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Revealing the geographical origin of palm oil is now quicker and more accurate thanks to a method developed by Spanish researchers, who claim it could help fight palm oil fraudulently labelled as certified sustainable.

The researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry at the University of Granada say the method could be used by both governments and industry, responding to a growing consumer demand for proof of palm oil origin.

“Palm oil is cheap, easy to obtain and has low production costs so the number of industrial palm plantations has recently been increasing.This increase in the number of plantations, however, has brought with it the destruction of the rainforest, the expulsion of the indigenous population and serious environmental problems such as deforestation and air pollution,” “
“The term 'sustainable palm oil' has sometimes been used to make an illicit profit. The labels of some products state that they contain 'certified sustainable palm oil' when in fact the oil used comes from unknown forest plantations. Consequently, customers are increasingly demanding some sort of proof of the geographical origin of products.”

According to this novel method they first analysed palm oil samples by liquid chromatography and then applied chemometric and data fusion strategies. By combining these methods - the first time this has been carried out, they claim - they were able to extract the information required to determine the geographical origin of the sample with a low margin of error of around 5%.
Fusing the data "optimises the information obtained and exploits the synergies of information provided by different techniques", ​they write, and is also quicker and more accurate than current methods.

However, using more than one measuring technique can be more expensive, they add.