Approximately two-thirds of avocado oil in North America is adulterated and of lower quality than advertised, according to a recent study by researchers from the University of California, Davis.
Avocado oil is a commodity that is experiencing an increasing trend in adulteration and food fraud alongside its rising popularity. Due to the product’s relatively recent emergence on the global market, the Codex Alimentarius Commission has yet to finalize a specific set of standards for refined or virgin extra virgin avocado oil, leaving retailers without definitive guidance to help inform purchases that avoid fraudulent product.
The present study included an evaluation of 36 private-label oils currently on the market in the U.S. and Canada to determine their quality and purity, addressing knowledge gaps in the development of Codex standards. Of 36 private labeled avocado oils 31 percent were pure and 36 percent were of advertised quality. Out of 29 refined samples, three met both quality and purity standards, 11 met quality standards, and eight met current proposed purity standards.
The private label oils were also used to identify set of common markers of adulteration to help professional buyers to determine what oils to purchase. This includes a list of fatty acids and sterols and how increases or decreases in specific values can help buyers determine if there is adulteration occurring and if so, potentially with what oil. For example, an elevated stearic fatty acid value with an elevated delta-7-stigmastenol value were identified as key markers.
Techniques to assess oil quality were also discussed as well as issues with current labeling, which currently contains many contradictions. For example, the study suggests that low cost can indicate a higher probability for adulteration; however, high cost does not guarantee a pure sample of appropriate quality. Both purity and quality parameters should be used to label avocado oil appropriately.