Olive oil importers take Australian association ad to ACCC
THE olive oil importers body has lodged a complaint with the ACCC, alleging false advertising over Australian olive oil growers’ new $300,000 ad campaign.
The Australian Olive Association, which launched the print and television ad campaign featuring dietitian Dr Joanna McMillan on Sunday, said nine out of 10 olive oils it tested failed to meet Australian standards.
But the importers’ complaint asserts that all imported olive oil meets the International Olive Oil Council standard and Codex Alimentarius which covers more than 95 per cent of the world’s olive oil production.
“We strongly object to the self-interested and untruthful campaigning by the AOA who are putting consumer choice at risk by using scare tactics and misleading information in an attempt to influence retailers and the government into adopting a standard for olive oil that was rejected by the International Olive Council,” the Australian Olive Oil Association complaint alleges.
The AOOA, which represents the majority of importers and some local growers, said the advertising campaign seeks to discredit imported olive oils while promoting “a minor voluntary standard for olive oil” ahead of the globally accepted international standard followed by 95 per cent of world production.
“We feel that there are a number of inaccuracies in the campaign that has been launched by the AOA, which are significantly misleading to consumers and ultimately and not in the best interests of the industry,” said AOOA president David Valmorbida.
“They have been involved in active promotion against imported olive oils for some time now. But we do take issue when incorrect information is passed on to consumers because it is not in their best interests.
“Certainly what we don’t want is for consumers to turn around and think that there is something wrong with olive oil and the olive oil category and begin reverting their choice to other types of cooking oils which may be less healthy for them and not have the flavour attributes that the Australian consumer has come to love.”
Mr Valmorbida said the Australian Olive Association represented just a fraction of local growers and it was unfortunate they were at loggerheads.
“There are two sides to the story and ideally an industry wouldn’t have two sides, it should be promoting and collaborating,” he said.
The AOOA said claims that Australian olive oils are “fresher” are untrue as olives are only harvested once a year, in winter, therefore the freshest olive oil from the southern hemisphere, including Australia, is available on-shelf in July, while northern hemisphere olive oils are available in February.
The complaint also claims that Australian olive oils are intrinsically “healthier” are untrue as country of origin alone is not a determinant of the health benefits.
It also said refined olive oil is not “bad”, nor is it worse than extra virgin olive oil as refined oils are used for a variety of cooking purposes.
Australian Olive Association CEO Lisa Rowntree said it had comprehensive evidence to support the claim that Australian olive oils are fresher, tastier and better for you.
“Of course importers are going to try to defend their position, but at the end of the day they know we are right. Embarrassingly for them, most of the oils we tested not only failed the Australian standards but also their own IOC standard,” she said.
“This is such a big problem worldwide that the EU has openly admitted that olive oil is their No. 1 issue. Our Australian standard is a robust document that was approved by all the stakeholders, including the importer representatives at that time.
“In fact our Australian standards are now been evaluated and discussed by European authorities to incorporate them in their legislation to fight against the widespread adulteration issue.”
The ACCC recently released The Good Oil, a consumer guide for olive oil that highlighted the IOC standard, laying out what consumers should look for and can expect from olive oil products.