`Deodorized Olive Oil Back in the Spotlight - Olive Oil Times

Deodorized Olive Oil Back in the Spotlight

Feb. 28, 2011
Lucy Vivante

Recent News

Deodorized olive oil is back in the spot­light this past week. There are a few rea­sons for this. The most sen­sa­tional is that Florence pros­e­cu­tors are look­ing into the pos­si­ble fal­si­fi­ca­tion of olive oil trans­port doc­u­ments by large pack­agers of olive oil includ­ing Grupo SOS. Whether the blame shifts to other bro­kers and sup­pli­ers will be seen. The doc­u­men­ta­tion allegedly turned low qual­ity oil into extra vir­gin. Prosecutors seized paper­work and oil sam­ples from pack­ag­ing facil­i­ties in Florence, Reggio Emilia, Genova, and Pavia.

Grupo SOS is a Spanish con­glom­er­ate, and the world’s largest olive oil com­pany. It now owns the his­tor­i­cally Italian brands Bertolli, Carapelli, and Sasso. The trou­bled com­pany is today report­ing a loss of €50 mil­lion for 2010.

Rome’s Corpo Forestale, a gov­ern­ment agency, announced the Florence inves­ti­ga­tion of Grupo SOS on February 24th, say­ing that the inves­ti­ga­tion began in September 2010. Lab tests are under­way and results should be known before the Florence pros­e­cu­tors take up the issue again on March 15th. The inquiry will include the recently adopted test for alkyl esters. The inves­ti­ga­tion involves some 450,000 kilos of olive oil with a value of about €4 mil­lion.

The European Union in January passed a law which sets a limit for alkyl esters in olive oil. Elevated lev­els indi­cate low qual­ity olive oil, which is often deodor­ized. Some crit­ics of the law say that it allows for too high a level of alkyl esters. The limit is 75 mil­ligrams of alkyl esters per kilo­gram. The Repubblica, one of Italy’s largest daily papers, ran a story say­ing that the new law does not serve con­sumers since accept­able lev­els are too high. Others have agreed that they are high, but point out that they can be low­ered.

Small olive oil pro­duc­ers and con­sumer groups are warn­ing con­sumers about low cost olive oils. Supermarkets are sell­ing extra vir­gin olive oil for as low as € 2 a liter.

Coldiretti, an agri­cul­ture inter­est group with some one and half mil­lion mem­bers, is con­nect­ing the dots between the 450 tons of sus­pi­cious oil and low priced olive oil at super­mar­kets. It is advis­ing con­sumers that if oil costs less than 5 or 6 euros per liter, there is the prob­a­bil­ity that it is not extra vir­gin olive oil, but deodor­ized oil.

The sto­ries about deodor­ized oil touched a nerve with the gov­ern­ment and evinced a com­ment from the Minister of Agriculture. Giancarlo Galan, said of Italian olive oil, I feel able to assure our con­sumers about trust­ing our sys­tem of trace­abil­ity, and the new label­ing laws, already in place for extra vir­gin olive oil through­out Europe. If they buy Italian oil they can be tran­quil about the level of qual­ity which has no equal in the world.”

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