other than those referring to the reduction of disease risk and to children’s development and health for its application. Among the permitted claims we must highlight the one that mentions olive oil’s polyphenols, which indicates that they contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress. The application of the Regulation is certainly good news for the olive and olive oil sector as from now on they will have the opportunity to inform the consumer, voluntarily and always in conformance with the conditions established by the regulation, of the health claims.
Obviously, the claim is subject to some general and special conditions (established in Regulation 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims) such as the following: the claim may be used only for olive oil which contains at least 5 mg of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives (e.g. oleuropein complex and tyrosol) per 20 g of olive oil. In order to bear the claim, information shall be given to the consumer that the beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 20 g of olive oil.
The operators of the olive oil sector who, after carrying out a previous legal analysis, decide to publish a health claim in their commercial communications (including labelling) will undoubtedly gain a competitive advantage within the sector and will give consumers access to the permitted information on the health benefits of a certain olive oil, so they can choose the olive oil more beneficial to the health.
Another health claim refers to the nutrients or substances found in olive oil, such as oleic acid. In this case, because oleic acid is an unsaturated fat, regulation allows the publication of claims concerning the replacement of saturated fats in the diet with unsaturated fats, which contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels.
The agri-food sector and the olive oil sector in particular have therefore a new opportunity to become a model of healthier food production by replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats. Informing of these health benefits would represent a competitive advantage as well as an improvement in the quality and security of these products.
Olive oil has now a unique opportunity to properly adjust to the food legislation that allows the publication of nutritional and health claims (established in the Annex of Regulation 1924/2006 and already applicable) and it should make the most of it, not just for its own interests, but also to provide permitted, truthful and scientifically confirmed information about the necessary aspects of a correct and responsible consumption of olive oil as part of a varied and balanced diet, especially now that final consumers are showing special interest in the food’s nutritional and healthy aspects.
A correct interpretation of the applicable legislation is necessary to avoid incurring legal liability when informing of the content of these nutritional and health claims by means of the labelling and other commercial communication systems. In this sense, the agri-food sector must be aware of the special regard of the administration for this subject, as it is responsible for taking the decision to inform about these properties, which have a big impact on human health.
In this sense, CITOLIVA, the Technological Centre of the Olive Grove and of the Oil, is aware of the complexity of the legal adaptation of these new obligations established by the Regulations of the EU from the point of view of the sector. It therefore offers an effective solution to this real need through its FOOD LEGISLATION service, which consists in offering accurate and thorough advice concerning the food regulation applicable in the communication field regarding nutritional and health claims, both in the labelling and advertising and/or presentation of olive oil and high-value derivative products, including the products used as ingredients or substitutes of other less healthy fats.