`A New Way to Detect Olive Oil Adulteration - Olive Oil Times

A New Way to Detect Olive Oil Adulteration

May. 4, 2011
Charlie Higgins

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In the wake of recent con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing the alleged adul­ter­ation of extra vir­gin olive oil by many large-scale pro­duc­ers, researchers at the Universidad de Alcalá in Madrid have patented a new sys­tem for test­ing oil purity and qual­ity which they hope to imple­ment in food test­ing labs around the world.

The olive oil indus­try came under sharp crit­i­cism world­wide last year when a study pub­lished by UC Davis indi­cated that many olive oils labeled extra viri­gin” were not tech­ni­cally extra vir­gin.” Many bot­tles were found to con­tain sig­nif­i­cant amounts of non-vir­gin olive oils, and some even con­tained soy­bean oil or sun­flower oil.

The adul­ter­ation of sup­pos­edly pure, extra vir­gin olive oils vio­lates inter­na­tional norms and presents poten­tial health risks for con­sumers who may be aller­gic the oils not listed on the label. It’s also con­sid­ered an act of fraud, as con­sumers unknow­ingly pay inflated prices for infe­rior and mis­la­beled oils.

The rise in sus­pi­cions of so-called olive oil fraud is what led this team of researchers to develop sim­ple and eco­nomic meth­ods for detect­ing adul­ter­ation. The team, which includes Antonio L. Crego Navazo, María Luisa Marina Alegre, Laura Sánchez Hernández and Carmen García Ruiz of the University of Alcalá, pub­lished its find­ings in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry.

For the first time we inves­ti­gated the pos­si­bil­ity of betaine as a selec­tive marker of adul­ter­ation,” explained Laura Sánchez, whose doc­toral the­sis laid much of the ground­work for the study. Betaines are only minor com­po­nents of oil, so they were never included with the major com­pound groups such as fatty acids, lipids, and sterols.”

This new process effec­tively tests for seed oils (soy­bean and sun­flower) using cap­il­lary elec­trophore­sis with UV detec­tion. The main advan­tage of the method, accord­ing to the research team, is that it uses just one betaine com­pound, trigonelline, as a marker of adul­ter­ation. Trigonelline, which is found in seed-based oils but not in extra vir­gin olive oil, is very easy to detect using this method. Researchers hope the new test will become a valu­able tool for qual­ity con­trol in oil lab­o­ra­to­ries around the world.

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