Storing olive oil

• Project head, NSW DPI researcher Jamie Ayton.
• Project head, NSW DPI researcher Jamie Ayton.

A THREE-YEAR research project conducted by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) Australian Oils Research Laboratory at Wagga Wagga has confirmed the importance of proper storage in maintaining the quality of olive oil.

Project head, NSW DPI researcher Jamie Ayton, said it was clear from the research that olive oil should be stored at cool temperatures, away from light and without exposure to oxygen.

“The olive industry in Australia has undergone rapid expansion in the past decade and now, for the first time, we have scientific evidence to determine the shelf-life of olive oil from analytical data,” he said.

The research, funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and the Australian Olive Association, was designed to include a wide range of oils from different cultivars, growing sites and fruit maturities to encompass the entire range of characteristic present in Australian olive oil.

An additional aim was to study the oils under a number of different storage conditions to compare the effect of storage temperature (cool room, room temperature and heated), oxygen exposure and exposure to light on the oils over three years.

Mr Ayton said with more than 10 million olive trees now planted in Australia, there were many challenges to developing a vibrant and sustainable industry, and olive oil storage was certainly one of the most important.

“Olive oil traders, exporters, importers, wholesalers, retailers, transporters and consumers need to be aware of the implications of the conditions they store the olive oil under, and to promote this information to ensure the product is of the highest quality possible,” he said.

“This should be the case not just in the short term, but throughout the life of the oil which includes during the transport, storage and marketing of the oil as well as when the oil has reached its final destination - that is when it is with the consumer.”

Mr Ayton said considerable time, effort and money goes into producing high quality olive oil, and this could be lost if the correct storage procedures were not used to maintain the quality.

“For example, sometimes growers produce oil with very high quality initially, which quickly deteriorates due to the conditions under which it is stored,” he said.

“The olive oil can deteriorate so much that it can no longer be classified as extra virgin olive oil, at a huge expense to the growers.

“The changes in oil quality described in this report will encourage producers, as well as others in the supply chain of olive oil, to consider the facilities used to store olive oil in order to maintain the high-quality olive oil Australia is increasingly renowned for producing.”