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Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program Publishes Olive Oil Laboratory Guidance Document

New publication assesses more than 90 laboratory analytical methods to authenticate olive oil

AUSTIN, Texas (March 29, 2021) — The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP) announces the publication of a new Laboratory Guidance Document (LGD) on olive (Olea europaea) oil.

The oil of the olive fruit is one of the most popular vegetable oils for culinary use. Olive oil is also widely used in topical formulations such as lotions, creams, ointments, and lip balms. In dietary supplements, olive oil is used as a carrier oil for fat-soluble vitamins, saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) berry and other herbal extracts, as a dietary ingredient alone, or in combination with fish, flax (Linum usitatissimum), borage (Borago officinalis), and other oils to supply healthy amounts of fatty acids to the human diet.

The adulteration of olive oil, particularly extra virgin olive oil, with lower-cost ingredients is frequent because the financial gains are relatively large and the availability of the highest olive oil grades is relatively low. Adulterants of extra virgin and virgin olive oils include lower grade olive oils and vegetable oils such as canola (derived from rapeseed, Brassica napus), hazelnut (Corylus avellana), sunflower (Helianthus annuus), and soybean (Glycine max) oils. Occasionally, pigments such as chlorophyll and beta-carotene are added without declaration on certificates of analysis (for bulk ingredients) or consumer product labels to enhance the color of the oil and provide a false sense of quality.

The olive oil LGD was written by Rodney J. Mailer, PhD, an expert in vegetable oil production and analysis and former head of the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Primary Industries’ edible oil research program in Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia, and Stefan Gafner, PhD, American Botanical Council (ABC) chief science officer and BAPP technical director.

The LGD defines olive oil quality requirements, lists known adulterants, and summarizes the various analytical approaches to detect adulterants from relatively simple visual inspections to complex multivariate statistical analysis. The olive oil LGD was reviewed by 23 experts from academia, government, contract analytical laboratories, and the vegetable oil, dietary supplement, and cosmetic industries in the United States and other countries. The olive oil LGD follows BAPP’s 
Botanical Adulterants Prevention Bulletin on olive oil (free registration required), which was published in January 2020 and revised in October 2020.

Dr. Gafner commented: “Olive oil is one of the most important but also one of the most frequently adulterated food ingredients. The large number of official and unofficial methods that are available to authenticate olive oil and detect its adulteration reflects the popularity of the oil and the many ways to adulterate it. In order to keep the LGD concise and analyst-friendly, we focused on the authentication assays that are most relevant for the industry and relatively recent analytical methods that may be of interest to companies planning to invest in advanced technologies. This new document can make it easier for analysts to navigate the ocean of available methods in order to select the most suitable option for their lab.”

ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal added: “Olive oil is a ubiquitous ingredient in the conventional food supply as well as in consumer herb products and cosmetics, and it has been known to be subject to widespread adulteration for decades, if not longer. The new BAPP Laboratory Guidance Document is a valuable technical guide for commercial entities in various industries as well as researchers and regulators so they can utilize appropriate analytical methods for olive oil authenticity testing and be more confident of the results.”

The olive oil LGD is the 11th publication in the series of LGDs and the 65th peer-reviewed publication from BAPP. As with all BAPP publications, the bulletins are freely accessible to all ABC members, registered users of the ABC website, and members of the public on the BAPP website (free registration required). 

About the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterant Prevention Program (BAPP)

Just having observed its 10th anniversary, the ABC-AHP (American Herbal Pharmacopoeia)-NCNPR (National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi) Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program is an international consortium of nonprofit professional organizations, analytical laboratories, research centers, industry trade associations, industry members, and other parties interested in herbs and medicinal plants. The program advises industry, researchers, health professionals, government agencies, the media, and the public about various challenges related to adulterated botanical ingredients sold in commerce. To date, more than 200 US and international parties have financially supported or otherwise endorsed the program.

As of March 2021, BAPP has produced 65 peer-reviewed publications, including Botanical Adulterants Prevention Bulletins, Laboratory Guidance Documents, Botanical Adulterants Monitor e-newsletters, and articles in ABC’s peer-reviewed journal HerbalGram.

About the American Botanical Council