RIYADH, 27 July — Saudi Arabia yesterday imposed a total ban on imports of olive oil products made from pomace, or pulpy residue of olives, from Spain and other countries after tests proved positive for a substance that can cause cancer. The Commerce Ministry said in a decree that the ban includes products of refined olive oil, refined olive oil residue and olive oil mixtures, all of which are produced from the treatment of olive oil residues.
But the ministry said import of all other types of olive oil including those from Spain were still allowed. The decree said that tests carried out in Saudi Arabia and reports obtained from the European Commission showed that olive oil products made from pomace contained benzopyrene, which is a carcinogenic substance.
All six Gulf Arab states suspended import of Spanish olive oil earlier this month after the Spanish Health Ministry issued a “food safety alert” following the discovery of benzopyrene in a particular brand of olive oil. The ministry urged its Jeddah office to contact importers and traders to assess the quantity of pomace products that have entered the country and kept in warehouses in order to destroy them. The ministry said the Saudi traders would have the right to claim compensation for the losses.
Sources at the general administration for the health and protection of consumers at the European Commission has said that Saudis have imported 1.8 million kilograms of contaminated olive oil from Spain during 2000 and 2001 through four companies in Jeddah and Riyadh. Baabdullah Establishment imported 183,000 kilograms, Orient Trading 225,000 kg, Basamh Supermarket 1.3 million kg and Omar Ali Balsharaf 94,000 kg.