Stopping olive oil fraud in its tracks!

Posted: 26 May 2022 | | No comments yet

Researchers have created an innovative new tool that uses fingerprinting techniques to identify and verify the geographical origins of olive oil.

Olive oil poured on spoon

Olive oil is used in dishes all around the world, especially so in a Mediterranean diet. Bu as a result of its popularity and prestigious status, commercial fraud cases occur when it comes to the origin and varieties available. Now, a team from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food SciencesTorribera Food and Nutrition Campus and the Institute for Nutrition and Food Safety Research (INSA) of the University of Barcelona have created a new authentication tool to check the geographical origin of virgin olive oil as an answer to this problem.

In the authentication process of foods, it is decisive to have analytical strategies that verify the origin of the products and help establishing the official method. The new tool provides a response to this need regarding food safety and traceability, and presents an authentication strategy that can be applied to at different geographical scales.

“The new methodology enables us to discriminate between virgin olive oils produced in the European Union and those that are not, apart from classifying them according to the country of origin and verify which oils belong to the Protected Geographical Designations of Origin of the same region or even adjacent ones,” said the researchers Stefania Vichi and Alba Tres.

“The cornerstone of an efficient authenticity tool is for it to be based on robust analytical markers. In the case of the geographical authentication of the virgin olive oil, the markers depend largely on the variety of olive tree and the area where it grew, without being significantly influenced by other factors related to the process of extracting or preserving pol,” added researcher Beatriz Quintanilla-Casas, the first author of the study.

The new protocol can authenticate virgin olive oils through a ‘fingerprint’. “In this case, the sesquiterpene fingerprint is used for the development of geographical discrimination models that enable us to identify those oils that show an analytical signal very different from those considered as reference oils,” said Vichi.

The innovative nature of the tool lies in the fact that it proposes geographical markers that, according to the researchers, haven’t been extensively studied for this purpose.

The first potential users of the new technique – which was created in collaboration with virgin olive oil producers – would be the inspection and control laboratories, certification entities and big marketing companies of the olive oil sector.

The proposal of a geographical authentication strategy presented in the study could become a new screening tool applicable to inspections and auditions, which should help ascertain whether a product is genuine or not, in turn, reducing the opportunities for fraud to occur.

The research behind this new tool has been published in the journals Food Chemistry and Food Control.

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