An international research consortium is being sponsored by the European Commission and its anti-fraud office OLAF, to agree the most cost-effective and reliable method of detecting olive oil that has been adulterated with hazelnut oil. Quite apart from the fraud practised on processors and consumers, the Commission estimates that the illicit sale of adulterated olive oil loses the EU budget around €4m (US$3.6m) a year in lost duty and fraudulently claimed subsidies. The MEDEO project is examining tests such as GC-MS, LC-GC, 18O and 2H-SIRMS, NMR and FT-Raman to choose one that can be enshrined in future European legislation fighting the fraud. The consortium would also train analysts.

By Keith Nuthall, correspondent