49K reads


Olive Pomace Oil: Not What You Might Think

You were seduced by a nice package, low price and claims like "Premium Flavor" or "Made in Italy" before learning you didn't buy olive oil at all. You're not alone.
By Daniel Williams
Sep. 9, 2010 12:21 UTC

Potential Dangers of Pomace Olive Oil: Cheaper is Not Always Better

During my mother’s most recent search for olive oil at a local gro­cer, she selected a cheaper option she had never pur­chased before. This oil was shelved with dozens of other well-known, respectable olive oils, pack­aged in an attrac­tive glass bot­tle, adorned with a hearty olive tree and waver­ing Italian flag, and beneath it all, the mys­te­ri­ous label pomace olive oil.”

Unsure of what this meant exactly, but pleased with the price and the promises of var­i­ous hype words and adver­tis­ing jar­gon, my mother made the buy. Later she real­ized she had pur­chased a lesser grade that lacked the expected fla­vor in her recipes with olive oil.

The imposter’s smell, taste and tex­ture were noth­ing like an extra vir­gin. Upon fur­ther inspec­tion and a quick con­sul­ta­tion of some sources, we dis­cov­ered that my mother and many other con­sumers com­plain­ing vehe­mently over the inter­net had unwit­tingly pur­chased a bas­tardized prod­uct that was­n’t even olive oil — but some­thing called olive pomace oil.”

Further research revealed that the Spanish gov­ern­ment, noto­ri­ous for its strict reg­u­la­tion of olive oil prod­ucts, had tem­porar­ily banned the sale of this grade of olive oil in July 2001.

I had never heard of pomace olive oil, and after a quick sur­vey of friends and fam­ily, I dis­cov­ered I was not alone. I was astounded by my own igno­rance of this prod­uct and that of the gen­eral pub­lic, espe­cially con­sid­er­ing the poten­tial dan­gers of con­sum­ing pomace oil from unreg­u­lated pro­duc­ers. So, just what is pomace olive oil, exactly?

While extra vir­gin olive oil is often denoted as being first cold press,” what is termed pomace oil” can­not even qual­ify as being sec­ond press.” Once the typ­i­cal, mech­a­nized extrac­tion of olive oil from the olive fruit is com­plete, some 5 to 8 per­cent of the oil remains in the left­over olive pulp or pomace.” Although the extracted pomace oil is still tech­ni­cally oil that comes from olives, this is done via chem­i­cal sol­vents and, there­fore, should never be termed, directly or indi­rectly, as olive oil.”

The International Olive Council (IOC), the inter­gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion respon­si­ble for out­lin­ing qual­ity stan­dards and mon­i­tor­ing olive oil authen­tic­ity, clearly defines olive oil as oil obtained solely from the fruit of the olive tree, to the exclu­sion of oils obtained using sol­vents or re-ester­i­fi­ca­tion processes.” The amount of oil con­tained in the left­over pomace, which con­sists of the solid remains of the olive, includ­ing skins, pulp, seeds, and stems, is so min­i­mal that it can­not be extracted by press­ing but only through the com­bined use of chem­i­cal sol­vents (like Hexane) and extremely high heat.

See Also:International Standard for Olive Oil (IOC)

This process, the same high heat tech­nique used in pro­duc­ing canola, sun­flower, and other veg­etable oils, is why unreg­u­lated olive pomace oil some­times con­tains harm­ful com­po­nents known as poly­cyclic aro­matic hydro­car­bons (PAHs) like ben­zopy­rene, which research has shown to be highly car­cino­genic and muta­genic. Benzopyrene results from the incom­plete com­bus­tion of the fats present in the olives. Benzopyrenes are likely to be pro­duced when fats are exposed to high heat lev­els, like in the pomace oil extrac­tion processes where there is no com­plete com­bus­tion and no smoke is pro­duced.

The process to extract olive pomace oil is as fol­lows: a chem­i­cal sol­vent is first admin­is­tered to the olive pomace, which can dis­solve the fats but not the rest of the solid pomace. This appli­ca­tion extracts the oil, and then the prod­uct is heated in a refin­ing process. Hence, the sol­vent evap­o­rates com­pletely and cleanly with­out leav­ing any harm­ful residue — so long that this heat­ing method does not exceed 90 degrees Celsius (194°F). Using this sys­tem, the final prod­uct will not likely con­tain poly­cyclic aro­matic hydro­car­bons (PAHs) like ben­zopy­rene.

The risk of ben­zopy­rene con­t­a­m­i­na­tion occurs when the heat­ing method used to evap­o­rate the sol­vent exceeds 300 degrees Celsius (572°F). In these instances, the fat is liq­ue­fied into fluid and then drips out of the olive pomace, but the prob­lem is that the insanely high heat results in the par­tial com­bus­tion of the oil with the rest of the phys­i­cal pomace. This can cause the rapid accu­mu­la­tion of ben­zopy­renes in the final prod­uct.

