Jing Yan of Wageningen University & Research conducted research into the susceptibility to fraud of the olive oil production chain. She received her doctorate on 10 June 2020.
In her thesis 'Fraud investigation in the extra virgin olive oil supply chain: Identification of vulnerable points and development of novel fraud detection methods', she describes where fraud is lurking in the production chain of extra virgin olive oil and which methods can be used to demonstrate this.
Authenticity olive oil difficult to demonstrate
Extra virgin olive oil has risen in popularity lately due to its quality and potential health benefits. It is a costly product and therefore susceptible to fraud. Olive oil fraud often occurs due to the addition of lower quality olive oil and cheaper seed oils, especially refined oils. Characteristics of extra virgin olive oil such as specific chemical and physical properties are influenced by a variety of factors including maturity level, geographic origin, processing methods and storage conditions. In addition, olive oil fraudsters are increasingly smart. As a result, the authenticity of extra virgin olive oil is difficult to demonstrate.
Yan's thesis also shows that the greatest risk of fraud lies with retailers and B2B companies. This is partly due to the more extensive options in time and place in the chain and, secondly, to the lack of adequate control measures.
Methods to detect fraud
The doctoral research also developed methods that can detect fraud. On the one hand, these are rapid screening methods, which use small portable equipment, volatile substances and noise. On the other hand, a laboratory method has been developed that can accurately detect low-level fraud with refined oil and is based on contaminants created during refining.
Describing weak links in fraud in the production chain of extra virgin olive oil and developing methods to detect it help to reduce fraud in the olive oil chain. It can also prevent unfair competition and ensure that consumers get what they pay for.