` Students Design Device to Detect Indicators of Rancidity

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Students Design Device to Detect Indicators of Rancidity

Oct. 24, 2014
By Sukhsatej Batra

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Although U.S. con­sumers pay for olive oil that is fresh, aro­matic, and full of health ben­e­fits, a report by the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Davis Olive Cen­ter found that almost 70 per­cent of the olive oil sold at some Cal­i­for­nia super­mar­kets was sub­stan­dard. That lack of qual­ity moti­vated a group pf Davis stu­dents to invent a device that detects ran­cid­ity, a com­mon defect in old, oxi­dized olive oil.

Ran­cid­ity changes those sought-after fresh, fruity and grassy fla­vors of extra vir­gin olive oil to some­thing more like crayons or Play-Doh,” said Dan Flynn, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the UC Davis Olive Cen­ter.

Olive oil can become ran­cid with oxi­da­tion result­ing in the loss of nutri­ents, includ­ing the valu­able antiox­i­dants respon­si­ble for numer­ous health ben­e­fits asso­ci­ated with con­sump­tion of EVOO.

Most peo­ple don’t know how to detect ran­cid olive oil just by tast­ing it. In fact another Davis study showed that when peo­ple blind-taste an old, ran­cid olive oil and a fresh, health­ful one, they pre­ferred the ran­cid, thanks to years of being famil­iar with the taste and an aver­sion to the bit­ter­ness in high-qual­ity EVOOs.

The new method devel­oped by the Davis stu­dents is sim­ple, tar­geted, and can screen for the chem­i­cal makeup brought on by ran­cid­ity, said Flynn.
See more: How to Rec­og­nize Ran­cid­ity
In devel­op­ing their inven­tion, called Oil­View, the stu­dents first iden­ti­fied alde­hy­des as the group of chem­i­cals that change when olive oil becomes ran­cid. They then engi­neered pro­teins and devel­oped an elec­tro­chem­i­cal sys­tem that would detect enzyme activ­ity. The final prod­uct is an enzyme-based biosen­sor that detects for spe­cific alde­hy­des found in ran­cid olive oil. Math­e­mat­i­cal and soft­ware suites fur­ther help iden­tify the degree of ran­cid­ity.

The stu­dents believe that use of their inex­pen­sive device at dif­fer­ent stages of olive oil pro­duc­tion by olive oil pro­duc­ers, and of ran­dom bot­tles by retail­ers will ensure that cus­tomers are get­ting high qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil. The device is expected to cost $60 to $80, and will likely be avail­able in the mar­ket in 1 to 2 years.

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Last month, Baidu, a lead­ing Chi­nese Inter­net search engine and web ser­vices com­pany, turned heads when it unveiled its lat­est inno­va­tion at the Baidu World Tech­nol­ogy Con­fer­ence — chop­sticks designed to detect con­t­a­m­i­nated olive oils or oils of sub­stan­dard qual­ity.


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