Olive oil authentication

Olive oil: understanding intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics and developing rapid and novel analytical techniques to identify adulteration.

Extra virgin or virgin olive oil ((E)VOO) has recently gained in popularity because of its quality, its potential health benefits derived from its consumption, and its strict purity control. The high price of (E)VOO and its reputation as a healthy and delectable oil makes it a preferred target for fraudsters. Fraud often takes place by the addition of lower quality olive oils and less expensive seed oils, especially refined oils, to (E)VOO for the purpose of financial gain. Moreover, since the chemical and physical properties of olive oil are affected by complex multivariate interactions, including cultivars, ripeness level, geographical origin, processing methods and storage condition, it is challenging to distinguish high quality olive oil from low quality olive oil. In order to sustain consumer confidence, provide them with correctly informed choices and protect legitimate businesses, there is an urgent need to elucidate the characteristics of different grades of olive oil and to develop approaches to identify (E)VOO adulteration depending on the special/unique properties of olive oils.

Aim The main objective is to elucidate the unique chemical and physical characteristics of olive oils in different grades, including (E)VOO, refined olive oil (ROO) and pomace olive oil (POO) in order to develop novel, portable authentication techniques for (E)VOO adulterations. In general, after literature review, the characteristics of different grade olive oils will be unravelled separately to elucidate their unique properties. Subsequently, the unique physicochemical properties will lead to the relevant characteristics which will help to devise novel, rapid, portable application for discrimination between (E)VOO and their lower grade counterparts.

Approach The study will mainly focus on the different processing methods impacting on the chemical and physical characteristics of olive oil. Three grades of olive oils will be collected from the supermarkets and retailers in Europe. The chemical and physical characteristics will be evaluated using analytical techniques based on chromatography, mass spectrometry and spectroscopy in combination with advanced statistics. After the identification of the unique characteristics in the laboratory, measurement techniques will be searched for which will allow rapid on-site measurements to discriminate different grades of olive oils.