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Olive Oil Decoy

Jun. 9, 2012
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”.

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”.

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.

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.

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