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Olive Oil Compliance

The purpose of this document is two-fold. First, it is intended to remind Canadian olive oil importers, distributors, and retailers about the Canadian regulatory requirements and policies affecting the importation, distribution, and sale of olive oil. Second, it is intended to affirm their legal responsibility to ensure full compliance with these requirements.

Canadian Regulations:

All food products sold in Canada must meet the general labelling and compositional requirements of the federal Food and Drugs Act and Regulations (FDR).

Products that are represented or sold as olive oil or pure olive oil are subject to the standard of composition for this product, as stated in Section B.09.003 of the FDR. This standard states, in part

Olive Oil or Sweet Oil
(a) shall be the oil obtained from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea L);

The addition of vegetable oil(s) or of olive pomace oil to a product being represented as olive oil, is not permitted. This is considered adulteration and a fraudulent practice that violates the regulations and subsection 5 (1) of the Act which prohibits false or misleading statements or claims about a food.

In addition to meeting the requirements of Section B.09.003 of the FDR, products being represented or sold as Virgin or Extra Virgin Olive oil are expected to meet the standards and definitions of the International Olive Oil Council. These standards require, among other things, oils to be cold pressed products that do not contain any refined olive oil, and make a distinction between "virgin" and "extra virgin" olive oils based on free fatty acid content.

Penalty for Violations

Failure to comply with the above requirements in respect to the importation, distribution, or sale of olive oil will be considered a potential violation of subsection 5(1) of the Food and Drugs Act. Violations are subject to enforcement action under the Act, up to and including prosecution. Penalties are provided under the Act of up to $50,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months on summary conviction or $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years for conviction on indictment.

Obligations of Industry

Importers, distributors, and retailers of olive oil are responsible for ensuring compliance with the legal requirements. It is recommended that members of the industry seek assurance from their suppliers or through their own analytical efforts that the products they receive and offer for sale meet these requirements.

Surveillance Activities of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

When testing olive oil for authenticity, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) uses analytical methods capable of detecting adulteration at very low levels.

Although the CFIA has an on-going olive oil testing program, the Canadian olive oil industry is encouraged to increase its own testing efforts. The CFIA requests industry's assistance to ensure that Canadian regulatory requirements are complied with and that consumers are protected from misrepresentation.

Originally issued January 20, 1998 (Information Letter To Industry)