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Scientists from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have turned their attention to olive

research and in the process developed two new analytical methods to test olive oil authenticity
and identified potential uses for olive byproducts.

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New Analytical Tests

As reported in the May/June 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, ARS researchers in
Albany, California developed a procedure that uses PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technology
to detect undisclosed oils mixed with olive oil. The technology, created by chemist Talwinder
Kahlon and co-investigators, distinguishes the DNA of several genes found in olive oil from the
genes in other vegetable oils. The test can be done in several hours with equipment at DNA labs.
Selina Wang, research director at the UC Davis Olive Center commented that the method looks
promising. Bioinformatics technology has improved much in recent years and the area of DNA
sequencing is exploding, said Wang.
Another analytical test, developed by ARS researcher Jiann-Tsyh Lin, used a new tool to
examine triglycerides (three fatty acids) in determining if olive oil samples contained oils from
other plants. Although analyzing fatty acids is not new, the use of ESI-MS (electrospray
ionization mass spectrometry) technology is new and should make the process simpler, as noted
in the Agricultural Research article.
Milling Byproducts
After extracting a gallon of olive oil in the milling process, 38 pounds of skin, pulp and pits are
left over, according to ARS engineer Rebecca Milczarek. Mill operators often pay to ship the
byproduct, called pomace, to other sites for drying and selling as an ingredient in cattle feed.
Milczarek researched better methods for handling the pomace. She developed a combination
microwave and convection method that millers could use on site to partially dry the pomace
before shipping it off. The dried material would weigh less and thus would cost less to ship.

Milczarek suggested that the dried pomace be sent to a central location for further development
as a possible ingredient in cosmetics or pharmaceuticals.
Better Food Safety
Burgers could be safer to eat in the future because of olives. Chemist Mendel Friedman
experimented with adding olive powder to ground beef before cooking burgers on the griddle.
Olive powder was found effective in suppressing E. coli bacteria and the possibly carcinogenic
heterocyclic amines that arise in the cooking process.
Previous studies showed that olive extracts could kill pathogens, but Friedmans study
demonstrated that olive powder could reduce the bacteria and two amines at the same time.
Friedman noted that further studies are needed to see if the powder affects food taste.

A research group at the University of Jan, Spain, has developed a new software program
designed to evaluate and classify extra virgin olive oils.

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The innovative software is hoped to be a breakthrough in the sensory evaluation process of olive
oil and is a joint collaboration between the university, olive oil technology company Citoliva,
CM Europe SL Laboratories and computer engineering company MENGISOFT.
According to research group member Macarena Espinilla, the new software will vastly improve
the sensory evaluation of virgin olive oils by reducing both the time and cost associated with the
The software will function by streamlining the process of olive oil evaluation, allowing the
individual monitoring of the evolution of different tasters for different samples and sessions in
real time. Interventions to correct deviations of organoleptic properties can then be carried out by
the chief of the panel.

The software also has the potential to plan olive oil tasting sessions, manage oil evaluations and
generate final reports, thus offering further optimization of the process.
The program allows the use of the evaluation methodology established by the International Olive
Council for sensory classification of olive oil, but can also be used with new methods of
evaluation that have been developed by the group, that are currently undergoing evaluation.
The method is based on the fuzzy logic system, a mathematical logic that is designed to make
a decision as a human being would, considering all available information and making the best
decision based on this input. This innovative model for sensory evaluation is being presented as
an alternative to the current International Olive Council model, and is hoped to facilitate
improvement in the areas of information processing, tasting and training of assessors, whilst still
maintaining the efficiency of results.
Further down the track, the new model for sensory evaluation is hoped to be implemented with
the new software, with the aim to add value to the olive oil industry by improving marketing
processes and increasing competitiveness of companies in the industry.
The new program, in addition to the sensory evaluation model, are part of a project funded by the
Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Science of the Council of Andaluca.

A new laser device, originally developed to detect carbon on Mars, could be used detect food
fakes, including fraudulent olive oil, here on Earth.

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The laser, known as an isotope radio-meter, was created by the Rutherford Appleton
Laboratory in the UK and is used to scan for very small quantities of gas to identify isotopes in
space. Different molecules have a unique fingerprint spectrum, allowing easy identification.

In the case of food, certain molecules are expected to be present and the laser can be adjusted to
the correct frequency in order to detect these isotopes. When the frequency is adjusted to that
which is specific to a certain gas, light is partially blocked and the unique pattern is generated. In
this way, olive oil which does not contain the expected concentration of certain molecules, such
as phenols, can be identified.
To detect fraudulent food using the device, a few milligrams of the product is burnt. During the
burning, carbon dioxide is released which can be tested with the laser. This produces the unique
carbon fingerprint for the product which can then be compared to a sample that is known to be a
true product from the same geographical location. In this way it is possible to tell if an olive oil
genuinely comes from a specific location or if it is a fake.
The laser is not only limited to use with olive oil, but may also be useful in detecting counterfeit
products in other food types, such as honey made from cheap sugar instead of bees, wheat and
even fake chocolate.
There are an increasing number of counterfeit foods being sold to unassuming consumers, with
the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention in January reporting the discovery of increased fake
ingredients in everything from olive oil to fruit juice. China is also has particular problems in this
area, with reported cases of fraudulent eggs and beef products. The new laser holds great
potential for the quick, easy and accurate determination of these counterfeit products in the food
Equipment currently used to identify food contaminants and fraud is bulky, but having been
developed for use in space, the new laser is compact and could be used in laboratories with
limited space.

