Friday, 20 January 2012

Solving the Olive Oil Scandal?

I read this really cool piece by Adam Taylor from Business Insider entitled '21 Crazy Facts About the Corrupt Olive Oil Industry'.  If you love cooking as much as me you will be surprised by this article. Quality olive oil is difficult to find since there are so many cheap versions at local supermarkets.  Olive oil is tasted in spoonful quantities in early mornings in Greek homes I have heard.  You probably would not want to do this with the stuff you get at the local grocery store.

As in Adam's article here are the interesting facts laid out:
1. Olive oil is more expensive than other oils but easy to fake
2.The fake industry is as long and counterfeit as the real olive oil industry (merchants mixed oil with lard to make more profit
3. Sounds like Roman's were drinking the stuff because they consumed up to 50 litres per yer per capita
4. Roman's took the fake olive oil more seriously than we currently do (this is surprising since we have great technology to help prevent faking and to make better quality olive oil)
5. Roman's must have passed on the tradition to their future descendants because olive oil faking is done today and has ties to the mafia.  The main character of the Godfather novel Vito Corleone was based on real life olive oil mafioso Joe Profaci.
6.Once of the world's largest dealer in olive oil Domenico Ribatti was sentenced to 13 years in prison in the 90's for counterfeit olive oil.  That is as many years as drug dealers.
7. Thank you Italy & Greece!  87 % of misappropriated EU subsidies have gone to Italy.  Greece is probably also a haven for this kind of activity.
8.  Thanks to great chef's like David Rocco spreading the word of awesome food made with olive oil.  This oil's consumption has gone up 37% in Southern Europe and 100% in North America.
9. See number 5-7.  Organized crime loves this because food counterfeiting has less charges about half as much penalty than drug dealing....
10.but with profits about the same as cocaine trafficking.  I wonder if they have trained dogs for detecting counterfeit olive oil
11. Italy cops found one ring with 100,000 liters of olive oil equal to 8 million euros.
12 Gangs are getting smarter by using chemical methods to evade chemical testing.  I wonder what these are?    Taste testing is much harder to fool.
13. 787 olive oil producers were investigated in Italy with 205 being charged with different crimes from faulty labels to full on counterfeiting.
14. In 2007 only 4% of olive oil leaving Italy was pure Italian olive oil so this is possibly the reason they can sell three times as much as they produce. 
15.What is an extra virgin?  Extra Virgin olive oil is one withas oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams and a peroxide value of less than 20 milliequivalent O2. It must be produced entirely by mechanical means without the use of any solvents, and under temperatures that will not degrade the oil (less than 86°F, 30°C).
16. FDA and probably other bodies do not check so thoroughly so many people can die from this.  Many people did die in Spain from poor oil.

Tom Mueller is also wrote about the scandal of olive oil in the New Yorker and a really great book that I am dying to read

So can measuring the surface tension or interfacial tension help to stop the corruption?  Are more expensive instruments needed?

This is as far as I have gone in my research.  Still looking for answers.

Castor oil surface tension 36.4 dynes/cm interfacial tension15.4 dynes/cm
Olive oil (surface tension 32.0 dynes/cm interfacial tension 17 dynes/cm