Coop Italia has started using an anti-fraud electronic nose system to identify genuine – and fake – Italian olive oil through its aromatic digital print.
Since 2013, Coop Italia’s Laboratory in Casalecchio di Reno has been using techniques able to read the DNA of at-risk products (such as meat and fish) and then determining if ingredients correspond to those declared by the supplier.
The ‘Heracles’ system can best be described as an advanced gas chromatograph combined with a powerful statistical analysis software.
The tool “sniffs” the characteristic volatile substances emitted from each raw material or product and then attributes a specific identity card or “fingerprint”.
In this way it is possible to distinguish a conforming food from one that is adulterated.
For example, Heracles can be used to assess the geographical origin of analyzed samples, and identify plant varieties used in different products (such as olives from different Italian regions).
After a year of routine analyses, Heracles is now being used to verify the origin of extra virgin olive oil being supplied for Coop Italia’s private label brand “100% Italiano”, thus protecting consumers from possible scams.
About 4 per cent of the 300 analyzed samples of “100% Italian” olive oil did not pass the test and additional controls to prevent this are now being put in place.
Coop Italia has already extended the Heracles system to other products at risk of counterfeiting, such as honey.