Salon De Provence

It is with sincere gratitude that we thank Der Feinschmecker magazine for their committment to their readers.

In May 2005 they published their investigation of low priced “Extra Virgin Olive Oil”, had it tested using a new chemical test and found that in Germany, every low priced olive oil they tested was NOT Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but Refined Olive Oil

Olive Oil
Label Fraud in Discount Supermarkets

Reprinted with Permission
Der Feinschmecker Magazine, Hamburg Germany
 Europe’s Largest Gourmet Magazine

May 2005 by Horst Schäfer-Schuchardt & Kersten Wetenkamp,
Photos by Wolfgang Schardt

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In supermarkets "Extra Virgin olive oils" are offered at dumping prices. We tested eight olive oils using the latest methods in two laboratories.

Results: Four oils from discount stores are mislabeled- they did not hold up to the examinations and have apparently been treated.

Nowadays olive oils are in great demand, because of the well-known positive health effects. Being among one of the most important ingredients of the Mediterranean cuisine, olive oil has become a fashionable food product. But how much should good olive oil cost? In a deli, Italian olive oils of the highest quality category; "extra virgin olive oil" cost about 10 to 20 Euro for half a liter. In a discount store olive oil, reportedly of the same quality, is available for about a tenth of the price:

The 0,75 liter bottle "Luccese" costs 2.60 Euro at Lidl, "Cantinelle" 2.20 Euro at Aldi; "Bancetto" was offered at the time of our sampling for 2.20 Euro (in the meantime the article is not listed anymore and olive oil from Crete – 5 Euro for a 0.75 liter bottle – is provided under the same name)

Are people who are spending a lot of money in the deli therefore foolish? No! We focused on four olive oils from supermarkets: "Cantinelle" from Aldi, "Luccese" from Lidl, "Bancetto" from Edeka and an organic olive oil called "Bio-Wertkost" also from Edeka. We tested these supermarket products and additionally compared them with four more olive oils with the exact geographic growing areas and supplier declaration. The four different products tested were very different from one another and not just concerning their flavors. In fact the alleged first class olive oils from the discount stores are refined, in other words thermally treated.

Processed Oils
Samples 1 – 4,
Group 1 on Test

This is a typical case of consumer deception. Up to now supplying evidence was quite difficult if not impossible and too subjective. The panel results of sensory tests, usually performed by "Stiftung Warentest" (an independent German consumer organization), appeared contestable. Furthermore, nothing negative was detected in the discount oils using the currently applied chemical analysis. These tests measure in particular the concentration of oleic acid, an indicator of olive oil quality. For the four examined samples from the supermarket the concentration of oleic acid is below a limit of 0.8 percent required by food laws.

Grocery Store: EDEKA – Hamburg Germany
Brand Name: Bancetto Extra Virgin Olive Oil
(No Longer on Shelves, however an oil under the same name is now sold for 5 € for a 0.75 liter, with the oil originating form Crete)
Harvest Time: Not declared
Harvest Method: Not declared
Olive Variety: Not declared
Price: 2.20 Euro for 0.75 1iter
Taste Test: Olfactory off-notes - wine taste, a strange metallic and untypical acerbic taste.
Result Dr. Gertz: Diglycerides Ratio 1,2/1,3: 1.1.
Cold-Index: 1.7.
Analysis: This is an olive oil obviously extracted from olives grown in different countries. The major part could be from Spain. The oil was treated after pressing and does not qualify under EU Standards as Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Grocery Store: EDEKA – Northern Bavaria
Brand Name: Bio Wertkost Organic Olive Oil
Harvest Time: Not declared
Harvest Method: Not declared
Olive Variety: Not declared
Price: 5.60 Euro for 0.50 liter
Taste Test: slight olfactory off¬notes, rancid and metallic taste.
Result Dr. Gertz: Ratio of diglycerides 1,2/1,3: 1
Cold-Index: 3.7
Analysis: This is an olive oil basically from Spain. The oil was treated after pressing and does not qualify under EU Standards as Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Grocery Store: LIDL Northern Bavaria
Brand Name: Luccese Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Harvest Time: not declared
Harvest Method: not declared
Olive Variety: not declared
Bottled: Lucca, Italy
Price: 2.60 Euro for 0.75 liter
Taste Test: Distinct olfactory off-notes, metallic and winey taste, muddy.
Result Dr. Gertz: Diglycerides Ratio 1,2/1,3 : 0.6.
Cold-Index: 19.2
Analysis: This is an olive oil from Spain. The oil was treated after pressing and does not qualify under EU Standards as Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Bottle Label
: Bottled in Lucca

