`Test to Detect Explosives Also Finds Bad Olive Oil - Olive Oil Times

Test to Detect Explosives Also Finds Bad Olive Oil

Aug. 2, 2012
Naomi Tupper

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Photo: waters.com

Researchers at the University of Córdoba have proven that ion mobil­ity spec­trom­e­try, the ana­lyt­i­cal tech­nique most com­monly used to detect explo­sives and drugs at air­ports, is also effec­tive for iden­ti­fy­ing fraud­u­lent olive oil.

Olive oil falsely labelled as extra vir­gin is a major prob­lem in the olive oil sec­tor, with no one effec­tive ana­lyt­i­cal method to iden­tify and reveal fraud. Current analy­ses to deter­mine if an olive oil is in fact extra vir­gin rely on sen­sory eval­u­a­tion in con­junc­tion with a num­ber of ana­lyt­i­cal tests, with no test deemed com­pletely effec­tive for detec­tion.

Current chem­i­cal tests, includ­ing deter­mi­na­tion of free acid­ity, per­ox­ide value, wax con­tent, fatty acid, sterol, and triglyc­eride com­po­si­tion, are often inef­fec­tive in detect­ing adul­ter­ated oils. These oils are typ­i­cally mixed with lower grade olive oils which have been chem­i­cally deodor­ized, mak­ing them dif­fi­cult to iden­tify.

Federal food and drug guide­lines state that to be labeled as extra vir­gin, the oil must be low acid­ity, com­prise entirely of oil from the olive fruit and be cold pressed. The oil must also undergo a series of chem­i­cal and sen­sory tests.

The appli­ca­tion of ion mobil­ity spec­trom­e­try, used to iden­tify explo­sives in both air­ports and mil­i­tary use, is cur­rently being inves­ti­gated for use in a wide vari­ety of areas in the agri­cul­ture and food sec­tors. The tech­nique is thought to have poten­tial in deter­min­ing the fresh­ness of fish, dis­tin­guish­ing between white wines and pro­vid­ing more accu­rate deter­mi­na­tion of olive oil as extra vir­gin.


The tech­nique has been pro­posed for use as a screen­ing sys­tem when applied to the olive sec­tor to allow quick, easy, and eco­nom­i­cal analy­sis of oil sam­ples to deter­mine their cat­e­gory. The process involves the heat­ing of one gram of oil in a vial to 60 degrees Celsius and gen­er­at­ing volatile com­pounds, which can then be sep­a­rated by size, charge, and mass. These are ana­lyzed to pro­duce a spec­trum, which can be inter­preted to deter­mine if the oil is extra vir­gin or not.

With the whole process tak­ing around fif­teen min­utes per sam­ple, the new approach to iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is sig­nif­i­cantly faster than cur­rent meth­ods which can take around eight hours. This time sav­ing, along with the lack of need for sam­ple pre­treat­ment and the 90 per­cent reli­a­bil­ity of the tech­nique, could make it an attrac­tive option to help with the issue of fraud in the sec­tor.

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