The oils are cataloged according to a communitarian norm – that divides them between extra virgin, virgin, olive or orujo – that demands that the products fulfill with certain physical-chemical parameters to be able to be labeled as extra virgin. But they must also respect organoleptic standards measured through a tasting that is carried out according to very strict rules. This sensory analysis is precisely the point where 20 of the 41 products analyzed by the OCU have failed and one of the main issues in the debate. The test, mandatory at European level, has a subjective component according to the industry that does not make it reliable.
THOSE WHO EXCEED THE SENSORY ANALYSIS
Result of the study of the OCU
"No physical-chemical problem has been detected, only in the tasting, which is an insecure method," says Primitivo Fernández, director of Anierac (National Association of Industrial Packers and Refiners of Edible Oils). He explains that they have been looking for a way to design a more reliable method, an "electronic nose" that reduces the subjective component: "Oil is the only food in the world that is defined by a tasting method, and differences in criteria cause a problem of lack of legal security. "
The OCU, for its part, has denounced all companies that according to their analysis have failed to comply with the autonomous communities labeling fraud. "It is time to put exemplary sanctions," said the spokeswoman of the consumer association, Ileana, on Thursday. Izverniceanu, during the presentation of the study. "We insist that it is not a problem of food safety, it is that a product with a label that is of superior category is sold."
THOSE WHO DO NOT EXCEED THE SENSORY ANALYSIS
Result of the study of the OCU
The products that obtain the highest score in terms of sensory analysis and that lead the general classification of the OCU are Oleoestepa oils in a liter plastic container – the best valued in four of the five studies carried out by the association since year 2000-, the extra virgin of Carrefour, also in a liter plastic bottle, and the Hacendado Gran Cooperativa Selección in a glass bottle of 750 milliliters. Among the best rated oils are other White marks, like Auchan, and as branded products, for example, the Carbonell Gran Selección in glass containers.
The same happens on the other side of the list, that of the oils labeled as extra virgin which according to the OCU are not. Among them are products such as Hojiblanca Nuestro in one liter plastic packaging or Dia bottle oil in 759 milliliters.
The tasting of the controversy that has been repeated three times
The tasting has a crucial weight in the final labeling of the product. According to European regulations, extra virgin oils are those that have no flavors in taste and smell and have a fruity aroma. There are not many laboratories accredited to carry out this analysis in Spain. The tasters have to be experts and trained. During the tasting, the brand of the products to be examined is hidden, as well as the color of the oil, which is kept at a constant temperature.
In previous studies, the OCU had detected cases of adulteration by mixing with other oils and a lampante oil, that is to say a product without previous refining that could not even be commercialized. This year, he has not come across no such serious breach of the regulations, but with defects in smell and taste, something that has also happened in Belgium, Italy and Portugal although to a lesser extent, the association points out.
Among the physical-chemical variables analyzed to define which category an oil belongs to are the authenticity, which measures whether the product is mixed with other types of oils, the acidity and the peroxide index to know the degree of oxidation. All oils analyzed by the OCU meet these characteristics to be considered extra virgin. But apart comes the sensory analysis, a step that demands and regulates the EU for all member countries. The OCU has carried out the analyzes according to the royal decree relative to the realization of comparative studies of foods destined to be published to inform the consumer, according to assures in his study published this Thursday. After a first examination in a laboratory has deposited the samples of the analyzed lot in the Administration, as and establishes the regulations, so that the representatives of the brands could take them and carry out their study.
When the result of the two analyzes does not coincide, the law establishes that a third examination be carried out, the dirimente, during which a representative of each party is allowed to be present. The analysis was performed in the Laboratory Arbitral Agroalimentario del Department of agriculture. And he reconfirmed the position of the OCU. Fernández, from Anierac, explains that the sector has doubts about the representativeness of the samples and suspect that they have not been properly guarded. "They were purchased in February and in March they were deposited in the ministry's laboratory [de Agricultura]; until the last tastings in September and October have passed many months, so it is possible that there have been notable changes, and the defects that the OCU says have found are light. " It also adds that these are defects that a normal consumer is not able to appreciate and that create discrepancy even among professional tasters. "For us it is unfair and commercially devastating."