“Traceability” is the ability to track any food through all stages of production, processing, and distribution (including importation and retail). Traceability should mean that movements can be traced one step backwards (from consumer to source) and one step forward (from source to consumer) at any point in the supply chain. Traceability is considered a crucial factor on the transparency and quality of agri-food products.
Adulterated olive oil is the biggest source of agricultural fraud problems in the EU. Less than 10% of world olive oil production meets the criteria for labeling as Extra Virgin, while it is estimated that up to 50% of retail oil is falsely labeled Extra Virgin. Thus, the importance of developing new research and marketing insights to validate the quality is crucial. Regulatory requirements are loose in the processing of olive oil but are expected to be implemented in the coming years, so that consumers can rely on traceability as a tool to ensure certain processing aspects and correct strategies. Those strategies include harvesting processes and safety procedures.
Harvesting processes can be traced by recording the activities in-field, e.g., crop growth, irrigation, pruning and harvesting.
Recorded data from applied soil treatments, fertilization and pest / disease control in-field are valuable activities for the safety procedures of the crop production. In case of olive oil, data on the activities of extraction processes including milling or pressing and chemical addition in the olive mills are essential tools for the safety of the final product. Those treatments must be traced additionally through chemical analyses, an important checkpoint in the traceability of olive oil. Chemical analysis in olive oil includes characteristics such as free acidity (% oleic acid), peroxide index (meq O2/kg), K 232, K270, ΔK, FAEE (mg/kg), Stigmastadienes (mg/kg) and more that contribute to the quality of the final product. Analyses for the presence of pesticides are a crucial parameter on the traceability of the olive oil. Potential contamination of the product during the packaging is a checkpoint that need to be controlled, too.
Taking consideration all the above parameters that can be traced in the production of olive oil, the uniqueness of the final product is obvious. Nonetheless, stakeholders and consumers can only be informed through the label of the product. Thus, to achieve a better understanding in applied traceability of agri-food products, multi-tags on the product must be provided for the origin and transparency. Multi-tags can vary, but in most cases are referred to unique QR codes.
Through the process of using QR codes, both producers and consumers have numerous benefits. The access to info regarding the traceability of the product from source to consumer and backwards, gives to producers the ability to control their crops and its quality, and to consumers the product awareness.
MyElia Extra Virgin olive oil is a real example of a fully traceable and sustainable product.
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