New research published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology has paved the way for
the novel use of olives as a source of probiotics in our diets.

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Probiotics are the healthy bacteria necessary for gut health, balancing intestinal flora and
stimulating protective functions of the digestive system. They are essential for a healthy gut,
particularly when an antibiotic, that strips the digestive system of its natural bacteria, is being
Due to their oral administration, probiotics must be able to withstand the harsh physical and
chemical environment of the human gastro-intestinal tract, and need to be ingested in large
quantities daily to have a beneficial effect. As varying probiotics react differently in the digestive
environment, the challenge is not just introducing them to the body, but introducing specific
bacteria types that can survive and flourish in the very specific GI conditions.
Although most commonly seen as a functional component of certain yogurts and dairy products,
new research carried out at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientficas (CSIC) in Spain,
is now suggesting that there it the possibility to use olives and bacteria present in the
fermentation process, to introduce these beneficial organisms to our bodies.
Electron microscopy techniques have shown that bacteria and yeast that is responsible for the
fermentation of certain Spanish table olives associate with one another to form communities
known as a biofilm. Previously, it was thought that these bacteria dispersed in the brine used to
preserve the olives during the process, however, the new findings suggest that in fact the biofilm
compound forms and stays on the surface of the fruit. The formation of this microscopic layer is
thought to be due to the high concentration and availability of sugars, amino acids, vitamins and
other nutrients during the process of fermentation, providing the ideal environment for the
survival and growth of these bacteria.
An olive of the Gordal variety, for example, may have as many as 100 billion Lactobacilli
residing on its surface, which are they ingested when the olive is consumed. The probiotic nature
of these bacterial strains is now the subject of investigation by the CSIC, with some bacteria and
yeast strains already present in the fermentation exhibiting beneficial effects on gut health. There
is also the possibility that different, desirable, healthy bacteria strains may be able to be used in
the fermentation process, and thus delivered to the body via olives.
Due to their high fiber and antioxidant levels, if olives could also be used to deliver probiotics to
the body, they could be classified as a functional food. There is also the possibility of therapeutic
uses, with previous research done on Portuguese table olives indicating that several of the
bacteria present during the fermentation process have the ability to inhibit the growth of
Helicobacter pylori, a common human pathogen that is resistant to a growing number of
antibiotics. This shows a potential for such probiotics to be used as an antibiotic alternative.
The use of olives as a source of probiotics may be preferable for those who are unable to eat
dairy due to intolerances or those who require a heart healthy diet.

Research carried out at the Carlos III Institute in Spain has led to the development of a novel
molecule from hydroxytyrosol, a potent antioxidant found in olives. It is hoped that the antiviral
and anti-inflammatory properties of the new molecule will act as a microbicide to reduce the
transmission of HIV.

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Hydroxytyrosol is found in high concentrations in the olive leaf and in smaller amounts in extra
virgin olive oil, and acts in combination with other phenolic compounds in olives to give the
characteristic bitter taste of olives and olive oil. The new molecule, developed and patented by
Spanish company Seprox, is the result of chemical and enzymatic modification of
hydroxytyrosol to increase its potency and enhance its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
The new microbicide differs from other products currently available in that, rather than stopping
the virus from entering the body, the compound prevents the integration of the virus genes into
those of the infected person, thereby stopping the virus from replicating and spreading. A virus
needs to integrate into host genes in order to survive, so preventing this integration process leads
to the death of the virus.
The new compound also confers other advantages over current microbicides due to increased
anti-inflammatory properties. There is some evidence that risk of infection with the HIV virus is
increased in cases where vaginal inflammation is present. It is hoped that by reducing this
inflammation, the new molecule will further minimize virus transmission.
The European Commission-funded project has already shown a 100 percent success rate in in
vitro testing, and primate testing is due to begin in coming months. If those tests indicate an
increased protection of at least 50 percent, human trials will follow however project managers
hope to achieve a figure closer to an 80 percent increase in protection. If this level is
demonstrated, the gel product will be on the market within five years. Due to low costs of
synthesising the molecule, the price of the product would rival that of condoms.
This is not the first time that olive oil has been indicated as potentially useful in the fight against
HIV. Researchers from the University of Granada showed that maslinic acid, a natural product
extracted from olive pomace oil in mills, could result in a slowing in the spread of the HIV virus
throughout the body by up to 80 percent.

Spanish researchers have developed a cheap, portable electronic nose they say has great
promise for use in organoleptic testing and food quality control.

While so-called e-noses themselves are not new, the University of Extremadura Sensory Systems
Research Group says its system reduces the time and cost of testing.

