Performance of two color scales for virgin olive oils: Influence of ripeness, variety, and harvest season

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Abstract

The purpose of this investigation was to compare the performance of the bromthymol blue (BTB) method and the Uniform Oil Color Scale (UOCS) method with different sets of virgin olive oil samples from Andalusia (Spain), namely, 1213 samples from olives at three stages of ripeness, 1008 samples from eight olive varieties, and 1700 samples from olives harvested in four different crop seasons. All oils were extracted in the laboratory by the same procedure. The performance of the two color scales was compared using CIELAB color differences between the oil samples and the nearest standard from each scale. The UOCS performed at least 2.0 times better than the BTB for each of the three stages of olive ripeness, and the difference between the two color scales was statistically significant (P<0.001). The UOCS performed at least 1.3 times better than the BTB for each of the eight olive varieties studied, and the differences between the two color scales were statistically significant (P<0.02). The UOCS also performed at least 1.6 times better than the BTB for each of the four harvests analyzed, and the differences between the two color scales were statistically significant (P<0.001). Using the current oil samples, we could discern no substantial improvements to the UOCS standards.