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Olive oil

Mitigate the risk of origin fraud in olive oil by testing your products

Olive oil is continually touted by regulators and watchdogs as one of the highest risk products for food fraud and adulteration.

 

It is well known that when poor harvests occur in the main olive oil-producing countries, the demand for olive oil doesn’t drop. A poor harvest in early 2016 skyrocketed the price of olive oil. Regulators commonly report suspicions that producers are finding ways to ‘stretch’ what they currently have to meet demand or take advantage of the high price when the rest of the market is hampered by a poor harvest.

 

One of the ways unscrupulous producers may be stretching out their olive supply is by simply buying more olives from outside of their normal appellation. Whereas a producer may be producing ‘Greek’, ‘Spanish’ or ‘Italian’ labelled oils, they may be using olives bought from outside the declared country.

Olive oil testing services:

 • Origin analysis

        • Italy

        • Spain

        • Greece

        • Portugal

 • Detection of petroleum hydrocarbons

 • Batch consistency analysis

 

Call now for more information on olive oil analytical tests offered by Agroisolab

+44 01653 619 444

Solutions to authenticity issues in olive oil

Random testing programs

Random testing programs allow for a different verification method to conventional traceability systems which are based on paper trails. By checking whether a product is or isn’t consistent with its declared origin can give insight into current traceability practices to improve them, can highlight other authenticity issues, and can give valuable evidence that supply chains are functioning as they should.

 

Agroisolab believes many of the risks in olive oil can be first detected using tests focusing on geographic origin. If there are clear issues with the geographic provenance of an oil, this normally calls for further investigation. However, if there are also concerns related to specific issues such as entry of petroleum hydrocarbons in olive oils Agroisolab can focus on these areas in more detail.

 

Archiving samples from producers

In order to ensure consistency of products from suppliers, particularly in high-risk products such as olive oil, Agroisolab recommends archiving samples from producers from each batch supplied. This significantly enhances origin testing work as it enables a 1:1 analysis in addition to verifying the general geographic origin claims made on the oil. In this situation, the product should match the reference sample with very high confidence.

 

Archiving helps overcome the following challenges:

       • Authentication against the broad origin (e.g. Italian) and the local origin (e.g. Puglian)

       • Ensuring that consistent input materials are used to make the retail product

       • Ensuring what you buy from a producer is the same as what is on sale in your shop

Hydrogen isotope ratios in European olive oils

Hydrogen isotope ratios in olive oil originate from the rainwater the olive trees use to create sugar via photosynthesis. Sugars are subsequently metabolised into fatty acids and other lipid compounds and placed into the fruits of the olive tree. The above map shows the mean values of hydrogen isotope ratios in olive oils across Europe. ‘Red’ denotes that there is relatively more of the heavy isotope (hydrogen, 2H or ‘D’), ‘Blue’ denotes that there is relatively less heavy hydrogen. As hydrogen isotope ratios are dependent on temperature, latitude, altitude and the ‘continental effect’ it is no surprise that there is a similarity between some areas. [Click the map on the left to expand].

Oxygen isotope ratios in European olive oils

As hydrogen and oxygen are related to each other through groundwater as described by the GMWL, it can be expected that there will be relatively similar geographical patterns in oxygen stable isotope ratios and hydrogen stable isotope ratios. However, as oxygen ends up in lipid compounds (e.g. fatty acids, TAGs) in slightly different metabolic pathways to hydrogen there are also some differences. Whereas the hydrogen isotope map showed some general similarity between hydrogen isotope ratios in Portuguese olive oils and Cretan olive oils, the oxygen isotope ratios show clear differences between the two origins. [Click the map on the left to expand].

Carbon isotope ratios in European olive oils

Carbon ratios reflect the local climate. As Southern European countries all share a similar ‘hot’ climate it is easy to see similarity on the above map. The opposite is also true, colder Northern regions have olive oils with more depleted carbon isotope ratios. [Click the map on the left to expand].

Isotope ratio maps of European olive oils

To demonstrate the principle that European olive oils can be distinguished by their stable isotope ratios, we have put together some maps showing the general trends in the stable isotope ratios of European olive oils. These maps were made using data measured by Agroisolab from authentic samples sourced by Agroisolab GmbH and MaxFry GmbH. Please note that the maps are only designed to give a general overview of the trends in isotope ratios in olive oil and won't necessarily reflect detailed local variance.

Retail samples of olive oil

Want to know more about the risks related to olive oil authenticity?

 

We've put together a report containing the latest knowledge on olive oil origin testing using stable isotope ratio analysis.

Download the report here. [Opens in new window].

Download the olive oil report olive oil april 2017 934 x 297