Olive Oil In Distribution: Have your say

If a product is deemed Extra Virgin Olive Oil and has been tested prior to distribution with no faults whatsoever and then the product is put into the hands of the distributor (or retailer).  Do you think the responsibility lies with the producer or the distributor/retailer if any mishandling has resulted in the demise of quality of that product? Why?

Have your say in the comments below

10 Comments Add yours

  1. amandabailey says:

    Received email 6/11/18 JP, VIC
    Good question !!!!

    I can only assume that the responsibility would be the distributor/retailers. However this will depend on the following:

    If the oil has been tested and deemed Certified Extra Virgin and bottled by the producer, then the producer will need to ensure when passing it on to the distributor/retailer, that the following conditions have been agreed to by both parties, to ensure that the product maintains its extra virgin quality:

    1. That the oil is always kept in a dark container.

    2. That the oil has been kept air tight as possible.

    3. Kept in a cool dark place

    4. Once a container has been opened it should be consumed within 2 months

    5. Do not store olive oil in the fridge as it will solidify and condensation will promote oxidation

    If the producer can prove that the distributor/retailer was in breach of the above points then yes they are at fault. However, it is important to remember that there needs to be an agreement between both parties that the distributor/retailer will abide to the above conditions.

    Hope this helps.

  2. amandabailey says:

    Received email Anon 6/11/18

    Logically, it should be the people who caused the damage. In the legal cases in the US the case was brought against Bertolli and/or Safeways Supermarkets on the evidence that they had transported/stored the oil in unsuitable conditions.

    The supplier should have a retention sample to show that it is still okay. Then you need to do a traceability of the batch to see how long it was in transport, what were the temperatures, etc. and when it arrived at the retailer how did they store it, where, what temperature, etc.

    The producer also has some responsibility with use by date and some of them overestimate how long it is going to last.

  3. amandabailey says:

    Received email ANON 6/11/18

    It’s a can of worms.

    They will put a product in bad conditions and deem it a ‘failure’ due to the storage and handling of the product.

    If you buy a carton of milk and store it incorrectly – does that mean that the packer has ‘failed’?

    The same stupid argument that NO OTHER products are scrutinized by!!!

    Where do you want to start with ‘attacking’ product – e.g. Soy Sauce, Balsamic Vinegar etc

    Its all driven by silly PR campaigns!


  4. amandabailey says:

    Received by email by Anon 6/11/18

    If the oil is extra virgin when it leaves the producer than surely it must be the responsibility of the distributor or retailer from that point on.

    That said, however, there are a lot of distributors and retailers out there who are quite ignorant of what needs to be done to preserve quality, and I think the producer has a duty to their customer, the final consumer, and the industry to make sure any buyer understand the status of the oil, its likely shelf life and what needs to be done to maintain quality.

    I hope that makes sense. We need to think of a general duty of care and not just strict liability.

  5. amandabailey says:

    Email received 6/11/18 ANON, SA
    The first question that comes to mind is the time between testing and distribution. Storage comes into the equation. Once it has left the producer then distributor is responsible.

  6. amandabailey says:

    Facebook comment 6/11/18 – Helen Andrijasevic Personally when an item is no longer under your control I would think your responsibility is diminished significantly, isn’t that why con notes are signed ? Received in good order ect , storage, heat ect is responsibility of distribution I would think.

  7. amandabailey says:

    Karen McLennan Yes I also feel this is how it should be, but if a product is carrying your labels then I feel sadly that it would reflect on the producer
    Facebook Comment 6/11/18

  8. amandabailey says:

    Les Parsons Cannot be the producer, as it was tested as EVOO, assuming that it had not been in the producers storage for n extended time before selling to the distributor/retailer. It is then up to the distributor, or the retailer to have sold by the Best Before Date, which should be still classed as EVOO by that date on the bottle or container.
    Facebook comment 6/11/18

  9. amandabailey says:

    Ah! The quintessential question!

    The real issue here for producers is how to have what has been referred to as “legal certainty” – how can it be that a product passes a test in one lab and then even one week later another lab could test it, decide that it fails EVOO standard and the producer is accused of mislabelling??

    Mostly this issue is discussed with regards to sensory/panel testing, whereas physicochemical testing should generally be consistent.

    For this exact problem there are discussions at an international level proposing that once an IOC certified lab gives an EVOO result (in particular for sensory), that this result should remain valid and unchallengeable by another lab for a period of time (eg. 12 months)… and in creating this rule would give producers “legal certainty”.

    However, this is not part of the regulation or standard yet.

    Aside from this point of discussion, it is pretty clear that if a product is degraded during distribution due to mishandling, then, in theory, it is not the responsibility of the producer. That is not to say however that the producer is not responsible for the normal aging of the product – for example, if a producer labels as an EVOO an oil that is borderline and only just qualifying, and the producer provides a long shelf life, then it would be argued that the producer has not done the right thing, because the product was never going to be EVOO still when the consumer picked it up. That’s where producers need to be careful of less stable varietals such as Arbequina that can degrade more quickly.

    So ultimately the producer is held to account that the product must be EVOO throughout the stated shelf life under normal storage conditions, yet in practice, it is impossible for the producer to control or even audit the storage conditions and therefore it is difficult to give the producer responsibility.

    I caution against any producer that labels their product EVOO if it is truly borderline in results because those results could just be a small variance in the test itself and the next test could show up a negative result. As a benchmark example, with our oil, we demand only oils with <0.4% FFA, because then we can be sure that there is no chance it could be retested and found to be out of spec.

    The retailer would wash their hands of responsibility because they would argue that if storage must be below a certain temperature, that the producer/seller must specify this on the label and as part of the storage instructions … but I don’t think we are about to see shops put in cooler cabinets just to hold olive oil.

    Email comment 6/11/18 – Anon

  10. amandabailey says:

    Interesting question. The logical response from a producer is to blame the retailer and that would be my answer to your question, provided that the manufacturer:

    Packaged the product in an approved light proof container
    Advises the retailer regarding the adverse effects that sunlight and fluorescent lighting can cause
    Advises the retailer regarding the adverse effects of not storing in a cool environment
    Properly notes the best before date on the packaging
    Advises the end user re oxidation possibilities after opening (restaurants etc)
    . . . and there are possibly other points that I have not mentioned . . .
    Email received 6/11/18 – R, VIC

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