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Olive Oil Decoy

Jun. 9, 2012
By Olivarama

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Have olive oils become a major com­mer­cial decoy for the food indus­try?

Fortunately, right now nobody ques­tions the numer­ous health ben­e­fits of olive oil, and extra virgin olive oil in par­tic­u­lar. In line with this real­ity, the food indus­try has been strongly invest­ing in the inclu­sion of this prod­uct in its reper­toire for some years now. By doing so, it aims to sat­isfy the demands of its con­sumers as a whole, who are increas­ingly demand­ing health­ier food prod­ucts.

Proof of this lies in the labels that are more and more common in super­mar­kets in which this ingre­di­ent is explic­itly men­tioned, either in the form of images or graphic rep­re­sen­ta­tions of olives, oil cruets or any other motif rem­i­nis­cent of olive juice.

In this sense, to avoid any con­fu­sion among con­sumers, the labelling of all prod­ucts that include olive oils are cur­rently reg­u­lated by the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) nº 29/2012. This text stip­u­lates that, when a com­pany high­lights the use of olive oils, out­side the list of ingre­di­ents, this datum must be accom­pa­nied by the per­cent­age used in rela­tion to the total net weight of the food prod­uct in ques­tion. If it prefers, the busi­ness may replace this infor­ma­tion with the per­cent­age of the olive oil added in rela­tion to the total weight of the fat con­tent, which should be indi­cated under: “per­cent­age of fat con­tent”.

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This reg­u­la­tion is applic­a­ble to all food prod­ucts that include olive oil, with two excep­tions: tuna and sar­dine pre­serves. In the former case, the Council Regulation (EC) nº 1536/92 estab­lishes that the olive oil may only be high­lighted on the label if it is the only fat type used. That is, it may not at any point have been mixed with any other type of edible fat. The same applies to the sar­dine pre­serves which, in their case, are reg­u­lated by Council Regulation (EC) nº 2136/89.

What dif­fer­en­ti­ates virgin olive oils from the extra vir­gins?

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) nº 29/2012 defines extra virgin as a “supe­rior cat­e­gory olive oil obtained directly from the olives and only using mechan­i­cal pro­ce­dures”. For its part, this same doc­u­ment refers to virgin olive oil as that “obtained directly from the olives and only using mechan­i­cal pro­ce­dures”.

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If we look closely, we see that between one descrip­tion and the other, there is just one small dif­fer­ence. In the first case, the extra virgin is defined as “supe­rior cat­e­gory”, a qual­ity which in real­ity, is the only thing that dif­fer­en­ti­ates it from the virgin olive oils.

It is clear that both are juices squeezed directly from the olives, but this does not explain what limits are applied to deter­mine its cor­re­spond­ing cat­e­gories. The dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion, in this case, is deter­mined by a chem­i­cal and a sen­so­r­ial analy­sis.

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In this sense, the chem­i­cal analy­sis serves to estab­lish the free acid­ity in the oil. In its Council Regulation (EC) Nº1513/2001, the European Union estab­lishes that the extra virgin olive oils may have a max­i­mum free acid­ity of 0.8 g per 100 g, while the vir­gins may reach 2 g per 100 g. According to this cri­te­ria, all oils sur­pass­ing the 0.8gr are known simply as virgin oils.

However, a low acid­ity index does not auto­mat­i­cally indi­cate that the oils are always extra virgin. In accor­dance with Council Regulation (EC) nº 640/2008, to deter­mine their clas­si­fi­ca­tion they must be sub­jected to a sen­so­r­ial analy­sis to verify the absence of defects and the pres­ence of the fruity attribute. Those oils in which barely per­cep­ti­ble sen­so­r­ial defects are detected and those in which the fruity attribute is prac­ti­cally absent, will be deemed virgin oils.

Olivarama arti­cles also appear in Olivarama mag­a­zine and are not edited by Olive Oil Times.