The International Writers
DOC FOR OLIVE OIL?
Raymond K. ClementThe finest wines of Italy carry the DOC (Denominazion
di Origine Controllata) designation indicating precisely the geographic
area the grapes used to make the wine come from. Soon the DOC appellation
might appear on your bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Italy.
Olive oil, a mainstay of the so-called "Mediterranean diet",
is similar to wine in that it is varietal, meaning it uses up to three
different types of fruit in its production. Not all the oil contained
in the product necessarily comes from the same geographic area. The extra
virgin oil of the Calabria Region is among the finest produced in the
world. The opportunity to use inferior oils is difficult if not impossible
to control. How does one identify adulterated oil? How does one assure
and protect the buying public (spending around eight euro per litre) that
they are getting the product they expect?
The Department of Chemistry at the University of Calabria located in Rende,
Calabria revealed the answer at a press conference the other day that
through the use of a Mass Spectrometer they have identified five markers
which accurately indicate the area from which the olives originated. This
procedure applied to olive oil is a first. The testing is so accurate
that they can ascertain if the trees that produced the fruit and hence
oil were irrigated or not and even to the maturity of the olives used.
Professor Giovanni Sindona, Director of the Chemistry Department at the
University, said that they had been working on this project for five years.
He indicated that the European Union has guidelines for defining the genuineness
of olive oil, but until now a method that was quick and cost effective
did not exist. Now such testing is available.
The five markers are detected by chemical ionization mass spectrometry
using a mass spectrometry apparatus. There is work underway to develop
a portable unit that could be used at the point of production with the
data being transmitted to the laboratory for complete analysis.
Doctor Antonio Tagarelli, one of the Team Leaders of the research group
in the Department of Chemistry, pointed out that the use of the Mass Spectrograph
in the analysis of wine was well established but new procedures were explored
to identify the five bio markers used to determine the type and origin
of the olive oil; the results of which were then subjected to rigorous
statistical analysis. An Abstract and Article on the findings of the project
is available online at www.science direct.com.
The next phase of the project is the building of a data base containing
information on all the olive oils produced in Calabria. With the additional
influx of funds the identification of all the olive oil producing areas
in southern Italy and Sicily will be undertaken. Professor Sindona indicated
it would entail a massive effort because there can be significant differences
in side by side groves.
So dont be surprised that in the not too distant future that when
picking up that special Chianti with its DOC, you also use the same care
and attention to the label when you buy, and check the DOC on that bottle
of extra virgin olive oil to use on the salad.
raymond clement <email@example.com>
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