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Spanish Team Uses MRI To Analyze Olive Oil

September 21, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging
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A Spanish researcher says he has figured out how to use MRI to detect fatty acids in olive oil.

This guy isn’t just messing around with a million-dollar MRI machine. He and his team at the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Ciudad Real say they can differentiate among varieties of olive oils, cheeses, and other foods—and determine their authenticity.

“The growing sophistication of counterfeiting and adulteration in the food industry requires a continuous effort to provide techniques capable of guaranteeing the consumer an objective measure of quality,” says a university news release. (At least we’re pretty sure that’s the translation from the Spanish. See for yourself here.)

School of Chemical Sciences Professor Andrés Moreno, PhD, and his team say MRI allows them to “examine the physical and chemical characteristics of meat, fish, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, juices, cheese, wine, and emulsions. Specific properties can be investigated, including alcoholic percentage, ripening fruit, sugar content, ratio of oil and water, ratio of saturated fatty acids/unsaturated, and food adulteration.”

According to the Olive Oil Times (yes, there is an Olive Oil Times; yes, it has recipes), the composition of olive oil differs according to cultivar, region, altitude, time of harvest, and extraction process.

“The percentage of fatty oils can vary significantly and is very important in determining quality,” the Times said on Sunday. “International Olive Oil Council (IOC) guidelines, for example, say that the acceptable amount of linolenic acid in extra virgin olive oil must be less than 0.8 percent.”

Chemical analysis of olive oil currently involves such painstaking methods as gas chromatography. Dr. Moreno and his team said MRI “is a valuable tool that enables the detection, identification, and quantification of different types of metabolites present in complex samples such as food in a fast, simple, and efficient way.”

Now if you really are just looking for some guy messing around with a million-dollar MRI machine, try here.

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