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The International Writers Magazine


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
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 don’t 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.
The End

raymond clement <>



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