Olive oil with a truffle aroma: heavenly food or chemical brew?
Mediterranean, Asian, vegan: As varied as our meal plan has become over the past few years, the range of edible oils is now as diverse. Sometimes consumers also resort to very expensive, exclusive oils, such as olive oil with a truffle aroma. However, this rarely contains real truffles, as a study showed.
Olive oil is often swindled
Olive oil is one of the best oils for the kitchen. It is especially popular with people who are inclined to the Mediterranean diet. When it comes to olive oil, consumers expect quality and proven origin. Unfortunately, this oil ranks high among the top 10 food frauds. There is a big swindle in the label, experts complain. For example, counterfeiting with other oils or varieties occurs. Even special olive oil with a truffle aroma often does not deliver what it promises. As a recent study showed, the exclusive cooking oil rarely contains real truffles.
Truffle oil rarely contains real truffles
According to scientists from Goethe University and the Helmholtz Center in Munich, truffle oil does not always contain truffle:
"Truffle-flavored olive oils are offered at a higher price than tasteless oils, but rarely contain real truffles or natural truffle flavor," the researchers write in the current issue of the journal "Food Control".
The experts report on their study in a communication.
Extremely expensive mushrooms
Since truffles are very rare and can only be collected for a few months in winter, they are one of the most expensive foods.
The white Piedmont truffle can only be found in the Carpathian basin except in Italy and the black Périgord truffle only grows in France, Spain and Italy.
For a kilo of precious mushrooms you pay between two thousand and five thousand euros.
Because the mushroom is only available in limited quantities and is subject to strong price fluctuations, the food industry has started to develop artificial truffle flavors. These are mostly added to olive oil, pasta or certain types of cheese.
Even a drop of the oil on the salad or risotto releases a garlic-like mushroom smell. Master chefs and truffle experts agree, however, that the artificial flavors lack the complexity of the real truffle taste.
The truffle expert Gareth Renowden describes the artificial aroma in his book as "a kind of comic variant - bright and colorful, but ultimately wrong".
Composition of artificial truffle aroma
According to the announcement, junior professor Richard Splivallo, who studies biotechnology at the Goethe University, is one of the few experts who have extensively characterized the fleeting bouquet of real white and black truffles.
That is why he was curious about the composition of artificial truffle aroma.
Together with colleagues from Goethe University and the Helmholtz Center in Munich, he examined a wide range of truffle oils and found that the typical truffle smell is based on only four to six molecules.
Enjoy only in moderation
In their investigation, the researchers also exposed some label fraud. Oils that were said to contain natural truffle flavor were no more complex than oils with artificial flavor when analyzed.
And oils that were supposed to mimic the taste of black truffles contained the same taste molecules as artificially flavored white truffle oil.
Furthermore, the scientists found flavors in some oils that do not occur naturally in truffles; for example, dimethyl sulfoxide, a solvent that was probably used for its garlic-like, truffle-like taste.
“According to our analysis, artificial truffle aroma is nowhere near as complex as the natural one. The food industry still has a long way to go to get the taste of the natural aroma, ”says Splivallo. His recommendation: enjoy only in moderation. (ad)