`Taiwan Rejects Olive Pomace Oil Imports

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Taiwan Rejects Olive Pomace Oil Imports

Dec. 31, 2013
Julie Butler

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Tai­wan has refused imports of olive pomace oil and crude grape­seed oil from Europe claim­ing they have been adul­ter­ated with a green col­orant, despite objec­tions that such test­ing can pro­duce false pos­i­tives.

In one of the lat­est twists in an edi­ble oil scan­dal rock­ing con­sumer con­fi­dence in Tai­wan, the Tai­wanese Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (TFDA) announced on Christ­mas Day that 8,000 kg of olive pomace oil sent by Span­ish pro­ducer Vido­ria SL had been ordered destroyed or returned because cop­per chloro­phyllin had been detected in it.

And it is under­stood that Ital­ian olive pomace oil and grape­seed oil has also recently been rejected for the same rea­son.

Accord­ing to the Tai­wanese press, the gov­ern­ment is now test­ing all such imports in the wake of the scan­dal, which erupted in mid-Octo­ber, has seen var­i­ous com­pa­nies fined, and on Decem­ber 16 saw the head of a lead­ing Tai­wanese cook­ing oil com­pany sen­tenced to 16 years jail for fraud and mis­la­bel­ing.

Kao Chen-li, chair­man of the Changchi Food­stuff Fac­tory in Changhua, cen­tral Tai­wan, is said to have adul­ter­ated olive oil with cheap cot­ton­seed oil and cop­per chloro­phyllin. The dis­trict court said in a state­ment that he had reaped huge ben­e­fits by doing so but even worse, had caused pub­lic unrest.

Arti­fi­cial addi­tive used in other foods but not allowed in olive oil

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Recent arti­cles in the Tai­wanese press refer to arti­fi­cial cop­per chloro­phyllin, which car­ries the Euro­pean food addi­tive code E141, as harm­ful. But E141 is legally used in prod­ucts includ­ing chew­ing gum, ice cream, pars­ley sauce, and green veg­eta­bles and fruits pre­served in liq­uids.

E141i, a ver­sion which is fat sol­u­ble, is not per­mit­ted in veg­etable oils and par­tic­u­larly not in olive oil. Its pres­ence in olive oil always indi­cates adul­ter­ation.

Expert says tests not apt for olive pomace oil and grape­seed oil

How­ever, Span­ish oil expert Wences­lao Moreda has stressed in a 5‑page report dated Decem­ber 10, that this is not the case for olive pomace oil and grape­seed oil, two oils in which cop­per chloro­phylls form nat­u­rally.

The meth­ods devel­oped for the detec­tion of the addi­tion of the col­orant E141 have a lim­ited range of appli­ca­tion — they can be used for the detec­tion of the said addi­tive in all veg­etable oils, includ­ing olive oil, but not olive pomace oil and grape­seed oil,” he said.

Moreda, from the highly-regarded Span­ish National Research Coun­cil‭ (‬CSIC‭) ‬Fats and Oils Insti­tute in Seville, and a mem­ber of expert groups advis­ing the Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil (IOC) and the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, said it was there­fore pos­si­ble, that the sam­ples of pomace oil and grape­seed ana­lyzed by the TFDA that test pos­i­tive for the pres­ence of to cop­per chloro­phyllins, cor­re­spond to those formed naturally…and not to the addi­tion of the col­orant E141i.”

It’s under­stood the report was sent by the Span­ish gov­ern­ment to author­i­ties in Tai­wan but no reply has been received. Tai­wanese gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives have repeat­edly said they are con­fi­dent of the reli­a­bil­ity of their test­ing method, which was devel­oped on the island.

The TFDA has yet to respond to Olive Oil Times’ requests for com­ment.

Dam­age to trade

Vic­tor Alabart, head of Vido­ria, based in Reus, in south­ern Cat­alo­nia, said the sit­u­a­tion was caus­ing major dam­age not only to his com­pany — for which Tai­wan has accounted for 30 per­cent of sales — but other exporters in Europe and also the United States. While the TFDA referred to 8,000 kg, Alabart said he cur­rently had about 400 kg of pomace oil stranded in Tai­wan.

I am defense­less in front of the gov­ern­ment of Tai­wan, which doesn’t accept all the cer­ti­fi­ca­tions from the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and the Span­ish gov­ern­ment, French and Ital­ian gov­ern­ments that its method isn’t appro­pri­ate for this because some­times this chloro­phyllin exists nat­u­rally. We haven’t added any­thing and chloro­phyllin is per­fectly fit for con­sump­tion so there is no rea­son to destroy it (the imported oil), Alabart said.

The Gov­ern­ment of Tai­wan has to under­stand that in dozens of coun­tries in the world these olive pomace oils and grape­seed oils are sold and with­out prob­lems because the chloro­phyllin results from nat­ural processes.” Fur­ther­more, my pomace oil is very yel­low so it’s unthink­able that I would have added cop­per chloro­phyllin,” he said.

Fear of a flow-on in other mar­kets, includ­ing China

An indus­try source in Tai­wan who asked not to be named told Olive Oil Times that olive pomace oil had been pop­u­lar for fry­ing in Tai­wan but was now very hard to find in shops. He said the sit­u­a­tion could have a flow-on effect in Hong Kong and the much big­ger edi­ble oil mar­ket in main­land China.

Olive pomace oil is made from the residue left after pro­duc­ing vir­gin olive oil. Unlike the lat­ter, it is pro­duced not by mechan­i­cal press­ing but through the use of chem­i­cal sol­vents (like hexane) and extremely high heat. It lacks the fla­vor and wide-rang­ing health ben­e­fits of vir­gin olive oils but in some mar­kets, includ­ing in India, it is pop­u­lar for its lower price and as a monoun­sat­u­rated and fla­vor­less cook­ing oil.

E141i is some­times used by fraud­sters to green up” cheaper oils in order to pass them off as extra vir­gin olive oil.



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