The high economic value of extra virgin olive oil and its acclaim as a health product have made it a popular target of fraud, researchers from several European universities and institutions said in a joint review.
Along with other food products, including fish, milk, meat, cereals, honey, coffee, wine and spices, olive oil is often the subject of various illegal practices in the European Union.
One of the main factors leading to olive oil fraud identified by researchers is the price gap that exists between extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil and between extra virgin olive oils, depending on the place of origin.
Another factor identified in the report is the relatively high quality of virgin and lampante olive oils produced in the EU, which makes them easier to blend with extra virgin olive oils and to sell very profitably as extra virgin.
The researchers also pointed out that despite the cases of fraudulent practices in the olive oil sector, the existing EU regulatory and control framework has significantly improved olive oil quality and this needs to be communicated to consumers.
“The level of attention and the high demand in terms of compliance checks have currently improved the quality of olive oil sold on the market over the last 30 years”, Enrico Valli, researcher at the Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences of the University of Bologna, said Olive Oil Times.
“On the other hand, the results highlighted in this scientific article, crossed with the answers obtained from the questionnaires, indicate that in order to best guarantee the quality and authenticity of olive oil, there is still a need to improve the compliance checks, reduce cases of disagreement in classifications, develop improved robust analytical methods and supportive screening tools in an effort to try to be one step ahead of the scammers, “he added.
The researchers concluded that to better ensure the quality and authenticity of olive oil, the European Union, the International Olive Council and other regulatory bodies should work together more closely.
The report recommended proposing a common strategy to bring together sensory and instrumental data and increase the competence and cooperation of sensory panels.