Scientists Use Forensic Techniques to Gauge Olive Oil Quality, Prevent Fraud

Scientists managed to quantify DNA present in olive oil with the help of breakthrough forensic techniques.

Much like deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) helps solve crimes, it can be used to control food quality and prevent fraud. It plays the role of a true identity card, and that still holds true for plants.

Using DNA to determine olive oil authenticity and quality has proven to be a challenge, though. That was true until scientists managed to quantify DNA present in olive oil with the help of breakthrough forensic techniques, as a result of a coordinated, collegial effort.

The reason it is difficult to use DNA in order to determine olive oil quality is that DNA dissolves in water but not in lipids (understand: fat), and olive oil contains few molecules that can be reasonably and relevantly exploited. Besides, DNA is very fragmented in virgin olive oil.

Scientists from the University of Córdoba have teamed up with their counterparts from the Council of Scientific Investigation (combined with researchers from the Institute of Sustainable Agriculture) in order to tackle the challenge that poses olive oil DNA authentication and quantification.

The team of researchers managed to come up with an absolute way of quantifying DNA in virgin olive oil by using advanced forensic techniques that are usually reserved for crime scenes analysis.

Gabriel Dorado Pérez, a molecular biology and biochemistry professor and the researcher responsible of the investigation group AGR-248 (Agri-food Biotechnology), as well as the Andalusian Plan of Investigation, Development and Innovation, gave his insight on the process: “Surely, considering the fact that virgin olive oil is the juice of a fruit, it contains water drops in microscopic quantity in which DNA dissolves,” he explained. More