Olive oil imports were half sunflower: CFIA

A Toronto-area food importer and distributor has been fined for importing an olive/sunflower oil blend labelled as “extra virgin olive oil” in 2006.

Jan K. Overweel Ltd., which markets the Emma, Casa Italia and Cortina Foods brands and other imported products, was convicted in Toronto in February under the federal Food and Drugs Act, with the Ontario Court of Justice imposing a $40,000 fine plus the forfeit and disposal of over 27,000 litres of seized oil.

The imports in question, which took place between January and May 2006, were found to contain about 50 per cent sunflower oil and “did not meet the prescribed standard for olive oil,” the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a release Wednesday.

Federal food regulations require, among other things, that olive oil “shall be the oil obtained from the fruit of the olive tree,” CFIA said.

According to CFIA, the court said the company “should have exercised due diligence to ensure that the product met the prescribed standard.”

“Health-conscious consumers purchase extra virgin olive oil for the health benefits they believe are associated with the product,” CFIA said.

But olive oil can also “easily be diluted or substituted with cheaper oil,” the agency added. “The presence of other oils in olive oil cannot be detected by visual inspection and therefore consumers rely on the labelling.”

Overweel, which promotes its operations under the slogan “We shop the world,” has been in business since 1947, starting as an importer of herring products from Holland and expanding into grocery items, cheeses and specialty cocoa. It operates at Woodbridge, Ont., Port Coquitlam, B.C., Strathmore, Alta. and Montreal.

The company, according to its website, currently imports and markets various brands of extra virgin olive oil from Italy in tins, bottles or by the 190-kg drum.

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