Chinese experts called for new regulations on the country's olive oil imports to protect customers' rights and ensure that the sector develops in a sound and orderly manner.
Misleading labels and false expiry dates are the main traps for Chinese customers, according to speakers at an olive oil conference sponsored jointly by the Beijing Consumers' Association and Beijing Youth Daily.
Customs statistics show that China's olive oil imports, sourced mainly from Spain, Italy and Greece, grew from 392 tons in 2001 to 4,500 tons in 2005.
In the first two months of this year, China imported 1,225 tons of olive oil. However, lower quality olive-pomace oil - made from olive residue - made up 42.1 percent of the total, up 23.5 percentage points year on year.
While big quantities of olive-pomace oil are imported, the description "olive-pomace oil" virtually never appears in the Chinese market.
This is a big worry for Chinese industry experts who suspect that olive-pomace oil is being repackaged as processed olive oil to cheat customers.
Expiry dates are another headache. Big volumes of olive oil are often repackaged into smaller containers, and some sales agents take the opportunity to change the product expiry date, said Li Juzhen, an official with China's Cash Forestry Association.
China's olive oil consumption has increased in recent years as people have enjoyed higher incomes and begun to pay more attention to the quality of life. It is widely acknowledged that olive oil is good for the heart.