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International Co-operation in Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology Research


Vegetable oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids are recognised to be healthier than saturated fats, giving more protection against heart disease and other multifactor diseases. Traditional methods of extracting oils from seeds, and subsequent refining, produce oils that are clear, clean and safe. However, many of the beneficial micronutrients in these oils may be lost in the waste streams, particularly amphiphilic components (phospholipids) and hydrophilic components (phenols). Oil processing could, therefore, be optimised for a better recovery of micronutrients.

Project profile

In OPTIM’OILS, European Institutes specialising in fat and food research are uniting with oil and food companies in Europe and North Africa, to improve vegetable oil production, so as to ensure that the oils contain higher levels of beneficial micronutrients. In addition to known anti-oxidants, the potential value of other components will be studied. The project will test the oils produced, focusing on the three most popular in Europe: sunflower, rapeseed and soybean. The project will also minimise waste products to benefit the environment.

International aspects

Vegetable oils help to combat typical diseases of ‘civilisation’, which are on the increase around the world. The Moroccan and Tunisian oil producers will give the project a Mediterranean dimension, and the international food companies will ensure wide dissemination of the resulting products.

Socio-economic significance

OPTIM’OILS will have the following long-term socio-economic impact:

  • It will improve consumer health by providing better balanced food oils
  • It will minimise processing waste
  • Vegetable oils will be cheaper and of better nutritional value.

Scientific significance

The project will contribute to the following scientific areas:

  • Improved analytical methods for estimating micronutrients potential at all stages of vegetable oil production
  • Better understanding of the antioxidant role of Coenzyme Q10 and other phospholipids and phenolic compounds
  • Estimation of the bio-availability of micronutrients and how they interact with macronutrient unsaturated fatty acids
  • Testing of oils for taste, smell, quality, stability and safety.

Project outcomes

  • Optimisation of existing methods of oil production
  • Validation of the quality of the three types of oil produced by the modified processes
  • Reduction of waste products and extraction of valuable substances
  • Marketing and food applications of the optimised healthy oils.

Basic project information

  • Acronym: OPTIM’OILS
  • Full project title: Valorisation of healthy lipidic micro-nutrients by optimising food processing of edible oils and fats
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Starting year: 2006
  • EU funding: €1.95 million
  • FP6 instrument used: Specific Targeted Research Project
  • Project coordinator:
    Anne Rossignol-Castera
    Pessac, France
  • Third country partner(s) involved:
    Ets ABDELMOULA (Tunisia)
  • Project website:
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