Europe produces 70 % of the world's olive oil, but is facing increasing competition. Its high price combined with a reputation as being healthy are attracting new producers from elsewhere, as well as less honest businesses selling counterfeit olive oil. The OLEUM project is building the tools to detect fake olive oil and to verify quality for the real thing.
© Duan Zidar - fotolia.com
Olive oil adulteration has become one of the biggest sources of agricultural fraud in the EU. Those behind it blend olive oil with other vegetable oils or deliberately mislabel less expensive classes of the oil.
The project is tackling this problem from four angles:
- legislation and regulation OLEUM will develop a selection of potential solutions for harmonisation of standards and classification;
- methods for analysing oil samples there are as yet no solutions for detecting illegal blends with deodorised olive oils and other olive oils;
- harmonisation and coordination of analytical methods OLEUM will propose new reference materials and promote technology transfer to a wider analytical community; a databank will store information on existing and emerging fraudulent practices;
- consumer and market confidence the projects communication activities will target the general public as well as industry, the scientific community and regulatory bodies.
OLEUM will take a fresh look at existing analytical methods for verifying olive oil quality and detecting fraud. The team will identify drawbacks and improve both performance and efficiency (e.g by increasing sensitivity and usability, and cutting the time and costs involved in performing analysis).
The project will work on improving methodologies for organoleptic assessment analysis according to taste, colour, odour and consistency. And the team will seek novel analytical markers for detecting illegal blends, measuring olive oil freshness and best-before quality, and for monitoring compliance with the geographical origin label carried by bottled/tinned oils.