By Daniel Williams
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Barcelona
Spanish extra virgin olive oil, made widely accessible to the public thanks to low-cost bulk bottling, is raising concern from voices within Spain’s oil producing sector. The Andalucían Government, responding to these concerns, is currently implementing measures to control the possible existence of altered, adulterated, or fraudulent olive oil products.
In Andalucía, the Health Ministry, at the behest of the General Office of Consumers, is currently collaborating with the Agricultural Ministry to wage a comprehensive campaign to inspect the quality of olive oil available to consumers throughout the region. The objective of the campaign is to assess the quality of olive oil from low-cost producers, something that has been called into question repeatedly as prices continue to plummet. The inspections are already underway in the provinces of Jaén and Córdoba– the two largest centers of Andalucían olive oil production. In past campaigns, only 5% of the olive oil that was analyzed received a positive rating from inspectors.
During this process, bottles of all sizes and quality will undergo random inspections. Samples are analyzed in laboratories at the Ministry of Agriculture and undergo various tests which look to verify claims made by the labeling. The process ensures that the claims on these labels match the actual quality of the product inside. The inspection also looks to confirm that the bottle’s seal has remained intact and that the olive oil is hitherto untouched. The laboratory studies the chemical makeup of the olive oil, noting its acidity and fatty acid content among other factors, and then makes a final assessment of whether the quality of the product matches its advertising. If a product fails inspection, the company is assessed with fraud and receives the appropriate sanction.
90% of these investigations examine products that advertise themselves as Extra Virgin or Virgin olive oil. Investigators are particularly keen to test olive oil products that are sold in bulk, like those found at major grocery stores. The inspectors will also play close attention to brands that were shown to have adulterated products in the past as well as smaller, unknown brands that have been selling olive oil at well-below the market price.