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Making Sense of Olive Oil Testing

In a recent press release, researcher Jesus Lozano said that the new system which mimics the
human nose could not only deliver quantitative results in a minute, it cost ten times less than
existing methods to set up.
The disadvantage of this portable deviceis that, as with the mammalian sense of smell, the
electronic nose needs to be sensitized with known samples, and the more tests it does the more
accurate its results, he said.
Apart from use in water analysis, the system would be very useful for quality control in the food
industry, the evaluation of the organoleptic properties of wine, detection of explosives and
diseases, and the development of fragrances and cosmetics, the university said.
Hugo Regojo, general manager of the Bogaris olive oil group in the U.S., recently called for the
olive oil sector to harness such technology. At the Olive Oil Flavor and Quality Seminar held in
St. Helena in January, he said there was a need to improve the electronic nose, and electronic
detection of sensory defects in oil technology, to control fraud in the industry.
The International Olive Council is currently reviewing new and existing methods of analysis
designed to improve the quality and authenticity of olive oils and olive pomace oils but has yet to
make details public.
IOC Executive Director Jean-Louis Barjol said last week that there was no prospect of it
abandoning the use of sensory panels in determining olive oil quality. We think very highly of
our sensory testing methodand we consider it to be an essential quality criterion, he said.
In the wake of recent controversies surrounding the alleged adulteration of extra virgin olive oil
by many large-scale producers, researchers at the Universidad de Alcal in Madrid have patented

a new system for testing oil purity and quality which they hope to implement in food testing labs
around the world.

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The olive oil industry came under sharp criticism worldwide last year when a study published by
UC Davis indicated that many olive oils labeled extra virigin were not technically extra
virgin. Many bottles were found to contain significant amounts of non-virgin olive oils, and
some even contained soybean oil or sunflower oil.
The adulteration of supposedly pure, extra virgin olive oils violates international norms and
presents potential health risks for consumers who may be allergic the oils not listed on the label.
Its also considered an act of fraud, as consumers unknowingly pay inflated prices for inferior
and mislabeled oils.
The rise in suspicions of so-called olive oil fraud is what led this team of researchers to develop
simple and economic methods for detecting adulteration. The team, which includes Antonio L.
Crego Navazo, Mara Luisa Marina Alegre, Laura Snchez Hernndez and Carmen Garca Ruiz
of the University of Alcal, published its findings in the Journal of Agricultural & Food
For the first time we investigated the possibility of betaine as a selective marker of
adulteration, explained Laura Snchez, whose doctoral thesis laid much of the groundwork for
the study. Betaines are only minor components of oil, so they were never included with the
major compound groups such as fatty acids, lipids, and sterols.
This new process effectively tests for seed oils (soybean and sunflower) using capillary
electrophoresis with UV detection. The main advantage of the method, according to the research
team, is that it uses just one betaine compound, trigonelline, as a marker of adulteration.
Trigonelline, which is found in seed-based oils but not in extra virgin olive oil, is very easy to
detect using this method. Researchers hope the new test will become a valuable tool for quality
control in oil laboratories around the world.

Spanish scientists say they have pioneered a genetic map of the olive and isolated genes pivotal
to the production of more profitable, higher quality and even healthier olive oil.

Among the achievements of the 3m ($4.24m) Oleagen project

which began in 1998 and will conclude this June are the profiling of genes responsible for fatty
acid accumulation in olives, antioxidant properties and aroma.
The researchers also identified olive genes that could be key to more efficient olive growing,
particularly in the context of increasingly dense intensive cultivation, where small-sized trees
that mature fast are highly valued.
The projects findings could be used by manufacturers to give Spains olive oil sector a
competitive advantage in the international market for olive oil, table olives and olive varieties,
the researchers said in a recent statement.
Among their world-firsts, they said, was the development of a proven method of genetic
transformation of olives, which was a critical tool for the study of the functionality of olive

Oleagen is jointly coordinated by Genoma Espaa (a government R&D foundation); the

Andalusian Institute for Training and Research in the Agricultural, Fishing and Food Sectors
(IFAPA); and the Technological Corporation of Andalusia (CTA). It encompasses 59 scientists
and 12 research groups, nine of which are Andalusian.
It has the aim of gaining information key to obtaining olive varieties that promise more
productive and profitable olive farms and olive oils of higher quality or with characteristics more
beneficial for the health, among other possibilities.
The project has developed a genetic map of the olive, with biomarkers important to the
development of new varieties of olives producing more oil than existing ones, and/or with a wide
range of sensorial and functional qualities, adjusted to consumer preferences (for example, the
taste of the oil) and addressing some of the challenges for olive-growers (such as ecological
factors and intensive cultivation), they said.
Among other highlights, they listed the generation of a data base of genomic and agricultural
resources and their use of the wide range of cultivars in the Worldwide Olive Germplasm Bank
in Crdoba, Spain.
Oleagen uses advanced DNA analysis techniques to identify genes responsible for the
accumulation of fatty acids within the olive and their qualitative and quantitative properties,
polyphenols (molecules with strong antioxidant properties) and volatile components (responsible
for the aroma) in the oil, in order to know precisely which genes influence the production and
quality of olive oil.