Grocery Store: ALDI – Northern Bavaria
(No longer on shelves)
Brand Name: Cantinelle
Harvest Time: not declared
Harvest Method: Not declared
Olive Variety: Not declared
Price: 2.20 Euro for 0.75 1iter
Taste Test: Slight olfactory off-notes, metallic taste.
Result Dr. Gertz: Diglycerides Ratio 1,2/1,3:1.1.
Cold-Index: 1.9.
: This is an olive oil mainly or solely from Spanish origin. The oil was treated after pressing and does not qualify under EU Standards as Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

However, there are still some other discrepancies. It is naive to assume that olive oils offered at knockdown prices with fine-sounding names like "Luccese", "Cantinelle" or "Bancetto" really are from Italy. They are way too cheap, the price is below the local production costs. Expenses for harvest and transportation are about 3.25€ a liter in Italy. Expenses for pressing, bottling and labeling are about 7€ a liter in Italy for a total cost of 10.25€ a liter and this is after the EU subsidies have already been deducted.

How can the discount store prices be justified? Olive oil from Southern Spain or North Africa have lower production costs due to lower cost of harvest personnel. Therefore it is cheaper than Italian oils; the discount store olive oils that were only bottled in Italy.

On the oil bottle "Cantinelle" from Aldi it is declared in small letters: "Extracted from fresh olives of different origin in the EU-Mediterranean area, locally pressed." Similarly, the label of the oil from Lidl "Luccese" declares: "Bottled in Lucca". Same procedure here. It is not exactly decent to pretend to the consumer this way that olive oil pressed in low a income country was produced in Italy. However, this fact does not say anything about the quality of the product. Additionally, the described discount olive oils are not "extra virgin" in terms of official EU definitions, specifically "produced with pure mechanical processes" (in the past this was defined as "cold pressed").

Grocery Store: Tegut, Fulda, Germany, tel. 0661-104435
Manufacturer: Principessa Marina Colonna
Brand Name: Collona olio extra vergine di oliva
Harvest Time: October 2004
Harvest Method: Hand picked
Olive Variety: Cima di Melfi, Coratina, Frantoio, Leccino, Peranzana
Price:  10 Euro for 0.50 liter
Taste Test: Rosemary, sage, mint, grass. Slighlty harsh notes, but clearly acerbic. Harmonious and elegant
Result Dr. Gertz: Diglycerides Ratio 1,2/1,3: 1.7.
Cold-index under O
Analysis: Extra virgin olive oil', no sign of a later treatment. Origin of olives, Italy.

Grocery Store : Tegut, Fulda, Germany, tel. 0661-104435
Manufacturer: Conte Spagnoletti Zeuli
Brand Name : Terra di Bari Olio extra vergine
Harvest Time: Nov.-Jan. 2004/2005
Harvest Method: Hand and mechanical picked
Olive Variety: Coratina
Price: 15 Euro for 05.0 liter
Taste Test: ripe olives, yellow apples, pears, slightly harsh notes, sweet almond taste, peppery, savory aftertaste. Balanced.
Result Dr. Gertz: Diglycerides Ratio 1,2/1,3 : 2.1.
Cold-index smaller than O
Analysis: 'Extra virgin olive oil' no sign of a later treatment. Origin of olives, Italy

Grocery Store: Vintage, Cologne, Germany,
 tel. 0221-92 07 10
Manufacturer: Rodau
Brand Name: A Ubocassa
Harvest Time: October 2004
Harvest Method: Mechanical
Olive Variety: Arbequina
Price: 12 Euro for 0.50 liter
Taste Test: Freshly cut grass, forest honey, ripe tomatoes, bell pepper. Mild bitter-walnut taste and a peppery -savory aftertaste.
Result Dr. Gertz: Diglycerides Ratoio 1,2/1,3: 5.3.
Cold-index 0.0
Analysis: The olive oil is solely of Spanish origin and unprocessed

Extra Virgin Olive Oils, Samples 5 – 8,
Group 2 on Test

The results of a new and highly precise chemical analysis clearly showed: All four examined supermarket oils from Aldi, Lidl and Edeka were treated thermally. In 2001 the Italian chemist Andrea Serani and two co-workers found a way to prove thermal treatment by means of detecting diglycerides in olive oil: Unstable 1,2-diglycerides transform under high temperatures into more resistant 1,3-diglycerides. Oils are treated thermally to decrease the acid content and sensory weaknesses like rancid odor. If olive oil is thermally treated the total amount of 1,3-diglycerides exceeds the amount of 1,2-diglycerides.

