Natural Foods Merchandiser

News Beat

Olive Oil Producers Press for Definitions
Olive oil labeling standards in the United States have not been updated since 1948 and do not define virgin or extra virgin, which means olive oil producers can use such terms at will. The California Olive Oil Council has proposed new standards that would include 10 grades of olive oil, and labels such as virgin and extra virgin would be granted according to a chemical analysis for acidity and a taste test by a panel certified by the COOC.

COOC officials say new standards would help even the playing field for California producers, who make up only 1 percent of the world?s olive oil market. The proposed changes would force international competitors to boost their oils? quality, perhaps raising their prices, too.

?It?s a consumer-confidence thing. What it says on the label is what is in the bottle. That?s important for the consumer,? said Christine Vestfals, sales and marketing coordinator for B.R. Cohn, a California olive oil producer.

Though it could take more than a year for any changes to be made to the rules, the USDA will soon hold a comment period on the proposed changes.

—Hilary Oliver

Low-Carb Claims Go by the ?Weigh? Side
Canada?s health-oversight agency has banned the use of low-carb claims on packaged foods. The rules apply to advertising, content claims and product names.

Late this summer, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which enforces the regulations, issued an information letter to ?remind the Canadian food industry? of the new regulations. ?Due to the recent interest in a number of reduced carbohydrate diets, a variety of carbohydrate claims and statements are appearing on foods sold in Canada,? the letter said.

Though Health Canada published the rule in December 2003, it will begin implementing the law in December 2005.

In developing the rule, Health Canada used guidelines from the U.S.-based Institute of Medicine and the National Academies of Science. ?As part of those, it states that 45 to 65 percent of calories should come from carbohydrates to reduce the risk of developing chronic disease,? said Margot Geduld, a spokeswoman for Health Canada.

Atkins Nutritionals takes issue with the science used and the conclusions drawn, but a spokeswoman said the company would comply with any legislation passed in Canada or the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expects to issue a rule regarding low-carb claims by the end of the year, a spokesman from that agency told NFM.

—Laurie Budgar

COOL Implementation Delayed for Seafood
The seafood industry recently got a six-month reprieve. Mandatory country-of-origin labeling for fish and shellfish was widely expected to go into effect Sept. 30, 2004. But because the U.S. Department of Agriculture believed a lot of product was already in the chain of commerce, it delayed publishing the rule in the Federal Register until Oct. 5. As a result, the law will not be enforced until April 4, 2005. Many observers expect enforcement to focus on education for the first year. COOL regulations for meat and produce will begin Sept. 30, 2006, despite a recent attempt in the Senate Appropriations Committee to move the date forward to Jan. 1, 2005. The COOL rule will require producers, packers, retailers and others to track and label the origin of all components of a product.

—Laurie Budgar

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 11/p. 7, 14

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