A Portuguese consumer watchdog has called for more vigilance for olive oil fraud, amid its claims that one in five extra virgin olive oils recently tested were unfit for that label.
DECO says the sensory evaluation of 25 extra virgin olive oil brands sold in Portugal found that four — Auchan (Moura PDO) , É, Grão Mestre and Naturfoods Biológico — had defects disqualifiying them from classification as extra virgin.
And it said a set of tests showed that Alfandagh brand organic extra virgin olive oil was not an olive oil but a mix of refined vegetable oils. This amounted to fraud and was unacceptabe, it said.
Need for more inspections
In the September edition of its Proteste magazine, DECO said the test results would dent consumer confidence. Some people were paying more because they wanted an extra virgin olive oil but were not getting that, DECO argued, and it called for the five brands to be removed from store shelves.
“We demand more vigilance on several fronts — from the mills to the packers, and the super and hypermarkets — to prevent the olive oil industry as a whole falling under suspicion due to the findings of our tests.”
“The quality of the olives and the extraction process itself could also be improved by following best practices, such as the correct processes in olive groves,” it said.
Alfandagh producer refutes results
On behalf of Alfandagh producer M. C. Rabaçal & Aragão, Casa Aragão director Artur Aragão refuted the Alfandagh test results, saying they were conflicting. The sensory test results reflected an extra virgin olive oil but the chemical ones suggested the oil was not even olive oil.
It was “somewhat irresponsible” to accuse a whole brand on the basis of testing of one lot, when there may have been some kind of problem with that small lot only, he told Portuguese news agency Lusa.
Aragão said the family business underwent regular testing of its olive oil by an outside company “from the olive harvest to point of sale .”
“We are continually being monitored and blindly, without our knowledge, so we never run the risk of jeopardizing the work of a lifetime ,” he said.
Alfandagh was among the recipients of Prestige Gold awards at this year’s Terraolivo competition in Jerusalem.
The top olive oils also among the cheapest
DECO told Olive Oil Times it was unable to provide copies of the laboratory test reports as these were for internal use only by the association.
On its website it says that the analysis included a set of physical-chemical tests established in European legislation, and organoleptic analysis by a taste panel. Its Proteste magazine gives general ratings for the 25 oils according to factors including acidity, peroxide value, ultraviolet absorption and alkyl ester levels.
The top two extra virgin olive oils in its test analysis – Dia Clássico (Minipreço)and Gallo Clássico – were also among the cheapest.
Only two of the tested oils carried the date of bottling.