Grocery Store: Vintage, Cologne, Germany,
 tel. 0221-92 07 10
Manufacturer: Rolf Jordan/ Maria Protouli-RafJelli
Brand Name: Jordan Olive Oil
Harvest Time: end of November - beginning of December 2004
Harvest Method: Hand picked
Olive Variety: Adramitiani, Kolovi
Price: 10 Euro for 0.50 liter
Taste Test: grass, hay, artichokes, ripe tomatoes, pleasant and clear bitter notes, almond, bell pepper and a peppery after taste.
Result Dr. Gertz: Diglycerides Ratio 1,2/1,3: 5.3
Cold-index: smaller than O
Analysis: The olive oil is from Greek provenance. There is no indication of illegal treatment.

The graph on page 79 left illustrates how great the natural oils differ from the treated oils. In Italy and Greece the Serani method has been used for quite a while to audit suspicious "extra virgin olive oils".

We assigned two specialized laboratories to test 8 oils using the Serani method: Dr.Carmine Ventre in the Centro Analisi Biochimiche, Rizziconi in Calabria/Southern Italy, and Dr. Christian Gertz, director of Chemical Investigation Institute in Hagen, Germany. They all came to the same results. Our 8 chosen oil samples generated two groups, which revealed the difference between genuine and alleged "extra virgin olive oils". According to the results using traditional analysis methods all eight oils comply with the legal EU requirements and belong to the highest category, the "extra virgin olive oils". However, the bottle labels show important differences between group 1-4 and group 5-8. Whereas in the first group no information about producer locations, the position of olive groves, harvest methods, the mill system and least of all about the olive variety is disclosed. In contrast the oils of the second group give all details that consumers look for.

Like wine, olive oil can be differentiated sensorically by considering both the olfactory and flavor components. Every genuine "extra virgin olive oil" generates a complex aroma diversity. Anyone who fills olive oil into a glass and smells it, realizes quickly whether this oil is lightly, medium or intensely fruity. Whether it smells like freshly cut grass and green apples or rather like ripe tomatoes. Or, whether the taste is sweet on the palate or harsh with a spicy aftertaste.

Depending on the variety, a more or less intensive prickle can be sensed on the palate due to the oils' polyphenolics composition. This is regarded as an indication for the oil's freshness.

Old oils, or treated and inexpensive oils, such as the samples analyzed in the first group do not show such a wide array of sensorial characteristics.

The analysis of Dr. Ventre in Italy and Dr. Gertz in Hagen in Germany resulted in the following evaluation: All examinations performed of the olive oils 1-4, the discount oils showed, that the oils "were not strictly mechanically processed, meaning something other than just pressing occurred. This means that these oils could have been treated with hot vapor from 80 to 100 degrees Celsius in a high vacuum to eliminate bad odors and/or with alkali in order to decrease the excessive acid content.

Dr. Gertz: "When treating olive oil in a high vacuum, different by-products derived from chlorophyll are formed - the pheophytines. The cold-index measures the content of pyropheophytines. A cold-index above 0.1 indicates thermal treatment." Other evidence for such treatment is a high percentage of 1,3-diglycerides in comparison to 1,2-diglycerides. Dr. Gertz: "The ratio of 1,2/1,3¬diglycerides C36 should be significantly greater than 1. Different results indicate alkali and vapor ,treatment." This analysis provides information about the origin of the olives used in olive oil production. By knowing the distribution of the fatty acid glycerides and the UV¬absorption spectra well-versed chemists can tell which olive oil comes from which region.

Dr. Gertz's laboratory analysis for the Lidl oil: "The olive oil 'Luccese' was tested, supplier: Lidl, Neckarsulm. This olive oil is made solely from olives of Spanish origin. The sample was tested, to determine whether it was treated to correct possible sensory failures or to eliminate components, which could influence the long-term oil storage abilities. Several degradation reactions were observed in the water vapor treatment. However, the valid current analytical procedures (EU-ordiance 796) were not specifIc enough to detect such manipulations. Therefore more recent and more accurate analytical tests have to be applied. Concerning the present sample and regarding the evaluation of current analytical methods one could say that the oil was not only treated mechanically. The same results would have been established if processed oil (not only mechanically treated oil) were added. In its mode of extraction the oil of the category 'extra virgin olive oil' does therefore not comply with the decree 796 and decree 1019/2002, the marketing standards for olive oil. A positive counter-example is the result of the oil "Aubocassa" from Spain: "The olive oil is an oil solely from Spanish origin and has not been treated."

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Reprinted with permission from Der Feinschmecker

Der Feinschmecker contact: Kersten Wetenkamp –

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