82 Percent of Avocado Oil Adulterated, Mislabeled or Poor Quality, Study Finds

A majority of products sold as avocado oil in the U.S. is mislabeled or adulterated with cheaper oils, researchers at the University of California Davis found.
Jun. 22, 2020
Julie Al-Zoubi

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Food sci­en­tists from the University of California found that the major­ity of avo­cado oil sold in the U.S. was of poor qual­ity, mis­la­beled or exten­sively adul­ter­ated with cheaper oils.

The scale is of the fraud is hor­rific. In U.K. and Europe a super­mar­ket tests every prod­uct before it goes on the shelf. This is not the case in the U.S. where price is key to a list­ing deci­sion.- Gary Hannam, CEO of Olivado

The study on com­mer­cially sold avo­cado oil unveiled some shock­ing data. The research team found that 82 per­cent of the avo­cado oil” sam­pled was actu­ally made up of a blend of other oils, and three of the eval­u­ated prod­ucts were almost entirely com­prised of soy­bean oil.

Selina Wang, co-author of the study told Olive Oil Times she was shocked by the high rate of adul­ter­ation. I was expect­ing some per­cent­age of adul­ter­ants, but not 100 per­cent,” said Wang. The research team was less sur­prised by the wide­spread mis­la­bel­ing which they attrib­uted to a lack of stan­dards.

See Also: Olive Oil Fraud

Wang said the study demon­strated an urgent need for the intro­duc­tion of enforce­able stan­dards in the avo­cado oil indus­try to pro­tect con­sumers, gen­uine pro­duc­ers and the indus­try as a whole.

I think efforts to estab­lish stan­dards have been made by indi­vid­ual com­pa­nies, but not as an orga­nized group. A Standard of Identity from FDA or some­thing sim­i­lar would be very help­ful,” the researcher said.

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Gary Hannam, CEO of Olivado, the world’s largest avo­cado oil pro­ducer and sup­plier to over 3,500 out­lets in the U.S. echoed Wang’s call for inter­na­tional stan­dards. He said he would like to see legal require­ments intro­duced for avo­cado oil on a par with those laid down for olive oil.

Hannam said he noticed that the researchers revealed no brand names in the test data, but we noted that there were no tests done on any oils from New Zealand or Kenya, which indi­cates that our oils were not included in the tests.”

According to Hannam, fraud­u­lent avo­cado oil is pre­dom­i­nately an American prob­lem,” as both Canada and Europe already have more estab­lished guide­lines in place.

In the U.K. and Europe a super­mar­ket tests every prod­uct before it goes onto a shelf. This is not the case in the U.S. where the price is key to a list­ing deci­sion. A prod­uct being true to label’ is essen­tial in the U.K. and Europe. In the U.S., sales vol­ume is essen­tial.”

Reassuring cus­tomers is dif­fi­cult in the U.S. mar­ket where the empha­sis on qual­ity and ori­gin of food is not as impor­tant to a con­sumer as in the U.K. and Europe,” Hannam said. Buyers in U.S. super­mar­kets are not con­cerned about qual­ity or prove­nance either.”

Hannam told Olive Oil Times that wide­spread fraud in the avo­cado oil indus­try made it extremely dif­fi­cult for gen­uine pro­duc­ers to oper­ate as they could­n’t com­pete on price with fake avo­cado oil pro­duc­ers. He con­ceded that Olivado had lost accounts because they were unable to com­pete with cheap adul­ter­ated prod­ucts.

We have seen a decrease in our sales of extra vir­gin avo­cado oil of up to 60 per­cent in some U.S. sales regions in the past two months. An extra vir­gin prod­uct is four times the price of these fraud­u­lent oils which are usu­ally refined (or not even avo­cado oil). As with olive oil, there is a mar­ket­place for extra vir­gin and refined avo­cado oils. But even refined avo­cado oils can­not com­pete with these fraud­u­lent oils on price.”

Wang said that, while some pro­duc­ers were finan­cially moti­vated to pass off cheaper blended prod­ucts as avo­cado oil, many bulk buy­ers who sim­ply pur­chased avo­cado oil from pro­duc­ers were unaware of the pro­duc­t’s risk of adul­ter­ation caused by the lack of stan­dards.

The UC Davis study con­firmed find­ings from avo­cado oil pro­duc­ers’ own inde­pen­dent sur­veys of the mar­ket.

Hannam explained his com­pa­ny’s strat­egy for tack­ling the chaos caused by avo­cado oil fraud.

Olivado and a num­ber of other avo­cado oil pro­duc­ers and their national gov­ern­ments are work­ing to estab­lish a Codex Alimentarius stan­dard for extra vir­gin and refined avo­cado oils. This will give an inter­na­tional legal frame­work for true to label’ require­ments and analy­ses.”

We are start­ing a process of test­ing all avo­cado oils our super­mar­ket cus­tomers are sell­ing so we can pro­vide them with sci­en­tific results,” he added. Our hope is that they will rec­og­nize that high sales of fake prod­ucts are not a great ser­vice to their cus­tomers.”

The UC Davis food sci­en­tist advised shop­pers to pur­chase smaller bot­tles of avo­cado oil which can be con­sumed while still fresh and to store the prod­uct in a cool dark cup­board. She also rec­om­mended pur­chas­ing oil that’s clos­est to its harvest/production time rather than rely­ing on best before” dates.

Consumers should rec­og­nize the fla­vor of fresh vir­gin avo­cado oil, which can dif­fer by vari­eties and prod­uct ori­gins,” Wang sug­gested. Grassy, but­tery, mush­room-like and avo­cado fla­vor are com­mon descrip­tors of authen­tic and fresh extra vir­gin avo­cado oil.”

Virgin avo­cado oil should be green in color while refined oil is light yel­low or almost clear as pig­ments are removed dur­ing the refin­ing process.

Wang also reminded con­sumers that even high-qual­ity avo­cado oil can turn ran­cid over time, which can be detected from its stale odor.

I hope this report jump­starts impor­tant work around stan­dards devel­op­ment for the avo­cado oil indus­try so con­sumers can enjoy this prod­uct with con­fi­dence and the mar­ket is fair for hon­est pro­duc­ers and buy­ers to com­pete,” Wang said.

The research team from the UC Davis Department of Food Science & Technology has pledged to con­tinue inves­ti­gat­ing faster and afford­able meth­ods to detect avo­cado oil adul­ter­ation.



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