` Chemists' Meeting Shows Growing Interest in Olive Oil

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Annual Chemists' Meeting Shows Growing Interest in Olive Oil

May. 7, 2013
By Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne

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Patrick J. Don­nelly, chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of the Amer­i­can Oil Chemists’ Soci­ety, addressed the group at its annual meet­ing in Mon­treal on April 28, 2013.

The 104th Amer­i­can Oil Chemists’ Soci­ety (AOCS) Annual Meet­ing & Expo took place April 28 – May 1, 2013 at the Palais des con­grès in Mon­tréal, Canada with 1500 peo­ple in atten­dance. The scope of the annual meet­ing is broad — there were over 500 pre­sen­ta­tions on all areas of fats and oils, reflect­ing the wide range of AOCS’s activ­i­ties — but olive oil is attract­ing increas­ing atten­tion in this sci­en­tific com­mu­nity.

AOCS traces its his­tory back to 1909 and the cot­ton­seed indus­try, and has always had at its core the devel­op­ment and assess­ment of ana­lyt­i­cal meth­ods for oils. It has grown from its U.S. roots to become an inter­na­tional orga­ni­za­tion, with mem­bers and affil­i­ates around the globe. One of the essen­tial ser­vices of AOCS is its pro­fi­ciency test­ing pro­gram for lab­o­ra­to­ries which sends peri­odic oil sam­ples to par­tic­i­pat­ing labs around the world for analy­sis. AOCS then eval­u­ates the results, com­par­ing them to the known val­ues of the sam­ples, and pro­vides feed­back to the lab­o­ra­tory. Only when a lab con­sis­tently per­forms with accu­racy and pre­ci­sion on these tests can it be granted AOCS accred­i­ta­tion.

In 2012, AOCS launched its olive oil sen­sory panel pro­fi­ciency test­ing series in response to a world­wide demand for more trained and pro­fi­cient sen­sory pan­els to assess olive oil qual­ity. The Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil (IOC) pro­gram of sen­sory panel recog­ni­tion is avail­able only to a lim­ited group of pan­els, namely those affil­i­ated with a gov­ern­ment agency. Since there are many pan­els attached to pri­vate labs, insti­tutes and com­pa­nies that are not eli­gi­ble for IOC recog­ni­tion, AOCS stepped in with its olive oil sen­sory panel pro­fi­ciency test­ing pro­gram which is open to all com­pli­ant olive oil taste pan­els.

An update on the sen­sory pro­fi­ciency test­ing pro­gram was a topic at one of the olive oil meet­ings. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from par­tic­i­pat­ing pan­els in the USA and else­where got a look at an anony­mous sum­mary of the results from the two rounds of sam­ples eval­u­ated to date and had an oppor­tu­nity to give feed­back. The 2013 series will include twice the num­ber of sam­ples — four rounds of four sam­ples each.

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The largest olive oil event was the 5th meet­ing of the AOCS Expert Panel on Olive Oil chaired by Richard Cantrill, AOCS Chief Sci­ence Offi­cer and Tech­ni­cal Direc­tor. There were updates on the progress of olive oil stan­dards around the world. Paul Miller of the Aus­tralian Olive Asso­ci­a­tion — who advo­cated for the for­ma­tion of the olive oil expert panel — reported that the Aus­tralian stan­dard adopted in 2011 was finally get­ting some trac­tion with retail­ers and domes­tic and imported brands in Aus­tralia who are using it as a point of qual­ity in their mar­ket­ing. South Africa is also mak­ing progress on adopt­ing a stan­dard sim­i­lar to the one in Aus­tralia.

Miller cred­ited the sem­i­nal work in North­ern Europe where qual­ity para­me­ters are being used by retail­ers to mon­i­tor the qual­ity of olive oil over time. He also out­lined the efforts under­way in Italy to adopt a gov­ern­ment stan­dard for a grade of high qual­ity extra vir­gin. There are ongo­ing efforts in Turkey and Israel to develop new stan­dards as well. In an aside, Miller men­tioned the chal­lenges pre­sented by China as an export mar­ket, where test results for unex­pected things such as afla­toxin are some­times required.

The USDA Qual­ity Mon­i­tor­ing Pro­gram (QMP) was expanded to include olive oil in April 2012. At the Expert Panel meet­ing, the QMP update revealed that the pro­gram still has only one par­tic­i­pat­ing com­pany, Pom­peian olive oil. The rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a domes­tic olive oil pro­ducer com­mented on this, say­ing his com­pany had inves­ti­gated the pro­gram but found it not fea­si­ble because of the bur­dens imposed by the test­ing pro­to­col.

