Business

Spanish Bottlers Advised to Demand Taste Tests

Spanish bottling companies have been advised to request taste panel results along with the chemical analyses to ensure their products comply with standards.

Mar. 7, 2017
By Alexis Kerner

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There are many shades of good extra virgin olive oil. It can range from light yellow to a bright green. However, when it is orange, it is most likely rancid.

We caught up with shop­pers in a large Seville super­mar­ket to ask their opin­ion of the hun­dreds of jugs of orange-col­ored olive oil on offer. “There is some­thing wrong with that oil. I would not buy it,” one woman told Olive Oil Times. They couldn’t exactly pin­point the prob­lem but con­sumers did rec­og­nize it was likely of poor qual­ity.

When we spoke with the store man­ager, he was unaware that the olive oil could be rancid. He told us that his com­pany had informed him that the olive oil was fine. He went on to explain that it changes to an orange hue from the sun­light.

He was right. The olive oil that was on the shelves clos­est to the light had a higher orange inten­sity. Unfortunately, he lacked knowl­edge on qual­ity con­trol and was mis­in­formed on the label­ing stan­dards that the prod­uct was now clearly vio­lat­ing.

After pur­chas­ing three of the most ‘rancid-look­ing’ olive oils labeled as extra virgin and infor­mally tast­ing them with other experts, it was evi­dent the prod­ucts were not just rancid but they also pos­sessed faults such as muddy sed­i­ment and winey, clearly not extra virgin.

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The International Olive Council (IOC) has estab­lished stan­dards and guide­lines for “panel test,” a method that clas­si­fies olive oil grades by imple­ment­ing 8 to 12 trained tast­ing experts. To date, this is still the best and most cost-effec­tive pro­ce­dure to mea­sure organolep­tic qual­ity. When a panel is unan­i­mous that an olive oil has a spe­cific fault, the prod­uct cannot be labeled as extra virgin. This method is applic­a­ble to all olive oils that are pro­duced in IOC member coun­tries.

Who is liable for a prod­uct that is labeled as extra virgin olive oil but does not pass these stan­dards? Perhaps, the super­mar­ket plays a role in the prod­uct being rancid by not fol­low­ing instruc­tions to keep it away from the light. However, much of the respon­si­bil­ity lies with the bot­tling and export­ing com­pa­nies.

Recently, bot­tling com­pa­nies in Spain have found them­selves under increased scrutiny regard­ing the panel test, and it is rais­ing legal issues that are wor­ry­ing many bot­tling com­pa­nies.

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According to AgroNegocios, the board of direc­tors of Anierac (National Association for Industrial Bottling and Refineries of Edible Oil) and Asoliva (Spanish Association for Industrial and Commercial Exporters of Olive Oil) spoke out con­firm­ing that, “the bot­tling com­pa­nies have a respon­si­bil­ity to ensure that the prod­ucts they are bot­tling and sell­ing cor­re­spond with the char­ac­ter­is­tics pre­sented in the label.”

The board of direc­tors advised these com­pa­nies to request a recent cer­tifi­cate (no more than three months old) car­ried out by an accred­ited lab­o­ra­tory from all of their providers. The cer­tifi­cate, they explained, should include results for both the physic­o­chem­i­cal and organolep­tic (panel) tests.

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The sub­jec­tiv­ity of the panel test has also been under a per­pet­ual debate within the olive oil sector. Perhaps, Anuncia Carpio, a top Spanish taster explained the impor­tance of the panel test best: “To get rid of the test would ulti­mately hurt the pro­duc­ers as well as bot­tling com­pa­nies. It would give free reign to large dis­trib­u­tors. If these large com­pa­nies are able to play with prices and vol­umes now, I can’t imag­ine what they could do with­out an organolep­tic analy­sis.”