Joey’s jug will be refilled

Sunday, 19 May, 2013

Diners at Baffetto on Via del governo vecchio near Piazza Navona in central Rome, where the guests know that they’re playing a role in an enterprise that’s designed to line the pockets of the proprietor, his family and the employees. But most enjoy the brazenness of the experience. There’s something so authentically unabashed about it all that it would be churlish to complain. It’s Italy, right? Caveat emptor, and all that.


Now comes news that the EU is to ban the use of refillable containers and dipping bowls of olive oil at restaurant tables next year. From 1 January 2014, restaurants may only serve olive oil in tamper-proof packaging. The Brussels bureaucrats say the move will protect consumers by ensuring that they get what they are paying for. Many restaurant owners differ, however. They buy their oil from selected producers and say they’re entitled to serve it to their customers in bottles, jugs or whatever container they have at hand. This tradition represents freedom of choice, they claim.

As is well known, the EU’s largest producers of olive oil — Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy — are home to Europe’s most corrupt public officials, most dishonest olive grove owners and most deceitful restaurant owners, who specialize in replacing good oil with cheaper stuff, which they then offer to unwitting consumers. It is absurd to think that they’ll change their ways because of what some overpaid, underemployed officials in Brussels have just dreamt up. Caveat emptor is much older than the EU and it reflects a harsh reality about human nature that cannot be changed by decree or regulation. By the way, a Pew Research Center poll released on Monday showed positive views of the European Union are at or near their low point in most of the countries surveyed.

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