- Author: Tiffany Dobbyn, UC Davis
Researchers identify key markers to help professional retail buyers choose authentic products
Avocado oil has become a popular choice for many people in recent years because of its heart-healthy benefits and versatility in cooking. However, not all avocado oil products on store shelves are created equal. Some products are labeled as “pure” avocado oil when they contain other oils or additives. No enforceable standards defining the chemical and physical characteristics of avocado oil exist yet.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, analyzed samples of 36 private label avocado oil products and graded them based on quality and purity. Private label products are made by a third-party processor and sold under a grocery store or retailer brand label. Their findings, published in the journal Food Control, show that 31% of the samples tested were pure, and 36% were of advertised quality. Quality refers to whether the oil is fresh or has gone bad due to aging, heat or light exposure. For purity, researchers measured fatty acids, sterols and other components that differentiate avocado oil from other oils.
The study included oils purchased from 19 retailers in the U.S. and Canada with various price points. They found that lower-priced oils were more likely to be tainted with other oils.
“We found that low-cost products indicate a higher probability for adulteration, but high cost didn't guarantee purity or quality,” said Selina Wang, associate professor of Cooperative Extension in the Department of Food Science and Technology. She and Hilary Green, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis, co-authored the paper.
Researchers also identified certain chemical markers in avocado oil that professional retail buyers can use to make more informed decisions when it comes to choosing suppliers. This way, consumers can feel confident about the products they buy.
This is the second comprehensive study conducted by UC Davis researchers on the quality of avocado oil sold in the U.S. The first study released in 2020 found that many of the test samples were of poor quality, mislabeled or adulterated with other oils.
“This study demonstrates that although progress is being made in standard development since our first market study in 2020, there are still issues with purity in avocado oil and these issues extend significantly into private label oils,” Wang said.
Avocado oil standards
Since the release of the first UC Davis study, Wang said there's been a coordinated effort by researchers, industry leaders and government agencies to establish enforceable standards. The Avocado Oil Expert Group was formed in collaboration with the American Oil Chemists' Society to discuss potential standards and future research projects.
Wang's research group has been studying how natural factors like different types of avocados, harvest times, geographic origins and processing methods could affect the chemical composition of avocado oil. They want to create standards that will accommodate natural variations while detecting any adulterations.
Wang hopes that the study's findings will contribute to the establishment of standards that benefit both consumers and avocado oil producers who want to compete in a fair market.
“I'm very optimistic for the future of the avocado oil industry,” Wang said. “It's a high-value product with high consumer demand, similar to what I saw with olive oil 10 years ago. Olive oil quality and purity have improved significantly, which is where I see avocado oil going, if we can establish fair standards and eliminate fraudulent products.”/h3>/h3>
- Author: Elizabeth Fichtner
Recent advances in understanding the history of olive domestication
Elizabeth Fichtner, Farm Advisor, UCCE Tulare and Kings Counties
Olives are thought to have first been domesticated in the northeastern Levant, an area near the border of present-day Turkey and Syria. Map captured from Google Maps.
With the emergence of the California olive oil industry, the state has witnessed a dramatic diversification in the olive cultivars grown commercially. Our mainstay black ripe olive industry, dominated by the ‘Manzanillo' olive, is now combined with increasing acreage of Spanish, Greek, and Italian cultivars used to create high quality, extra virgin oil. The historic table olive industry of California still represents around 18,000 acres of olives in the state, while approximately 40,000 acres are currently devoted to oil production.
Although olive cultivation in California is relatively new (dating back to the historic Spanish Missions established by Franciscan priests), olives are of key importance in the history and culture of the Mediterranean basin. A recent publication by a group of European, American, and North African scientists has re-evaluated the location of the domestication of the olive, providing genetic evidence that domestication occurred in the northeastern Levant, close to the present-day border of Syria and Turkey.
To complete the study, researchers collected plant material from nearly 2000 trees, sampling both wild oleaster populations and domesticated cultivars of olive. World Olive Germplasm Banks in Córdoba (Spain) and Marrakech (Morocco) served as sources of the majority of cultivars included in the study. Researchers utilized the genetic sequences of plastids (ie. chloroplasts) to discern differences between cultivars and wild oleaster populations. Plastids are organelles (structures inside cells) that contain their own DNA. Since plastids are generally inherited from one parent (similar to mitochondria), their genetic sequences are more conserved then that of nuclear DNA, which is contributed by both parents. Since olive is a wind-pollinated crop, nuclear DNA may be disseminated over large distances.
