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For EU, a tempest in a dipping bowl

BRUSSELS — With its economy reeling from austerity and joblessness, the European Union took time last week to focus on something rather smaller in scale: It approved a measure that would ban restaurants from serving olive oil in cruets or dipping bowls.

The reaction was severe. Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands condemned the measure, calling it “too bizarre for words.”

Criticism was particularly harsh in Britain, often the first among critics of the EU’s reach. The olive oil rule was “exactly the sort of area that the European Union needs to get right out of, in my view,” Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said Wednesday after a meeting of the bloc’s leaders in Brussels. “It shouldn’t even be on the table,” he said, begging forgiveness for the wordplay.

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On Thursday, the European Commission said in a hastily called news conference the measure, meant to take effect Jan. 1, would be rescinded. Yet the invective continued.

“This was a ridiculous and draconian idea,’’ said Martin Callanan, a member of the European Parliament for Britain’s Conservative Party.

The measure, which would have required that restaurants serve olive oil in sealed, clearly labeled and nonreusable containers, was meant to guarantee hygiene and promote brand awareness.

New York Times