`Botanical Council Publishes Overview of Olive Oil Adulteration - Olive Oil Times

Botanical Council Publishes Overview of Olive Oil Adulteration

By Gretchen Heber
Jan. 14, 2020 08:34 UTC

A report released this month by the American Botanical Council con­cluded that the adul­ter­ation of extra vir­gin olive oil remains pro­lific.”

The report cited sig­nif­i­cant finan­cial rewards, the low avail­abil­ity of high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil and inad­e­quate screen­ing from reg­u­la­tory agen­cies as three of the rea­sons adul­ter­ation remains preva­lent.

It’s really dif­fi­cult to fig­ure out if an olive oil is adul­ter­ated just by look­ing at the label. Some of the adul­ter­ations are very sophis­ti­cated and require mod­ern ana­lyt­i­cal tech­niques to detect.- Stefan Gafner, American Botanical Council

The most sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem, accord­ing to the group, is the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of extra vir­gin olive oil with lower qual­ity oils, which results in a less pure oil that does not offer the same health ben­e­fits as extra vir­gin oil.

Savvy con­sumers may notice the dif­fer­ence in taste of adul­ter­ated olive oil and find it less fla­vor­ful,” Stefan Gafner, the chief sci­ence offi­cer at the coun­cil, said. In addi­tion, there are some pur­ported olive oil health ben­e­fits that the con­sumer may not receive if the olive oil is adul­ter­ated.”

See Also:Olive Oil Fraud

Gafner said, based on the group’s research, con­sumers are sim­ply not get­ting what they paid for.

To earn the extra vir­gin” grade, olive oil must be extracted via mechan­i­cal meth­ods — as opposed to chem­i­cal extrac­tion — and must meet pre­de­ter­mined qual­ity stan­dards set up by the International Olive Council.

Instead of pure extra vir­gin olive oil, con­sumers may be unknow­ingly pur­chas­ing mix­tures that include lower-grade olive oils or dif­fer­ent types of veg­etable oils, such as canola, soy­bean, hazel­nut or sun­flower.

The report indi­cated that these fraud­u­lent mix­tures are some­times addi­tion­ally com­pro­mised with addi­tives such as beta-carotene, which masks the fla­vor of the cheaper oils, or with chem­i­cals that alter the color. None of which, of course, is prop­erly noted on the prod­ucts’ labels.

It’s really dif­fi­cult to fig­ure out if an olive oil is adul­ter­ated just by look­ing at the label,” Gafner said. Some of the adul­ter­ations are very sophis­ti­cated and require mod­ern ana­lyt­i­cal tech­niques to detect.”

Additionally, mis­la­bel­ing a prod­uct cut with cheaper oils allows the dis­trib­u­tor to charge a pre­mium price for a sub-par prod­uct.

There is a sig­nif­i­cant finan­cial gain for fraud­sters who might blend seed oils or refined or lower qual­ity olive oils and sell them as extra vir­gin olive oil,” the authors wrote in the study. Because test­ing is spo­radic and expen­sive, the chance of being caught is rel­a­tively remote and the poten­tial con­se­quences not severe under the law of most coun­tries.”

On the other hand, Gafner said, if a sup­plier is sell­ing adul­ter­ated mate­ri­als, the supplier’s rep­u­ta­tion may become severely dam­aged, espe­cially if the adul­ter­ation makes head­lines.

And there is always a risk of a law­suit, of which there have been sev­eral against olive oil man­u­fac­tur­ers here in the United States,” he said. This is not only a blow to the rep­u­ta­tion of a com­pany, but can also lead to a sub­stan­tial fine.”

The report said that test­ing of olive oils, which is con­ducted largely by gov­ern­ment agen­cies, is inad­e­quate because it is sim­ply not a pri­or­ity.

While con­sumers may not get the health ben­e­fits from cut” oils that they expect to get, nei­ther are they nec­es­sar­ily being harmed, accord­ing to the report and so the urgency for test­ing does not exist.

While, accord­ing to Gafner, indus­try advo­cacy groups have become quite active in recent years, and have ini­ti­ated test­ing in some instances,” the council’s report con­cluded that test­ing remains insuf­fi­cient.

Nevertheless, the report calls for a more deter­mined global effort from author­i­ties… to over­come the cor­rupt prac­tices” involved in olive oil pro­duc­tion.

There needs to be more gov­ern­ment sup­port in export and import sit­u­a­tions and higher penal­ties for those that abuse the reg­u­la­tions,” the report con­cluded.


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