Health for humans, animals & plants

Vegetable cooking oils

General

Vegetable edible oils are obtained by pressing or extracting oil-rich seeds or fruits.

Production Properties
Refined edible oils

Obtained by pressing or extraction.During refining, accompanying substances are removed by degumming, deacidification, bleaching and/or steaming.

Universally applicable, heat stable, largely neutral in taste, longer shelf life than unrefined edible oils.
Non-refined edible oils Obtained exclusively by mechanical or physical processes (excluding extraction). Less heat stable and shorter shelf life than refined edible oils.
Cold-pressed edible oils Unrefined oils pressed without the addition of heat by mechanical processes only. Cannot be heated too high, flavor typical of the variety
Cold pressed native edible oils Cold-pressed oils pretreated only by decantation, filtration and/or centrifugation. Not too high heatable, varietal taste.

 

How high an edible oil can be heated can be determined by its smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature at which the edible oil begins to smoke when heated. Refined cooking oils are more heat stable compared to unrefined oils and are particularly suitable as frying fats. Oils with a low smoke point, such as cold-pressed and cold-pressed virgin cooking oils, should not be heated to high temperatures.

Improper procedures during frying can result in foods that are not suitable for human consumption from a food safety perspective. Heating and browning not only produces desirable aroma and flavor compounds, but also acrylamide. For more information on preparing and frying with vegetable cooking oils, see "Safe cooking".

Nutrition recommendations

Vegetable cooking oils, with the exception of coconut oil, contain predominantly unsaturated fatty acids. They are important energy suppliers, as they contain more than twice as many calories as the same amount of carbohydrates or protein. According to the recommendations of theAustrian food pyramid, they should therefore be consumed in moderate quantities (a total of one to two tablespoons daily). More information on the topic of fat can be found under "Food under the microscope".

Olive oil

Olive oil is extracted from the fruit of the olive tree and has been valued for its taste and ingredients for many centuries and is recognized as a high-quality food. Around 1.2 liters of olive oil are consumed annually per capita in Austrian households (Statistics Austria, consumption survey 2009/10).

The main areas of cultivation are Spain, Italy, Tunisia, Greece and other Mediterranean countries. The highest standards apply to oils in the "extra virgin olive oil" category. Most olive oils offered on the market also have this designation.

Different quality classes

Olive oil is produced in eight different quality classes. At the retail level, only the four categories "Extra Virgin Olive Oil", "Virgin Olive Oil", "Olive Oil" and "Olive Pomace Oil" may be marketed. Blends of the same quality category, even from different countries, are allowed. For example, "Extra Virgin Olive Oil" may also bear the indication "Blend of Olive Oils from the European Union" as a designation of origin.

Virgin olive oils (extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil) are oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions which do not lead to deterioration of the oil and which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration. "Olive oil" and "olive-pomace oil," on the other hand, are mixtures of virgin olive oils and refined olive and olive-pomace oils, respectively.

The precise rules on this are set out in European Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013 on a common organization of the markets in agricultural products.

Situation in Austria

In order to verify the safety of vegetable edible oils, an average of 377 samples have been officially inspected annually in recent years. Approximately 30% of the samples were rejected. The majority of the reasons for complaint were due to labeling errors and misleading information.

Vegetable edible oils were mostly rated as "unsafe - unfit for human consumption" due to contamination with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or lack of organoleptic properties (defects due to odor, taste and appearance).

In the past ten years, a total of 44 samples were rejected due to their composition or the detection of residues and/or contaminants. The reasons were pesticide residues, excessive levels of trans fatty acids or mycotoxins in corn germ oil.

Vegetable edible oils had to be classified as "not safe - harmful to health" a total of 17 times in recent years. The main reason for this was contamination withpolycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or glycidyl esters.

Other reasons" for complaints about vegetable edible oils include products that did not correspond to the stated category "extra virgin" or violated the prepackaging regulation.

Focus Actions

In 2020, a focus campaign was carried out to examine special oils (such as linseed, hazelnut, walnut or poppy seed oil) with regard to labeling, organoleptics, composition, residues and contaminants. In the process, 92 samples from all over Austria were examined, 35 samples were objected to due to labeling deficiencies and/or misleading information.

In 2020, another focus action was carried out with regard to compliance with the maximum level for erucic acid in mustard (seed) oils laid down in Regulation (EC) No. 1881/2006. Of 15 mustard (seed) oils tested, a total of 3 samples were found to exceed the maximum erucic acid content.

Tips

Labelling of vegetable edible oils

A label must state the following: Material name, list of ingredients, net quantity, best before date, lot (batch), storage conditions, name and address of manufacturer, origin (only for olive oils) and nutritional declaration.

A label must not include the following: Self-evident advertising, claims about the property of a food that are likely to deceive, disease-related claims, or unauthorized nutrition and/or health claims.

For more information on the labeling of edible vegetable oils, see Downloads.

Specialized information

Olive oil properties and measurement criteria

The physical, chemical and organoleptic (sensory) characteristics of the eight different categories of olive oil, as well as the limits and the associated methods of analysis, are governed by Regulation (EEC) No. 2568/1991.

Olfactory and gustatory characteristics

No other oil has such a variety of different odors and tastes. Olive oil can be mild, but also very distinctly bitter and pungent. Fruitiness, bitterness and pungency are considered positive characteristics. The characterization of fruitiness ranges from fruity notes (of apple, various citrus fruits, almond, banana, mango, ripe or green fruits) to vegetable (of artichoke, tomato, olive) to descriptions such as: "of freshly cut grass or leaves" or various herbs and spices. This sensory diversity has many causes and is central to determining quality. An important factor is the olive variety, which has a particularly large influence on the characteristic properties of the oil. In addition, the growing region with its climatic conditions, the quality of the soil, the condition and degree of ripeness of the olives at harvest and the care taken in the production of the oil also play an important role.

According to the regulation, "Extra Virgin Olive Oil" must have a minimum level of fruitiness, while no defects (such as rancid, pungent, muddy, musty-moist or vinegary) must be detectable.

Chemical parameters

In addition to the sensory characteristics, the regulation contains a large number of requirements regarding chemical properties (such as acidity, peroxide value, composition of fatty acids, trans-fatty acid content, K values, etc.). Both sensory and chemical parameters are used to verify olive oil, especially in determining whether the designation of the respective category (e.g., "extra virgin olive oil") is rightly used.

Verification of the quality of olive oil

We carry out sensory and chemical tests. For the evaluation of sensory properties, we also work with an olive oil panel that is internationally recognized by the International Olive Council (IOC). In accordance with Regulation (EEC) No. 2568/1991, such an olive oil panel consists of eight to twelve specially trained testers who evaluate the oils, again according to precise specifications of the regulation, with regard to fruitiness and defects on a ten-part scale.

However, we examine olive oil not only for freshness and purity, but also for residues, which provide information on the content of pesticides, plasticizers, solvents,polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) orother contaminants.

Our experts analyze around 100 olive oil samples each year, on average 70 percent of which are extra virgin olive oils.

In 2020 (91 samples), a total of about 1 percent were objected to because they were labeled as "extra virgin olive oil" but the sensory and/or chemical properties did not meet the requirements of Regulation (EEC) No. 2568/1991. On the other hand, there were no complaints based on the tests carried out for contaminants, i.e., for example, no exceedance of the limit values forpolycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons could be detected in the olive oils.

Information on food safety analytical services can be found here.

Information on the National Reference Laboratory for Pesticide Residues is available here.

Last updated: 25.01.2022

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