`New Study Finds Some Foodservice Olive Oil 'Not Fit for Consumption' - Olive Oil Times

New Study Finds Some Foodservice Olive Oil 'Not Fit for Consumption'

By Curtis Cord
Sep. 18, 2012 14:26 UTC

Some restau­rant and food­ser­vice extra vir­gin” olive oils are so bad, a taste panel found them unfit for human con­sump­tion, accord­ing to a study released today. And while that might not be sur­pris­ing to din­ers, nearly all of the ined­i­ble oils sam­pled actu­ally passed the most com­monly used chem­i­cal purity tests.

The report, from the University of California at Davis Olive Center, revealed that results from chem­i­cal tests that are part of the USDA’s vol­un­tary stan­dards were often at odds with what expert tasters found, and with newer chem­istry meth­ods.

If olive oil is labeled extra vir­gin, it must pass cer­tain chem­i­cal tests and be found free of taste defects by an accred­ited sen­sory panel. The prob­lem is that there are few rec­og­nized pan­els and the olive oils we buy, or are served, are rarely tasted by one.

Newer chem­i­cal test­ing meth­ods (referred to as PPP and DAGs) pro­vide a much more reli­able indi­ca­tion of olive oil qual­ity, but the tech­niques are not part of the USDA or inter­na­tional stan­dards, and are sel­dom used in com­merce.

The report found one extra vir­gin” olive oil brand, Auguri, which is dis­trib­uted by Sysco, was adul­ter­ated with refined canola oil. And in a star­tling indi­ca­tion of foul play, a sam­ple of the brand’s other olive oil” grade was also found to be about 70 per­cent canola.

Numerous reports have revealed the incon­sis­tent qual­ity of olive oils found on super­mar­ket shelves, but today’s study is the first to pull sam­ples from the food­ser­vice sup­ply chain. The food­ser­vice indus­try encom­passes all meals pre­pared out­side of home and is said to be roughly equal in size to sales to con­sumers through gro­cery out­lets.

The find­ings under­score the insti­tu­tional ambiva­lence that lags behind con­sumers’ grow­ing inter­est in the health ben­e­fits and taste char­ac­ter­is­tics of high qual­ity olive oil. A University of California, Berkeley cafe­te­ria menu, for exam­ple, still defines extra vir­gin olive oil as a mix­ture with refined pomace olive oil.

However, today’s study shows that know­ing what the dif­fer­ent grades mean is not enough for insti­tu­tional food buy­ers. Only thor­ough test­ing can deter­mine if they are get­ting extra vir­gin, canola oil, or worse.

Of course there will be a cost, and not just for the test­ing. Foodservice buy­ers might pre­pare them­selves for the sticker shock they will inevitably feel when they learn (if they didn’t already know) that real extra vir­gin olive oil can­not be bought for $2 per liter. The sooner that day comes, the bet­ter for the con­sumers they serve who are show­ing a grow­ing con­cern for food qual­ity.

Samples for the study were obtained for the Olive Center by Sodexo. Sensory analy­ses were con­ducted by pan­els in Australia, Spain and Italy.

Last year, the Olive Center pre­sented a sem­i­nar at the Culinary Institute of America’s Napa Valley cam­pus to help insti­tu­tional buy­ers under­stand olive oil qual­ity issues. The Center’s direc­tor, Dan Flynn, told Olive Oil Times there will be more such ini­tia­tives.

We’re try­ing to push the sci­ence and we have infor­ma­tion on how insti­tu­tional buy­ers can pro­tect them­selves,” Flynn said. Institutional buy­ers need to use bet­ter tests, add them to their own qual­ity con­trol pro­to­cols or urge out­side labs to adopt these mod­ern meth­ods that are bet­ter at deter­min­ing olive oil qual­ity,” he said.

Still, Flynn acknowl­edges, test­ing is expen­sive. We need to do more work on find­ing faster, bet­ter and cheaper meth­ods to assess qual­ity.”


Source: Evaluation of Olive Oil Sold to Restaurants and Foodservice


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