In heat appli­ca­tions above 300°C, the result­ing oil comes with a def­i­nite health risk for con­sumers, which depends entirely on the aggres­sive­ness of the heat treat­ment and the amount and fre­quency of the pomace oil con­sumed. Because the degree of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion depends on the type of treat­ment used, health author­i­ties must clar­ify what kind of treat­ment has been applied to pro­duce par­tic­u­lar pomace oils and estab­lish a per­mis­si­ble limit on the amount of ben­zopy­renes present.

After press­ing olive oil, the left-over pulp and pits will be picked up for refin­ing into olive pomace oil.

Benzopyrenes, being highly reac­tive fats, can dis­solve eas­ily into cel­lu­lar mem­branes and enter a cell’s inte­rior. This result­ing action has been shown to cause either intra­cel­lu­lar oxi­da­tion – the age­ing and death of cells – or an intox­i­ca­tion which results in the muta­ge­n­e­sis of the genetic mate­r­ial in the cell’s nucleus. In some instances, this spreads as an uncon­trolled mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of dam­aged cells which can result in a can­cer­ous tumor.

Concerned about the lev­els of PAHs like ben­zopy­rene in pomace oil, the Spanish gov­ern­ment intro­duced a tem­po­rary ban on pomace oil in July 2001 and halted all exports of pomace oil until tests were con­ducted and lim­its of the allow­able amounts of PAHs present in the oil were made con­crete.

Other coun­tries fol­lowed suit: the New Zealand Health and Food Safety Authority recalled olive pomace oil from sev­eral man­u­fac­tur­ers, and the German min­istry acted sim­i­larly, issu­ing this warn­ing: As a pre­ven­ta­tive health pro­tec­tion mea­sure, the min­istry for con­sumer affairs, nutri­tion and agri­cul­ture has appealed to the German states and indus­try to review the remains of the 170 tons of Spanish olive-pomace oil and prod­ucts con­tain­ing this oil.”

It later became appar­ent that other affected batches were pro­duced in Greece (Bevelini Olive Pomace Oil) and oth­ers from Italy (Dentamano Olio di Sansa de Oliva). In the Bevelini prod­uct, for exam­ple, a batch was reported to con­tain 100 parts per bil­lion of ben­zopy­rene — over 50 times the limit advised by the International Olive Council. And although human expo­sure to PAHs is some­thing of the quo­tid­ian — as they are also cre­ated with the com­bus­tion of fos­sil fuels, burn­ing trash, agri­cul­tural fires, indus­trial processes, tobacco smoke and vehi­cle exhaust emis­sions — our expo­sure to PAHs should be as lim­ited as much as pos­si­ble, espe­cially when ingest­ing food.

As a result, spe­cific stan­dards have been set in var­i­ous regions of the world lim­it­ing the allow­able amount of ben­zopy­renes in pomace olive oil. As men­tioned pre­vi­ously, within the European Union and in mem­ber states of the IOC, the limit is two parts per bil­lion or two micro­grams per kilo­gram, as decided in Resolution RES‑1/93-IV/05 Madrid in November of 2005.


With that said, how­ever, in other olive oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries which are non-IOC mem­bers (India, emerg­ing Middle Eastern pro­duc­ers, sev­eral Latin American states, and even the United States, where retail grades have no legal mean­ing), such strin­gent stan­dards are not enforced. Therefore the pur­chase of pomace oil prod­ucts from these regions is not advis­able.

Even with the reg­u­la­tion of PAHs in pomace oil, culi­nary afi­ciona­dos and olive oil con­nois­seurs world­wide are still highly resis­tant to using olive pomace oil as a wor­thy cook­ing agent. From a sen­sory stand­point, it lacks extra vir­gin olive oil’s fla­vor, del­i­cacy, and boun­ti­ful health­ful prop­er­ties. If used in the kitchen at all, pomace oil is mostly used in indus­trial set­tings or restau­rants as a deep fry­ing agent because of its high smoke point (240 degrees Celsius).

Unfortunately, we some­times buy olive pomace oil unin­ten­tion­ally, thanks to uneth­i­cal pro­duc­ers known to com­mit fraud by mis­la­bel­ing cans or bot­tles of olive pomace oil.
See Also:Trade Group Sues Olive Oil Producer for Deceptive Labeling
But it’s also impor­tant to note that the process by which pomace oil is extracted is no dif­fer­ent to the process used to extract other con­ven­tional cook­ing oils such as corn, soy, sun­flower, saf­flower, canola, or cot­ton­seed and in com­par­i­son to these oils, pomace oil still retains olive oil’s basic lipid pro­file and there­fore boasts high lev­els of oleano­lic acid which have been proven to relieve states of hyper­ten­sion and high blood pres­sure.

If you do hap­pen to acci­den­tally buy a bot­tle of pomace oil and are still resis­tant to the idea of using it as a cook­ing agent, you need not throw it away as there are a num­ber of uses for it. Because it is monoun­sat­u­rated fat, it is a bet­ter choice for cook­ing than other seed oils like canola, sun­flower or peanut. Unwanted pomace oil can also cre­ate soap or lubri­cate grill racks or pans. But with all of the avail­able olive oils on the mar­ket today, it’s in your best inter­est to stick to extra vir­gin from a health and culi­nary stand­point. Your taste buds will thank you.

April 22, 2023 00:43 (UTC)


Related Articles