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Most avocado oil is rancid or impure, experts warn

Nutrition

May 25, 2023 | 5:44 pm

Avocado oil often touted as a light, heart-healthy oil usually has a dark, greasy background.

A study from the University of California at Davis found that a whopping 69 percent of avocado oils sold by retailers contained impurities such as cheaper blended oils.

Additionally, many of the store-brand avocado oils had high levels of oxidation, indicating that the oils had started to go rancid.

Out of 29 samples of refined avocado oil, only three met basic quality and purity standards, the study authors wrote in the journal Food Control.

And it didn’t matter whether consumers bought expensive avocado oils or cheap store brands.


Avocado oil, honey, olive oil and other agricultural products should be screened for impurities, say food experts.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

We found that low-cost products indicate a higher likelihood of adulteration, but high cost does not guarantee purity or quality, Selina Wang, an associate professor in the department of food science and technology at UC Davis, said Wednesday.

Common impurities that were added to avocado oil included sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil and soybean oil, the study authors said.

Avocado oil has grown in popularity in recent years due to its light, buttery flavor and numerous health benefits. Like olive oil, it’s high in oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid, according to Healthline.

And besides being easy to cook, it has a high heat point and doesn’t burn easily. It’s also rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and E, and could help lower cholesterol levels and relieve high blood pressure.

But the UC Davis survey results highlight the need for additional safeguards and quality standards to ensure consumers get what they’re paying for.

This study shows that while progress is being made in standard development, there are still issues with purity in avocado oil, and these issues extend significantly to private label oils, Wang said.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time in recent years that food manufacturers have come under fire for selling foods that aren’t pure or even safe for consumers.

Honey producers from China have been criticized by the European Union for laundering honey or selling honey that contains sugary syrups, artificial colors, water and, in some cases, lead and other unsafe heavy metals.

It’s basically sugar water, an EU official told the Financial Times, and it drives honey prices so low that honest European honey producers can’t compete.

So last month, EU officials proposed tough new labeling standards to combat the influx of cheap and unclean honey from outside the bloc.


We found that low-cost products indicate a higher likelihood of adulteration, but high cost doesn’t guarantee purity or quality, said Selina Wang, an associate professor in the department of food science and technology at UC Davis.
AFP via Getty Images

Olive oil has also been the subject of several recent investigations. Thousands of tons of cheap, low-quality olive oils from Spain and Greece have been marketed as expensive Italian extra virgin olive oil, a 2018 investigation has revealed.

America is the dumping ground for all those fraudulent operations, one olive oil expert told Forbes. There are insufficient resources to control the more than 350,000 tons of olive oil entering the country. That’s why, even after the scandals, adulterated bottles of olive oil are still on supermarket shelves.

Wang hopes the results of the avocado oil studies will help set standards that benefit avocado oil consumers and producers who want to compete in a fair market.

I am very optimistic about 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. The quality and purity of olive oil has improved significantly, and this is where I see avocado oil going, if we can set fair standards and eliminate fraudulent products.




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