Increased Attention on Olive Oil Volatile Compounds

Increased attention is being paid to the study of volatile compounds in virgin olive oil and their interactions with the sensory profile.

Apr. 4, 2016
By Ylenia Granitto

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The chem­i­cal mark­ers, in other words the ele­ments that give us the taste and aroma of olive oil, have been ana­lyzed in dif­fer­ent insti­tu­tional seats and con­fer­ences recently: from the EU Commission in Brussels to the chem­i­cal and sen­sory groups of the International Olive Council (IOC) in Madrid, to the Italian soci­ety for the study of fatty sub­stances (SISSG), and dur­ing meet­ings like the International Enological and Bottling Equipment Exhibition con­fer­ence (SIMEI) in Milan.

The results achieved will be used to sup­port the sen­sory method to eval­u­ate extra vir­gin olive oil with an instru­men­tal tool. The goal of the under­way research on volatile com­pounds of olive oil is to iden­tify the mol­e­cules which are rec­og­nized by our sen­sory recep­tors, decod­ing their pres­ence through chem­i­cal para­me­ters,” explained Anna Cane, dur­ing the Symposium on volatile com­pounds of olive oil orga­nized in Rome (26 February) by Assitol, the Italian olive oil indus­try asso­ci­a­tion, with the sup­port of the IOC and the col­lab­o­ra­tion of the SISSG.

Above all, from these stud­ies we can obtain valu­able infor­ma­tion to fight the most insid­i­ous frauds.- Angelo Cremonini, Assitol

It will be finally pos­si­ble to define inno­v­a­tive sci­en­tific instru­ments, made avail­able to the olive oil sec­tor, that can effec­tively sup­port the cur­rent qual­ity and authen­tic­ity con­trol meth­ods of products.” 

This was the start­ing point of the con­fer­ence where the best European researchers on volatiles com­pounds gath­ered, included Carlo Bicchi, pro­fes­sor of Pharmaceutical Biology at the University of Turin; Lanfranco Conte, pro­fes­sor of food chem­istry at the University of Udine; Maurizio Servili, pro­fes­sor of food tech­nol­ogy at the University of Perugia, Stefania Vichi, from the depart­ment of food and nutri­tion at the University of Barcelona; Ramón Aparicio from the Istituto de la Grasa CSIC in Sevilla; Anna Cane, super­vi­sor of tech­ni­cians at Assitol and Mercedes Fernández Albaladejo, the head of the IOC Olive Oil Chemistry and Standardization Unit. 

The rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Central Inspectorate for the pro­tec­tion of qual­ity and fraud pre­ven­tion of food prod­ucts (ICQRF) Angelo Faberi, the pres­i­dent of the olive oil group of Assitol Angelo Cremonini and the gen­eral man­ager of Assitol Claudio Ranzani also attended the event that looked at the future of the qual­ity of olive oil.

Volatile com­pounds of vir­gin olive oils are the vehi­cles by which an intan­gi­ble but com­plex food com­mu­ni­cates a var­ied series of sen­sa­tions and emo­tions to our highly sophis­ti­cated per­cep­tual sys­tem. The odor­ous mol­e­cules that come into con­tact with the myr­iad of olfac­tory neu­rons end­ings (den­drites) placed in the nasal cav­ity in prox­im­ity of the eth­moid, under the cribrose lam­ina deter­mine an absolute con­cert of elec­tri­cal sig­nals which are then decoded both by con­scious brain (orbitofrontal cor­tex) and by the uncon­scious brain (amyg­dala), in order to trig­ger the whole set of emo­tions and sen­sa­tions (stim­uli) that extra vir­gin olive oils can give to their admir­ers. This accord­ing to Carlo Bicchi, who referred to the two Nobel Prizes for Medicine, Richard Axel and Linda B. Buck, for their dis­cov­er­ies of the odor­ant recep­tors and the genetic orga­ni­za­tion of olfac­tory system.

The more you delve into nature and the inti­mate rela­tion­ships between these mol­e­cules and the human per­cep­tual sys­tem, the more you can really know an agri-food prod­uct like olive oil, both in order to har­mo­nize leg­isla­tive sys­tems and improve qual­ity on the basis of the ulti­mate con­sumer need.

The road is not easy nor imme­di­ate, but pos­si­ble fol­low­ing the canons of sci­en­tific research and sup­port­ing young researchers which, at the European level, have accom­plished impor­tant results in the field of chemosen­sory qual­ity con­trol of oils from olives, as pre­sented by Stefania Vichi from the University of Barcelona. Following this path, it will be pos­si­ble to allo­cate to every prin­ci­pal sen­sa­tion a set of odor­ous mol­e­cules that inter­act in var­i­ous ways, as evi­denced by the numer­ous stud­ies car­ried out by Ramon Aparicio. This way it will be pos­si­ble to ver­ify and mon­i­tor more effi­ciently the man­u­fac­tur­ing processes of agri-food prod­ucts in order to sat­isfy the needs, not only qual­i­ta­tive but also emo­tional, of the mod­ern consumer.

We want to com­bine qual­ity research with the needs of the con­sumer, using the tools that sci­ence makes avail­able,” said Angelo Cremonini of Assitol. Promoting a real tast­ing edu­ca­tion and knowl­edge of prod­ucts, the con­sumer will finally become an impor­tant judge of qual­ity and, above all, from these stud­ies we can obtain valu­able infor­ma­tion to fight the most insid­i­ous frauds.”

Experts and entre­pre­neurs have reit­er­ated their com­mit­ment to a greater col­lab­o­ra­tion. The com­mon objec­tive of all the ongo­ing stud­ies is to pro­vide the entire sup­ply chain with inno­v­a­tive instru­ments capa­ble of ver­i­fy­ing the qual­ity and authen­tic­ity of the prod­ucts, stim­u­lat­ing new itin­er­aries of research in order to strengthen meth­ods and para­me­ters of sen­sory analy­sis and pro­vide greater guar­an­tees for oper­a­tors and consumers.


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