Poor Harvests Lead to More Vigilance in Canada

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is warning consumers to be on the lookout for fraudulently labeled olive oil in light of the poor European harvest this year.

By Danielle Pacheco
Feb. 27, 2019 07:48 UTC

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is antic­i­pat­ing an increase in sales of sub­stan­dard olive oils after the dis­ap­point­ing har­vest in Italy and other regions this sea­son.

In April, the CFIA will launch a 12-month inves­ti­ga­tion to hunt for olive oil prod­ucts that may be cut with cheaper oils such as peanut or sun­flower oil.

See Also:Olive Oil Fraud

The olive oil har­vests in Italy, Greece and Portugal have suf­fered this sea­son, due in large part to cli­mate change and the dam­ag­ing effects of the Xylella fas­tidiosa pathogen in Italy. Italy’s har­vest is at a 25-year-low and experts have warned the Mediterranean coun­try may run out of olive oil as early as April.

The CFIA car­ried out a pro­gram two years ago, which failed to detect any signs of olive oil fraud. However, the Canadian gov­ern­ment is choos­ing to con­duct another inves­ti­ga­tion this year in light of the poor European har­vest.

If a CFIA inspec­tor sus­pects a given oil may be fraud­u­lently labeled, he or she can order a lab test. If results are pos­i­tive, the prod­uct may need to be rela­beled, held or recalled from store shelves and the offend­ers may be pros­e­cuted.

A manda­tory trace­abil­ity law passed in January demands that any­one sell­ing a food prod­uct be aware of the source of the ingre­di­ents.

In addi­tion to being decep­tive, mis­la­beled oil can pose an aller­gen risk if it has been blended with peanut oil or other unlisted ingre­di­ents.

Once pur­chased, the taste and smell of the olive oil can be fur­ther indi­ca­tors of the qual­ity. If the olive oil seems unusu­ally cheap, it should raise con­cerns.

In 2017, Brazil found that 64 per­cent of the olive oil sam­ples ana­lyzed over the pre­ced­ing two years were not up to label­ing stan­dards. Companies were found to have adul­ter­ated olive oil with cheaper oils, such as soy­bean oil and lam­pante oil, which is not deemed fit for human con­sump­tion.

A test car­ried out last year by Spain’s Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios found that half the national olive oils mar­keted as extra vir­gin failed to meet the stan­dards.

While North America has seen instances of fraud­u­lent olive oil in the past, Dalhousie food expert Sylvain Charlebois told Global News he pre­dicts that in Canada, at least, these num­bers are drop­ping due to increased CFIA test­ing.


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