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.”
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.