SHOPKEEPERS found an ingenious way around EU red tape banning the sale of olive oil on tap.

The sustainable supermarket was barred from selling extra virgin olive oil on tap by European regulations.

But it has dodged the ban by simply adding a drop of rapeseed oil to the mix.

Bosses at ethical store Hisbe in York Place, Brighton, who call themselves the “supermarket rebels”, had to stop selling the oil after a shopper complained.

A Defra inspector visited the shop on October 8 quoting EU legislation which states that olive oil cannot be resealed after it has been opened.

The bosses at Hisbe, which stands for How It Should Be, removed the product from their shelves immediately after the shock inspection.

Hisbe’s loyal customers were devastated at the loss of their ethical – and cheap – refilling service.

Co-founder Jack Simmonds took to social media to apologise to his clients – and to take a stand.

Jack, 36, of Brighton, said: “We’re not about to give up on refilling when it’s the right thing to do for a sustainable food future. So, the big question is, do you think we should bow to the rules and take it off sale, or risk prosecution in the name of the refill revolution?”

Defiant customers devised a raft of suggestions to bypass the bureaucracy, including spelling olive oil with full stops in between each letter on shop labels.

Hisbe bosses sought guidance from Honest Toil, which supplies the store with barrels of its pure extra virgin olive oil from Messinia, Greece.

Used to helping its clients work around red tape, the firm suggested adding a tablespoon of rapeseed oil to each 20 litre barrel of olive oil.

Hisbe went ahead with the idea and returned the olive oil to its shelves on Friday morning.

Jack said: “Not only have we put the olive oil back on sale, but we are now selling rapeseed oil on tap too.

“We knew starting a shop like this would mean clashing with the old world from time to time. But we like to take a positive attitude and find a way around the barriers.

“We have done that in this case, having increased our product offering and shared the legal loopholes with other stores trying to do the right thing.

“When we introduced the refill idea it really took off.

“Our customers adapted really well and it quickly became a part of their routine. They liked buying on tap because it’s cheaper and reduces plastic waste.

“To take our customers on that journey and then break it was not cool. We are delighted that they didn’t accept the law and helped us find a way around it.”

A spokesperson for Honest Toil said: “A real shame that you had to employ such measures, yet kudos for your inventiveness and we’re glad Honest Toil is still to be found on Hisbe’s shelves.

“Surely that dilution will have no influence on its characteristic flavour.”

The spokesperson added: “We are trying to make it clear on every platform that this regulation doesn’t protect us as producers and distributors of high quality, unadulterated extra virgin olive oil.

“It actively hinders us in our mission to make our operation more sustainable.”

Defra spokesperson Daniel Barnes said: “In accordance with EU Regulations pure form olive oil types - such as extra virgin olive oil - must be presented to the final consumer in packaging of a maximum capacity of 5 litres.

“Such packaging shall be fitted with an opening system that can no longer be sealed after the first time it is opened.

“This is to make sure that oil isn’t tampered with after bottling.”

Mr Barnes confirmed a “breach” would occur if olive oil was sold after being drained from a refillable container into customers’ bottles.

He added: “This legislation does not apply to flavoured or infused olive oils, although some of the labelling requirements still apply to sales of those oils.”

Jack is expecting another visit from the Defra inspector, but only expects him to ensure the labelling on the olive oil is accurate.

He added: “I think he drove about two hours to see us on the first visit.

“As well as the olive oil, he complained that our local food labelling did not specify that we were referring to Sussex, in the UK, as opposed to the equivalents in Australia or the US.

“We know inspectors are just doing their job, but I am appealing for a bit of common sense and discretion with the law.”

Former Green Party leader and Brighton MP Caroline Lucas opened Hisbe in 2013.

Jack founded the rebellious supermarket alongside Amy and Ruth Anslow in a bid to revolutionise the food industry and promote “fully conscious shopping.”

He said: “The shop has gone from strength to strength and we are now planning on opening a second store in Sussex.

“David Attenborough kicked off the mainstream revolution with the Blue Planet series.”

“There is a lot of gloom and gloom in the climate change discussion, so we like to keep things a bit more lighthearted.

“If you just overload people with doom all the time they will just switch off.

“We know it is a serious issue, but it’s our role to come up with solutions.”