The genetic analysis of wild populations indicates three distinct lineages of olive: the Near East (including Cyprus), the Agean area, and the Straight of Gibralter. These three wild populations are likely linked to refuge areas where populations persisted through historic glaciation events. Interestingly, the geographic distribution of these three populations also corresponds to the subdivisions of the olive fruit fly, suggesting that these regions offered shared refuge habitat for both the host and the pest. The wild oleaster population in the eastern Mediterranean was found to be more diverse than previously thought and ninety percent of the present-day cultivars analyzed in the study matched this group. Common olive cultivars grown in California, including, Sevillano, Arbosana, Arbequina, and Koroneiki, all belong to this group originating in the eastern Mediterranean.
As a result of this study, it is proposed that the initial domestication of olive took place in the northeastern Levant; subsequently, plant material was disseminated to the whole Levant and Cyprus before being spread to the western Mediterranean. After these initial domesticated trees spread throughout the Mediterranean basin, they likely underwent subsequent domestication events by crossing with wild oleasters, thus introducing genetic material from the other two ancient western Mediterranean lineages.
Such studies may appear purely academic; however, they can also address more timely questions and assist in characterizing cultivars. For example, a 2010 study in California made genotypic comparisons between historic olive plantings in Santa Barbara, CA and at Santa Cruz Island, CA. The study elucidated that the olives on Santa Cruz Island, planted in the late 19th century are different than other historic olive plantings in Santa Barbara, CA. Olives planted at the Santa Barbara Mission in the late 18th century are the ‘Mission' cultivar, whereas those on Santa Cruz Island (Figure 3) are generally ‘Redding Picholine.' Interestingly, the olives on Santa Cruz Island are thought to have been planted for oil production, but there are no historic reports of harvest or sale of a crop. Additionally, the Santa Cruz Island olives have become somewhat invasive on the island due to their propensity to establish from seed. As a result of genotypic analysis of these populations and the fact that ‘Picholine' makes an excellent rootstock due to its ease of propagation from seed, it is hypothesized that the ‘Picholine' variety was intended as a rootstock, but the grafts never took. Consequently, maturation of a ‘Picholine' orchard may have just been an accident, a mistake, or simply bad luck. The completion of this local population genetics study may have helped explain the unsolved mystery of the historically unharvested trees on Santa Cruz Island.
Find Santa Cruz Island.
Besnard, G., Khadari, B., Navascués, M., Fernández-Mazuecos, El Bakkali, A., Arrigo, N., Baali-Cherif, D., Brunini-Bronzini de Caraffa, V., Santoni, S., Vargas, P., Savolainen, V. 2013. The complex history of the olive tree: from Late Quaternary diversification of Mediterranean lineages to primary domestication in the northern Levant. Proc R Soc B. 280: 20122833.
Soleri, D., Koehmstedt, A., Aradhya, M.K., Polito, V., Pinney, K. 2010. Comparing the historic olive trees (Olea europaea L.) of Santa Cruz Island with contemporaneous trees in the Santa Barbara, CA area: a case study of diversity and structure in an introduced agricultural species conserved in situ. Genet Resour Crop Evol 57:973-984.
- Author: Ben Faber
It just came to my attention that there is a map of all the oil pipelines in the US. If you go to the bottom/left side and put in the state and county, it will be revealed. This is mainly for those growers who need to be aware of pipelines and tillage or any other work in the aerea of a pipeline.
- Author: Nastaran Tofangsazi and Beth Grafton-Cardwell, Department of Entomology, UC Riverside
With the detection of Huanglongbing (HLB) in California in 2012 and 22 additional cases reported during 2015 through June 2016 there is a major concern among citrus growers about the spread of this incurable bacterial disease. The vector of the disease, the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), is a hardy insect with good dispersal capabilities and can be found in many southern California citrus groves today. With no direct cure for HLB at present, the only option for growers to combat the disease is to control the psyllid. This can prove difficult for conventional citrus growers with broad spectrum insecticides, but for organic citrus growers, which grow an estimated 7% of citrus in California, the task is even more difficult with the currently available options.
Entrust (spinosad) + oil, Pyganic (pyrethrin) + oil, and oil alone are currently the recommended and most widely used insecticide options for organic growers (UC IPM Guidelines for Citrus). While these insecticides are fairly effective in killing ACP if they make direct contact, the residual life of these pesticides is very short (days) compared to conventional insecticides (weeks to months). For example, in our petri dish studies, 10 fl oz/acre Entrust SC + 0.25% Omni supreme spray oil caused 89% mortality, 17 fl oz/acre Pyganic 5.0 EC + 0.25% Omni supreme spray oil caused 73% mortality and 0.25% Omni supreme spray oil caused 42% mortality when 1st-2nd ACP nymphs were exposed to treated leaves one day after application. Nymphal mortality continued to decline for the Entrust + oil treatment (69% mortality) and even more severely declined for Pyganic + oil (27% mortality) 3 days after treatment. In contrast, one-day-old residues of a conventional insecticide, the neonicotinoid 5.5 oz Actara (thiamethoxam), resulted in more than 95% mortality of nymphs and mortality remained high for more than a month.
