`Consumer Group in France Finds Olive Oils Contaminated with Hydrocarbons - Olive Oil Times

Consumer Group in France Finds Olive Oils Contaminated with Hydrocarbons

By Ofeoritse Daibo
Jun. 1, 2023 16:45 UTC

A small-scale sam­pling of organic and non-organic olive oil brands in France found that 23 of 24 sam­ples con­tained con­t­a­m­i­na­tion from plas­ti­ciz­ers and min­eral oil hydro­car­bons.

The test results were revealed in 60 Millions de Consommateurs (60 mil­lion con­sumers, in English), a mag­a­zine pub­lished by France’s National Consumer Institute.

The study found traces of min­eral oil-sat­u­rated hydro­car­bons and min­eral oil aro­matic hydro­car­bons in the sam­ples, which accu­mu­late in the liver and lym­phoid sys­tem of the body, caus­ing inflam­ma­tion.

See Also:Focus on Quality Yields Success for Producers in France

These min­eral oils are mix­tures of hydro­car­bons con­tain­ing thou­sands of chem­i­cal com­pounds of var­i­ous sizes and struc­tural con­fig­u­ra­tions mainly derived from crude oil.

Franck Dejean, the head of edi­ble oils analy­sis at the Institute of Fatty Substances and Related Products, said olives could be con­t­a­m­i­nated at dif­fer­ent stages of the har­vest­ing process, either through con­tact with diesel and lubri­cants from agri­cul­tural machin­ery, stor­age under tar­pau­lins or dur­ing the crush­ing process.

He added that envi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion could also be a con­tribut­ing fac­tor.

According to the International Olive Council, olive oil con­sump­tion in France has aver­aged approx­i­mately 131,400 tons in the past five years. The National Consumer Institute said house­holds in France con­sume about two liters of olive oil annu­ally.

As a result, Dejean indi­cated that it is imper­a­tive for the French gov­ern­ment to enforce European Union leg­is­la­tion, which would require man­u­fac­tur­ers to meet cer­tain food and safety stan­dards in their pro­duc­tion of olive oil to pre­vent con­t­a­m­i­na­tion.”


Hydrocarbons are organic com­pounds com­posed exclu­sively of hydro­gen and car­bon atoms. They are the fun­da­men­tal build­ing blocks of all fos­sil fuels, includ­ing nat­ural gas, petro­leum, and coal. These ver­sa­tile mol­e­cules exhibit a wide range of phys­i­cal and chem­i­cal prop­er­ties due to vari­a­tions in their struc­ture and bond­ing arrange­ments. Hydrocarbons can exist as sim­ple, lin­ear chains or com­plex, branched struc­tures, as well as in cyclic forms known as aro­matic com­pounds. They serve as a vital energy source, fuel­ing trans­porta­tion and indus­trial sec­tors. However, hydro­car­bons are also asso­ci­ated with envi­ron­men­tal con­cerns, such as air pol­lu­tion and green­house gas emis­sions, con­tribut­ing to cli­mate change.

E.U. mem­ber states are meant to con­duct reg­u­lar qual­ity checks in case some­thing goes wrong along the sup­ply chain.

According to the E.U., issues often occur because olive oil is sen­si­tive to tem­per­a­ture and light, and its qual­ity degrades over time. Poor stor­age or trans­port con­di­tions can explain that an olive oil no longer meets the qual­ity require­ments for its cat­e­gory at the time of the check.”

These checks can iden­tify purity para­me­ters or poten­tial food fraud. Then, depend­ing on the seri­ous­ness of the irreg­u­lar­ity, author­i­ties can either with­draw the prod­uct and impose fines or pros­e­cute the offend­ing com­pa­nies.

Of the 24 brands, testers for the 60 Millions de Consommateurs report found that only Primadonna, a non-organic Spanish olive oil sold at Lidl for €6.99 per liter, was free of plas­ti­cizer or hydro­car­bon con­t­a­m­i­na­tion.

According to Selina Wamucchi, an end-to-end food sourc­ing plat­form, aver­age olive oil retail prices in France range from €6.47 to €17.55 per kilo­gram at the time of writ­ing.

Olive oil prices have risen to record highs across the Mediterranean this year due to infla­tion and a decline in olive oil pro­duc­tion in the cur­rent crop year.


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