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Olive Council Investigating Taiwan’s Rejection of Pomace Oil Imports

Jan. 10, 2014
Julie Butler

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Olive oil’s peak body — the International Olive Council (IOC) — has invited rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Taiwan to attend the March meet­ing of its chem­istry experts as the island con­tin­ues to reject ship­ments of olive pomace oil on the grounds they con­tain a green colorant.

In a let­ter sent Thursday to Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the IOC said it had decided to inves­ti­gate the mat­ter and would appre­ci­ate receiv­ing all the infor­ma­tion avail­able” on it.

The let­ter fol­lows Taiwan’s recent rejec­tions at port of olive pomace oil from Italian and Spanish sup­pli­ers. Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) said they tested pos­i­tive for cop­per chlorophyll.

Taiwan’s zero tol­er­ance approach

Representative of the European Union (EU), Spain and Italy, have asked Taiwan to revise its test­ing method, say­ing it may not dis­tin­guish between cop­per chloro­phyll that has been added and that some­times nat­u­rally present in olive pomace oils and grape­seed oils.

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However, the TDFA said this week it would stick to its method unless it was proven to be impre­cise or another method was pro­posed to replace it.

Furthermore, while it’s gen­er­ally held in the EU that cop­per chloro­phyll may not be added to any type of edi­ble oil, Taiwan stressed that it does not per­mit any at all, whether added or occur­ring naturally.

Italian sec­tor queries test­ing method

ASSITOL, the Association of the Italian Oil Industry, which rep­re­sents pack­agers of olive oil and seed oils, told Olive Oil Times that the prob­lem in Taiwan started when they found local oil pro­duc­ers putting cot­ton­seed oil in bot­tles labeled as sun­flower,’ grape seed’ or olive’ oil.”

ASSITOL gen­eral man­ager Claudio Ranzani said such fraud could have san­i­tary impli­ca­tions so he under­stood the rea­sons for the result­ing wide­spread media cov­er­age in Taiwan and the TFDA’s concern.

The addi­tion of fla­vors and cop­per chloro­phyllin made in some cases by the Taiwanese pro­duc­ers was a corol­lary of the fraud, because it was nec­es­sary to give cot­ton­seed oil the appear­ance of grape­seed or olive oil,” he said.

However this addi­tion posed no health risk, because fla­vors and cop­per chloro­phyllin are safely used in other food prod­ucts,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ranzani said he under­stood that the TDFA’s tests of olive oils, olive pomace oils and grape­seed oils from Italy had not put their authen­tic­ity under any doubt.

Only in some cases of olive pomace and grape seed oils, they found a small peak indi­cat­ing the pos­si­ble pres­ence of traces of cop­per chloro­phyllin,” he said. But ASSITOL’s experts believe such traces can occur nat­u­rally in the two oils.

Ranzani said ASSITOL’s inves­ti­ga­tion sug­gested that Taiwan was using an ana­lyt­i­cal method devel­oped in Europe, but in a dif­fer­ent way and on dif­fer­ent products.”

Crude olive pomace and grape­seed oils con­tain nat­u­rally a lot of chloro­phyll, com­ing from the olives and the grape seeds, and traces of cop­per salts, used by the farm­ers before har­vest­ing. Also, chloro­phyll and cop­per can com­bine to form cop­per piropheo­phytins (a sort of cop­per chloro­phyllin) dur­ing the pro­cess­ing of the oils,” he said.

IOC says cop­per pheo­phytin not a purity cri­te­rion in IOC trade standard

An IOC spokesper­son said the inter­gov­ern­men­tal organ­i­sa­tion had pointed out in its let­ter that cop­per pheo­phytin is not con­sid­ered a qual­ity or purity cri­te­rion in the IOC trade stan­dard for olive oils and olive pomace olis and that the stan­dard does not there­fore estab­lish any limit or spec­ify any offi­cial ref­er­ence method for its detection.

It had also said that, how­ever no addi­tive is per­mit­ted except for alpha-toco­pherol to replace nat­ural alpha-toco­pherol lost dur­ing refining.”

We also informed them that it has been decided at IOC level to research fur­ther into this mat­ter within the frame­work of the IOC group of chem­istry experts, and that we would appre­ci­ate receiv­ing all the infor­ma­tion avail­able on this mat­ter and wel­come the atten­dance of Taiwanese rep­re­sen­ta­tives, as observers, at the next meet­ing of the group of chem­istry experts due to take place on 11 and 12 March 2014,” the spokesper­son said.

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