EU Project Aims to Improve Mediterranean Olive Oil Sector Competitiveness

A new project will develop quality control and production techniques to aid producers while educating consumers about high-phenolic olive oil's health benefits and certifying those health benefits

Olympia Awards 2017 Conference
Jul. 6, 2017
By Lisa Radinovsky
Olympia Awards 2017 Conference

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The European Regional Development Fund is fund­ing a five-coun­try project which aims to increase Mediterranean olive oil pro­duc­ers’ com­pet­i­tive­ness by devel­op­ing and apply­ing inno­v­a­tive pro­duc­tion and qual­ity con­trol method­olo­gies lead­ing to olive oil with enhanced health pro­tect­ing prop­er­ties” as rec­og­nized by EU reg­u­la­tion 432/2012. Part of the ARISTOIL project will be a new, non-profit World Olive Center for Health, which will involve both European and American sci­en­tists.

Prominent Greek politi­cians and Greek, Cypriot, and American sci­en­tists and olive oil pro­duc­ers attended an event at the his­toric old par­lia­ment build­ing in Athens on May 11. There, Nikolaos Krimnianiotis and Prokopios Magiatis pre­sented an overview of the project and pro­fes­sors shared find­ings from recent stud­ies, the UC Davis Olive Center’s Dan Flynn dis­cussed olive oil mar­ket­ing, Eleni Melliou explained the role of the World Olive Center for Health, and Olympia Health & Nutrition Awards were pre­sented to the pro­duc­ers of very high phe­no­lic extra vir­gin olive oils.

The event intro­duced the European Interreg Med ARISTOIL project, which includes ten main part­ners from Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus, and Croatia, as well as sev­eral more asso­ciate part­ners. The ARISTOIL project descrip­tion on its LinkedIn page points out that 95 per­cent of the world’s olive oil is pro­duced in the Mediterranean,” where the low aver­age price of olive oil com­pared with its pro­duc­tion costs com­bines with com­pe­ti­tion from seed oils from other regions to cre­ate seri­ous finan­cial chal­lenges in the olive oil sec­tor.

To help alle­vi­ate these dif­fi­cul­ties, the project will develop inno­v­a­tive qual­ity con­trol and pro­duc­tion tech­niques to aid pro­duc­ers who wish to make espe­cially healthy extra vir­gin olive oil, as well as edu­cat­ing con­sumers about high-phe­no­lic olive oil’s health ben­e­fits and cer­ti­fy­ing those health ben­e­fits accord­ing to EU reg­u­la­tion 432/2012 (the only offi­cial European health claim for olive oil).

More specif­i­cally, as its LinkedIn page indi­cates, the project will sup­port the pro­duc­tion of an inno­v­a­tive olive oil prod­uct … which can be used by pro­duc­ers for fast oil analy­sis in the field” to help them deter­mine when to col­lect olives to pro­duce the high­est phe­no­lic olive oil. Producers will receive clear infor­ma­tion and a guide to olive oil pro­duc­tion. Training ses­sions and sem­i­nars for olive oil pro­duc­ers and millers are expected to edu­cate par­tic­i­pants about inno­v­a­tive pro­duc­tion meth­ods and tools. Information days” for con­sumers in the par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries will inform on the health ben­e­fits of high-phe­no­lic olive oil. Websites will reach out to con­sumers in other parts of the world, as project mem­bers will do at inter­na­tional expo­si­tions.

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Seeking to develop a high-qual­ity’ brand for olive oil pro­duced in the Med area meet­ing min­i­mum spe­cific stan­dards,” the ARISTOIL project will develop a stan­dard­ized pro­ce­dure for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of olive oil with the EU health claim. The project will estab­lish two cer­ti­fi­ca­tion cen­ters, one in Spain, the other the recently announced World Olive Center for Health in Greece. Furthermore, a Mediterranean Cluster of olive oil sec­tor key actors will be devel­oped … to facil­i­tate net­work­ing and coop­er­a­tion” through­out the region. Communication will be sup­ported via a web­site cur­rently under con­struc­tion which will share infor­ma­tion about new mar­ket oppor­tu­ni­ties, exhi­bi­tions, sem­i­nars, demand and other ideas” (even­tu­ally in English and Greek).

Prokopios Magiatis, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor in the fac­ulty of phar­macy at the University of Athens, explained to Olive Oil Times that the non-profit World Olive Center for Health will not only cer­tify olive oils with health claims, but also orga­nize the Olympia Health & Nutrition Awards for high-phe­no­lic olive oils in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the University of Athens. Moreover, the broader pur­pose of the cen­ter in the future is to per­form or sup­port research related to all aspects of olive prod­ucts and health.”

Magiatis and University of Athens food sci­en­tist and chemist Eleni Melliou will have the main respon­si­bil­ity for the oper­a­tion of the cen­ter because it will be based in Greece,” as Magiatis reported. Founding mem­bers also include Stefanos Kales from Harvard Medical School, Diomedes Logothetis from Northeastern University’s College of Health Sciences, and Dan Flynn from the University of California Davis; more sci­en­tists will join in the future. Temporarily housed at the University of Athens, the center’s main offices will remain in Athens, with addi­tional offices in other cities.

The Greek Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Food, Vassilios Kokkalis, attended the cer­e­mony announc­ing the estab­lish­ment of the World Olive Center for Health, not­ing that if the com­pet­i­tive­ness of the olive oil indus­try in the Mediterranean is strength­ened, that will also increase the income of olive grow­ers. As Evangelos Mitrousias wrote for ERT, the pub­lic Greek radio and TV web­site, the cer­e­mony for the estab­lish­ment of the cen­ter was pre­ceded by the graft­ing of an olive tree from the sacred site of Pnyx with the Olympia vari­ety from Ancient Olympia, sym­bol­iz­ing a jour­ney to a new era in the land of olive oil, in Greece and inter­na­tion­ally.”



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