An update from Dan Flynn of the UC Davis Olive Cen­ter briefed the group on the work of the past year. A sur­vey of food­ser­vice olive oils to fol­low up on the two UCD reports on super­mar­ket olive oils was pub­lished in Sep­tem­ber 2012. The results from fif­teen extra vir­gin and eight olive oil grade sam­ples sourced from a major food ser­vice sup­plier, found one canola-adul­ter­ated sam­ple per cat­e­gory, and over­all qual­ity and sen­sory test­ing found 60 per­cent of the sam­ples not up to grade. There was also men­tion of test­ing on Cal­i­for­nia olive oils to learn about the nat­ural chem­istry of the oil (fatty acid pro­files, etc) and ongo­ing research to cor­re­late chem­i­cal mark­ers with sen­sory per­cep­tion of ran­cid­ity.

In a dis­cus­sion about test­ing meth­ods, Clau­dia Guil­laume of Mod­ern Olives talked about her work over many years with pyropheo­phytin (PPP) and dia­cyl­glyc­erol (DAG) tests. She has retained sam­ples of olive oils since 2010 and is test­ing them peri­od­i­cally to chart their chem­istry as they age up to and beyond their Best Before Date (BBD). She reported that her find­ings are very con­sis­tent: PPP rises at 6 – 8% per year, and DAGs decline at 20 – 25 per­cent. The rela­tion­ship between these indices and the free fatty acids (FFA) and ultra­vi­o­let (UV) results give a lot of infor­ma­tion about the his­tory of an oil — its qual­ity when it was pro­duced, and how it has been treated since then, she said. Guil­laume also described the method­ol­ogy she uses to deter­mine a tech­ni­cally sound BBD, incor­po­rat­ing DAG, PPP, UV, FFA and Ranci­mat test­ing.

The chal­lenges fac­ing olive oil in the sup­ply chain were a big topic. A new stan­dard for flex­i­tank lin­ers is under devel­op­ment with a focus on the phys­i­cal integrity of the bags. Input from the group on this topic was noted by John Han­cock, rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Fed­er­a­tion of Oils, Seeds and Fats Asso­ci­a­tions (FOSFA), an inter­na­tional body deal­ing with world trade in fats and oils. Oxy­gen per­me­abil­ity, leach­ing and absorbance were all sug­gested by panel mem­bers as impor­tant issues for olive oil con­tain­ers. The need for recy­cling was also men­tioned, as a way of pre­vent­ing the reuse of lin­ers.

In the Expert Com­mit­tee meet­ing and at a sub­se­quent study par­tic­i­pant meet­ing, there was an update on an AOCS-led study into the effects of aging on olive oil. The study is look­ing at the changes in the chem­istry and sen­sory prop­er­ties of olive oil over time, using both stan­dard tests and meth­ods, and the lat­est and great­est” in instru­ment tech­nol­ogy. The pri­mary topic of con­ver­sa­tion was improve­ments and expan­sion of the project for the upcom­ing year, with par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to the idea of an optional stress test” of the sam­ples for addi­tional infor­ma­tion. A pro­to­col will be enu­mer­ated for accel­er­at­ing the aging of the sam­ples so that labs and pan­els that may wish to go fur­ther with their test­ing to mea­sure accel­er­ated degra­da­tion effects in the oil.

In addi­tion to the focus of the olive oil Expert Panel and study par­tic­i­pant meet­ings, olive oil was the topic of a num­ber of posters pre­sented at the meet­ing. Projects on faster test­ing for PPP, olive oil stor­age tem­per­a­tures, geo­graphic ori­gin char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and the health effects of olive oil on women with dia­betes were pre­sented dur­ing the poster ses­sion. There was also a seg­ment dur­ing the Ran­cid­ity and Antiox­i­dant Assess­ment ses­sion on inter­pret­ing the sen­sory qual­ity of vir­gin olive oil using volatile mark­ers. D.L. Gar­cía González from Seville, Spain, pre­sented his work on the brain activ­ity of peo­ple smelling var­i­ous volatile com­pounds. The com­pli­cated nature of draw­ing con­clu­sions about the reli­a­bil­ity of volatile analy­sis for detect­ing defects was evi­dent, due to the com­plex rela­tion­ships in our sen­sory per­cep­tion of odors — com­pet­i­tive effects for exam­ple — which make it dif­fi­cult to know from a mechan­i­cal analy­sis of the volatiles what the final sen­sory per­cep­tion will be. Fur­ther work is needed on volatile inter­ac­tions,” said González, We are far from replac­ing sen­sory pan­els.”

AOCS Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer Pat Don­nelly, shared his views on olive oil. Since olive oil is not my back­ground, I am com­ing at this from the per­spec­tive of a con­sumer. I am learn­ing what’s behind the pro­duc­tion and sup­ply chain issues, and qual­ity stan­dards,” he said. The con­sum­ing pub­lic doesn’t under­stand all this.”

When asked about the role of AOCS in the olive oil indus­try, Don­nelly said, We can advance the sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, the devel­op­ment of stan­dards, as we have in all the indus­tries we’re involved with. Then we hope con­sumer and gov­ern­ment enti­ties will use the infor­ma­tion to make informed deci­sions.” As Don­nelly put it, We are about the sci­ence.”

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