Olive & Oil 05/09/2011

Fake made in Italy oils under screening by Iasma

An agreement to identify the fake Italian extra virgin oils on the shelves has been approved. It will help in directing the inspections. Why not using the panels as well?

The Ministry of Agriculture and Food signed an agreement with the Agricultural Institute of San Michele Adige (IASMA) for an extensive sampling of the extra virgin olive oils coming from abroad. The provenience of the oils will be determined by mapping the stable isotopes.

Teatro Naturale, the Italian weekly version of this magazine, spoke about this method more than a year ago. According to the researches carried on by Federica Camin, it is possible to discriminate the origin of oils by calculating the relative amounts of the stable isotopes of C, H and O, which are linked to the botanical origin of the plant, and also to the geographical, geological and climate characteristics of the cultivation area.

The method, we want to emphasize, is not official. It is not among those of the EC Regulation 2568/91 and subsequent amendments. For this reason the inspectors won’t be able to base on the stable isotopes findings their seizures and fines. By the way, the results obtained by this method will be loaded onto a database made available to all the inspection bodies, and it will be useful for targeting inspections and inspectors to the suspected cases and then making the necessary checks with the official methods.

This agreement is then very welcome, since it proves, even to the most skeptical and conservative, that science can actively help the market of this field. Because of everything can be always improved, here is a suggestion, even if based on an unofficial method, that would help the efforts of exposing the scammers by screening the oil on our markets.

A suggestion by Teatro Naturale: why not employing the panel tests?

It is true that the organoleptic analysis is not recognized as valid and official tests to determine the source of a product, but it is also true, on the other hand, that some aromas and perfumes are markers of some provenances.
If the method of stable isotopes can provide a clue to the inspectors, the same can be done by the panel tests. So why not signing a similar agreement to create a database based on sensory markers? By crossing the data from both the databases it would be possible to find even better and more valuable results.

Given that research and innovation are essential in every field, and therefore also in the olive one, I believe that also the exploitation of existing tools, such as the panel test, can be useful in this context.

di Alberto Grimelli