According to the Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP) new bulletin, extra virgin olive oil is still being listed among the most common food frauds worldwide. The distinctive sensory profile, and its reputation as a healthy source of dietary fats has made olive oil a premium product, which is why it’s become a target for fraudsters.
The problem even affects those varieties bearing the coveted Protected designation of origin (PDO) and Protected geographical indication (PGI) stamps indicating the precise geographical origin of a particular extra virgin olive oil to ensure the quality of that region’s agricultural products, and which are subjected to more strict controls.
That’s why a number of regulation and standards have been introduced which aim to reduce the amount of fraudulent olive oil on the market. This includes the EU’s Regulation (EU) 2568/91, standards of the International olive oil council (IOC) and CODEX alimentarius STAN 33–1981. However it’s a new initiative from The European Union Horizon 2020 which might help turn the tide in the producers and consumers’ favour.
Starting in September 2016, Project OLEUM aims to better guarantee olive oil quality and authenticity through improved methods for detecting and preventing olive oil fraud. Determining the authenticity of olive oil with traditional methods was problematic because its fatty acid composition overlaps with that of several other cheaper oils.
“Research will also focus on developing new instrumental analytical methods for identifying illegal blends of olive oils with other vegetable oils or lower quality products, for evaluating freshness and predicting best-before date, and for monitoring compliance with the labelled geographical origin and the EU health claim on polyphenols.”
One of the new methods for detection, is Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry. This method is able to detect adulteration due to the differences in isotope ratio between different sources of olive oil. Isotope analysis of the H, C and O compositions of bulk oil or oil sub-components is used because the isotopic ratios of H, C and O change with the botanical origin and with the climatic and geographical characteristics of the location where the plant was grown.
Using the advanced technology of Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry is a powerful way to identify and thus prevent extra virgin olive oil adulteration and criteria relating to this technique may be expected to appear in the appropriate Codex standards in the future.
LGC Proficiency Testing’s Food Chemistry (QFCS) scheme and now Forensic Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (FIRMS) scheme offer samples relating to olive oil authenticity and quality.
The new FIRMS 1 sample allows participants to test their ability to measure differences in isotope ratio between different sources of olive oil.
Click here to see the range of LGC Proficiency Testing Olive Oil Samples - https://www.lgcstandards.com/GB/en/search?q=Olive+Oil:relevance:categoryName:Proficiency+Testing
(Author: Dominic Keely, LGC)