Europe fights back against olive oil adulteration

Thursday, 06 April, 2017

Olive oil adulteration for the purpose of financial gain has become one of the biggest sources of agricultural fraud in the EU. While Europe is currently the world’s largest producer of olive oil, accounting for more than 70% of global production, non-EU countries are expanding their domestic production, increasing the competitiveness of the global olive oil market.

This increased competitiveness, combined with expanding markets and a lack of analytical methods for detecting olive oil fraud, has led to significant weaknesses that can be exploited by counterfeiters. The situation is exacerbated by the high price of olive oil, the distinctive sensory profile and its reputation as a healthy source of dietary fats, which make olive oil a target for adulteration or illegal blending with other vegetable oils or deliberate mislabelling of less expensive classes of olive oil.

In response to this threat, the OLEUM Project has been established to better guarantee olive oil quality and authenticity by empowering detection and fostering prevention of olive oil fraud.

The overall objective of OLEUM is supported by three strategic objectives:

  • To develop new and/or improved analytical methods for assuring the quality and authenticity of olive oil.
  • To develop the OLEUM databank — an online integrated quality assurance database of olive oil analytical methods and data related to chemical and organoleptic characteristics (eg, related to the sensory experience such as taste, odour, texture).
  • To develop and support a worldwide community of proficient analytical laboratories involved in the analysis of olive oil, thus establishing a wide OLEUM Network.

Four main areas of improvement will be addressed through research and development: legislative and regulatory; analytical; harmonisation and coordination; and consumer and market confidence.

The OLEUM Project commenced in September 2016 and will run for four years. The project is coordinated by Professor Tullia Gallina Toschi of the Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences of the University of Bologna, Italy, alongside 20 partners covering 15 countries.

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