Extra Virgin Oil
OLIVE OIL COMPOSITION
Extra virgin olive oil, like all oils and fats, is formed by about 98% triglycerides. In olive oil, triglycerides are characterized by containing fatty acids including the predominant oleic acid (65-80%). Oleic Acid is a mono-unsaturated fatty acid that aids in the function of our blood lipoproteins and cell membranes and improves cardiovascular function. It is also much more stable in terms of deterioration during storage and cooking than the main seed oils which are rich in polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats typically spoil faster than mono unsaturated fats and often spoil during cooking.
Due to the extraction technique olive oil contains small amounts of natural components derived from the fruit of the olive. Some of these components have strong antioxidant benefits, such ortho-diphenols (derived from oleuropein, a typical bitter compound found in olives containing hydroxytyrosol), the tocopherols (alpha-tocopherol or pro-vitamin E), carotenoids and squalene. For these reasons, extra virgin olive oil is the most stable of oils in terms of deterioration, tolerates heat during cooking, and has health benefits when incorporated into a balanced diet. The lipid profile of our body is affected positively, especially when compared to a diet heavy with animal fats and margarines, which instead increase the presence of ‘bad’ saturated fatty acids in our arteries.
Compared to seed oils which are rich in poly-unsaturates, extra virgin olive oil is superior. It oxidizes less because it is rich in fats with a low percentage of mono-unsaturated fats and is extracted exclusively by physical pressing the olive fruit. Few people know that seed oils are refined industrially after being extracted with an organic solvent – typically hexane (hydrocarbon). Once the solvent is removed, the oil is then de-acidified with basic substances, de-colored by bleaching and then deodorized under high vacuum at temperatures around 392 F. For these reasons, extra virgin olive oil is being highly recognized and appreciated more and more around the world. The nutritional superiority of extra virgin olive oil continues to become more apparent and talked about when discussing healthy lifestyles. Unfortunately, extra virgin olive oil is not heavily integrated into diets in regions such as North America and Asia as it is in the Mediterranean.
Estimates made by the International Olive Oil Council for the year 2011/2012 indicate world production of about 3.1 million tons, a 3% increase over the previous year. Approximately three quarters of the production is concentrated in the European Union which recorded a production level of around 2.18 million tons, slightly lower than the year prior. At a European Community level it should be noted that Spain produces 62% of the total, with a production of approximately 1.35 million tons. With regards to other Mediterranean countries the most important producer is Tunisia; according to estimates, production is expected to rise over 50% on the previous production year. These estimates also foresee good performance from Turkey which should achieve an increase of 13% compared to the previous year and Syria with an increase of approximately 11%. Among the other producers in the Mediterranean, Morocco is showing a decline in production while Algeria has increased production by 9% with regards to the previous year. The production of these last two countries is approximately, 120 and 55 thousand tons.
Finally, one of the new areas of production should be noted: in Australia production is steadily increasing and has reached a level of about 19,000 tons, more than a third of its domestic demand, and has returned an upward trend compared to the previous year. The rest of the countries surveyed have a total production of approximately 37 thousand tons, flat when compared to the previous year.
OLIVE PRODUCTION IN ITALY
In Italy there are about one million olive oil businesses. Olive cultivation is spread throughout Italy from Trento in the North via Sardinia to Agrigento in the South. In recent years extra virgin olive oil has methodically been produced in the regions of Piedmont and Friuli Venezia Giulia. The value of production in the olive sector exceeds 2,000 million euros and generates a market of about 20 million working days per year in Italy. Italy, the principal European country with the highest concentration of olive trees for the quality production of extra virgin olive oil, has a wealth of about 250 million olive trees with over 350 different varieties. Italy has 43 certified products with protected designation of origin status and one PGI product. On average the production of olive oil in general is almost 500 thousand tons.
PROTECTED DESIGNATION OF ORIGIN
Extra virgin olive oils with designation of origin status in Europe confirm their fourth position in the ranking of EU recognition of PDO-PGI sector. This sector, with 116 awards at February 21, 2012, is preceded only by fruit & vegetables and cereals (286 awards), cheese (197) and fresh meat (124). The total number of PDO and PGI Oils recognized by the EU in February 2012 was 108, four more than the figure recorded a year previously. Of the recognized quality oils, almost 40% are Italian brands, equal to a total of 43, followed by other countries such as Greece (27) and Spain (24).
%BREAKDOWN OF THE NUMBER OF PDO AND PGI DESIGNATIONS OF OLIVE OILS IN THE EU
(updated February 21,2012)
Source: European Commision
The denominations for oil in the EU are mainly represented by PDO status, and to a lesser extent by PGI status, reflecting the strong link with the territory of almost all denominations. In Italy, as pointed out, the total grouping of olive oil with PDO and PGI certification is made up of 43 products (of which only one is IGP certified), a number that has grown by three units compared to last year. The regional breakdown of the number of denominations continues to reflect specialist oil production in general: the region that has the highest number of awards is Sicily with six denominations, followed by Puglia, Campania and Tuscany with five and Abruzzo, Calabria and Lazio with four. The PDO and PGI sector presents a relatively high level of recognition however this amount does not correspond to a consistent level of certified production and sales. The production of PDO and PGI oils is lower than the total number of extra virgin olive oils available.