Studies of grower orchard treatments confirmed laboratory studies that showed a short residual effect of organic treatments (Entrust + oil and oil alone) compared to conventional insecticides (Actara). We monitored changes in population densities of ACP (adults by tap, nymphs and eggs by flush examinations) in the fall of 2015 before and after a grower sprayed separate orchards with one of three insecticides; 1) 1.25% 440 Supreme Spray Oil by ground application (400 gpa), or 2) 9 fl oz Entrust SC + 1% oil by air (50 gpa), or 3) 5.5 oz Actara by air (50 gpa). The oil treatment had little effect on the adult population, but significantly reduced psyllid nymph densities for 17-24 days. Entrust was completely ineffective in controlling psyllid nymphs, but suppressed adult and egg populations for about 14 days. Actara, a conventional insecticide, was the most effective treatment in the study and provided more than 5 weeks of both adult and nymph control. Because of the short residual effect of organic insecticides in citrus, repeat treatments are needed at a frequency of about every 2 weeks for ACP control.
Tamarixia radiata wasps released for biological control of ACP provide 20% to 88% parasitism depending on geographical location and time of year. If there were no disease to be concerned about, this level of parasitism by Tamarixia would be sufficient to protect citrus from the feeding damage of the psyllid. However, the disease spreads rapidly with just a few psyllids and so a greater level of control is needed. Generalist predators, such as lady beetles, lacewings and assassin bugs, also assist with control. Argentine ants can severely disrupt this parasitism by protecting psyllids from natural enemies. Unhappily, Entrust + oil, thought of as a very selective insecticide combination, was found to be highly toxic to adult Tamarixia wasps exposed to 3 day old residues. Thus, the organic insecticide that is the best for controlling the psyllid pest is not compatible with the parasitoid natural enemy, limiting our ability to use integrated strategies to control the psyllid.
At present, it is not mandatory, but is strongly recommended, that all southern California citrus growers treat their orchards in an area wide manner. The area wide program consists of coordinated treatments twice a year (winter and fall), and additional treatments in between. Due to the short residual nature of organic insecticides, organic applications should be applied twice within 10-14 days of each other for every single conventional insecticide application. This is especially important for younger groves as ACP nymphs thrive in new flush. Organic growers have a tough decision to make between treating frequently for ACP and the high cost associated with those treatments or transitioning into conventional management in order to more effectively control ACP. Additional solutions are needed for organic citrus.
UC IPM Guidelines for Citrus: Asian Citrus Psyllid. http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/r107304411.html
- Author: Suanne Klahorst
I attended the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in January and I was delighted with the offerings from local companies near UC Davis. Since I attended this vast international exhibit, I have purchased several local products that I discovered at the show. The exhibit was so large, I was only able to see half of it in a day. I met Matthieu Kohlmeyer, the French CEO and General Manager of La Tourangelle, whose walnut oils are processed 15 minutes away in Woodland.
I was also impressed with Mezzetta pasta sauces from Napa. I have purchased their olives and fire-roasted peppers for years, so why did I fail to notice their pasta sauce among the endless brands on the shelves? Unfortunately, my favorite in their line, Puttanesca, was not on the shelf at my grocer, but I found the spicy Arrabbiata, my second favorite tasting at the show.
As I looked for the locals I looked in vain for a local grape seed oil. The Italians were selling grape seed oil at wholesale prices that were surprisingly low. Meanwhile, I knew that grape seeds in our nearby wine regions are still largely treated as waste, just as UC Davis olives were treated before our former grounds manager Sal Genito partnered with a local olive oil company to launch a gourmet brand of oil at UC Davis.
Not surprisingly, UC Davis was involved. Sharon Shoemaker, director of the UC Davis' California Institute of Food and Agricultural Research (CIFAR), was interviewed about her role in helping SonomaCeuticals tap into campus expertise. WholeVine grape seed oil is cold pressed, allowing it to retain the natural flavors of chardonnay, zinfandel, reisling and other winegrape seeds. The flavor provides an added bonus to a naturally high smoke point and health benefits. This commands a higher price than imported oils and allows the firm to compete in this market.
Shoemaker and her program CIFAR (see-far) are champions of campus research. Since 1992, her dynamic energy has been sustained through private enterprises that pay for her business-friendly conferences and services to benefit small and large concerns. Rarely does the public see how often executives drop in to tap into UC Davis resources. This happens behind the scenes with little fanfare, except this time, when the nuances of a new product triumph came to light on the food page. All of us can now enjoy the benefits.