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Evaluation of methodology to verify vegetable oil species in mixtures of oil - FA0117

It is common practice for food manufacturers to use refined vegetable oil mixtures as ingredients in many food products. Due to the updating of an EC Regulation 1169/2011, DEFRA have a legal requirement to check that food businesses comply with this new requirement, which is to declare the composition of the oil mixture in the food product label. There is an urgent need for an efficient, reliable, practical and low cost method for Public Analyst Laboratories to undertake this task on behalf of DEFRA.

It is expected that the vegetable oils of concern in this project are palm, sunflower, rapeseed and corn oil, although a literature review built into the work plan, will investigate and confirm this assumption. Complex mixtures of these oils (3 or above) make the method selection and subsequent analysis quite challenging. Ideally, one suitable method could identify unambiguously the vegetable species present. Even if an “all-purpose” method existed presently, it may have worked sufficiently with reference oils under specific conditions but when applied in a larger scale under DEFRA procurement and regional checks, it is highly likely that it will be difficult to implement.

This is due to the natural oil variability and compositional differences as well as the substantial limitations of the current one-step methodology employed. It is therefore clear that for this problem, a step-wise approach to producing a fit-for-purpose solution must be followed. This solution must also include a form of mathematical treatment to deal with the oil compositional variation. Pending the outcomes of the methodology evaluation at the start of the project, the most probable approach appears to be, a two-step; analysis. In the first step, the “screening step”, an easy to use spectroscopic assay is applied to record the oil mixture “fingerprint”. A calibration model is developed from a database of oil “fingerprints” and sophisticated, yet easy to use, mathematical tools are applied to find patterns and classify the oils according to their quantity in the mixture. In the second step, or “confirmation step”, a fit-for-purpose case-driven analytical method (chromatographic) confirms further the oil composition.

This is how is done: The screening step will give indications as to which analytical procedure (method A, B or C) is selected for the oil mixtures. Method selection will be then decided in this stage based on three factors. A) Screening method indications, b) previous proven scientific work and c) laboratory trials. Once a link between oil mixtures and analytical confirmatory techniques is established, the information will be fed into a decision tree to create simple decision making process. Some simple oil mixtures might not even need as long as the calibration models for the screening step work efficiently. The developed method and underlying procedures will be validated to determine its reliability with regards detecting and classifying vegetable oil species in mixtures of oil. The proposed methodology is intended to ensure DEFRA will be employing cutting edge methodologies with respect to vegetable oil analysis, food authentication and food fraud based on both current and likely longer term needs.
The overall aim is to develop a low cost modern and efficient methodology to tackle the immediate technical need regarding vegetable oil mixtures as highlighted by DEFRA’s requirement to implement the EU Directive. This directive was driven by consumer awareness and need for better food labelling in products across the EU.
The objectives of this proposed work are:

1. Produce a comprehensive literature review on the methodology (both techniques and target components) available to discriminate vegetable oil species in mixtures
2. Develop a 2 step discrimination methodology based on existing and adapted spectroscopic and chromatographic techniques to standard mixtures of reference oils.
3. Develop a decision support tool based on scientific data generated.
4. Validate the developed procedures
5. Disseminate project outcomes to key stakeholders

Each objective is linked to all the previous objectives in order to have a positive outcome. Objective 1 is linked with Work Package 1 (WP1), Objective 2, 3 to WP3, Objective 4 to WP4 and Objective 5 to WP5. For detailed workplan breakdown see relevant section.

Project Documents
• EVID4 - Final project report : FA0117 - final report   (2198k)
• OTH - Other : SOP- FA0117   (2302k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2012

To: 2013

Cost: £78,451
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Queen’s University