The main objective of this project is to apply molecular technologies based on genomic and metabolic information to the traceability of origin and authenticity of olive oil produced and sold within the European Union. The purpose of this is to ensure the production of reliable quality olive oil for the consumers' health and confidence, to protect sustainable cultivation of olive trees and to authenticate their European region of origin.

Preservation of the quality and of the identity of the blend utilised in oil production requires an analytical approach through the entire production and transformation chain.

Traceability is not only relevant to assessing origin and content of the olive oil but also to protect and prevent frauds at different stages in oil production: (i) material other than olives; (ii) olives of non-EU origin; (iii) oil from low quality regions into oils labelled as high quality areas; (iv) non-olive tree original oil.

Application of molecular methodologies through traceability is essential to extend traceability from the raw material to the final product through the whole production chain. For this purpose global metabolic information on olive milling obtained through mass spectrometry and other analytical procedures will be compared with the total genomic information obtained through molecular marker technology.



Objectives of the project


To establish through a feasibility study the applicability of available DNA extraction/purification methods to olive oils collected at different stages of the production chain: crude and refined oils, and to evaluate if the DNA collected is quantitatively (amount) and qualitatively (length or size of the fragments) applicable for a genomic analysis through quantitative PCR, molecular markers analysis, microarray analysis. This will be done on few cultivars chosen randomly among those included in this project.


To collect information regarding olive cultivation and olive oil production, commerce, marketing and processing in the European Union.


To collect information and to assess the use of molecular markers for variety identification and discrimination in order to define a set of markers that can be used together (multiplexed) in the commonly used high throughput genotyping platforms.


To obtain and deliver the information available on the genetic makeup and distribution of alleles across cultivars in European regions to help in designing a set of molecular markers that can be used throughout the project for olive oil analysis.


On the basis of the output from #1, to assess the presence of DNA fragments by qualitative and quantitative methods in oil samples obtained from commercial lines or from oils reconstructed in laboratory, starting from pure genetic stocks including some low quality cultivars that are utilised for commercial frauds.


To compare the data set obtained with genomic information and metabolic profiling to assess and quantify cultivar composition of oil in a diagnostic test that will be made available as tool kit for SME food companies, Quality Assessing Institutes and Consumers Associations.


To establish the procedure for obtaining a “molecular identity card”(M-ID) for each olive oil, based on genomic and metabolomic data, in order to prepare a label for the products which can be visible and readable by consumers (bar code).


To develop a network of all the interested parties including growers, companies and consumers to discuss the relevance of molecular methodologies in traceability across the food chain and in particular across the production of olive oil.




The project will deliver:

  • Methods for extracting DNA from olive oils in quantity and size compatible with their application to genomic analysis

  • A database of the olive cultivars grown in the European Community and utilised for the olive oil production

  • A database of genetic information and allele distribution in cultivars and across populations

  • Diagnostic molecular markers for olive

  • Methods for metabolites analysis and quantification in olive oils preparations (metabolic profiling)

  • A strategy for processing metabolic profiling data obtained from olive oils of different origin, either of single or mixed cultivars

  • Methods for quantification of cultivar composition in olive oil by LightCycler® technology, DNA and PNA microarray technology

  • A number of toolkits and methodologies to be used in forensic testing including fraud detection

  • A “molecular identity card”(M-ID) for labelling oils

  • A network of information and communication involving all participants and stakeholders


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