Food Fraud in Olive Oil

Food Fraud

Christina Marantelou

Agriculturalist - Food Scientist, M.Sc. Nanobiotechnology

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Olive oil food fraud refers to the intentional misrepresentation or adulteration of olive oil in order to deceive consumers or increase profits. Olive oil is a high-value product and is susceptible to fraud due to its popularity and limited supply. The high risk of fraud in the olive oil industry is directly related to the product’s economic value, fragmented supply chain, and liquid nature (1). Similar to honey and maple syrup, some companies have previously diluted more expensive extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) (Picture 1) with less expensive vegetable oil (such as soybean or sunflower oil) but sold the resulting mixture at a higher price as pure olive oil. Other types of food fraud might be mislabeling the country of origin, and falsely claiming that the oil is organic or has specific health benefits. According to a recent study, the value of a premium EVOO can be reduced by 50%. Olive oil fraud manifests itself in a variety of ways. In 2019, for example, Europol seized 150 tonnes of sunflower oil labelled as olive oil. Similarly, in Spain, In 2019, an olive oil producer was fined for falsely labelling their products as “extra-virgin” when they were actually of lower quality.

Another case involved 47 millers, two bottlers and traders who sold oil with a fake EVOO Protected Geographical Indication (PGL) label. What’s more, there are fears the issue would worsen as demand for olive oil increases after the Russian-Ukrainian war cut the supply of sunflower oil. In 2016, Italian authorities seized 2,000 tons of fake extra-virgin olive oil that had been made by mixing lower-quality oils with chlorophyll and beta-carotene to make it appear higher quality. 

Olive oil fraud can not only deceive consumers but can also harm the reputation and profitability of legitimate producers. In addition, adulterated olive oil may contain harmful additives or contaminants that can pose health risks to consumers.

•Traceability from tree to consumer 

To counter the problem, a Greek, Crete-based biotech company, which develops DNA-based traceability solutions for food products, has developed what it describes as an antifraud traceability tool called DNAblockchain. An intelligent data processing platform uses DNA data to verify the varietal authenticity of EVOO. The company is developing DNA profiles for specific olive varieties used in the production of EVOO. Koroneiki accounts for approximately 60% of Greek EVOO production. This information is then combined with other data, such as quality characteristics, the location of the olive grove, and the amount of EVOO produced and stored in a blockchain system. The whole traceability story will be available to consumers via a QR code on the EVOO bottle

Picture 1. Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

“Blockchain is already widely used in the olive oil industry to track and trace each lot number from the manufacturer to the consumer. The limitation of this approach is that it only ensures the traceability of the bottle and not its contents. This gap is bridged by DNAblockchain, which makes it impossible to mix olive oil with other varieties or types of vegetable oil without being discovered. So, if you add, 3 – 5% olive oil from a Greek variety to an Italian product, you can trace it back to the source using DNA analysis. That gives complete transparency”, explained the CEO of the Greek company (1).

For detailed information on these products, you can visit the articles Food fraud in honey and maple syrup, Food Fraud in foodfood fraud in spices and herbs.


  3. Brooks, C. at al. 2021 A review of food fraud and food authenticity across the food supply chain, with an examination of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit on food industry. Food Control, Vol. 130, 108171.


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