Quality Control Testing; Methods That Don’t Work


“Study Suggests Raising the Bar for Olive Oil Quality Control”

Recently UC Davis conducted a study on the effectiveness of quality control tests for the commonly used food product Olive Oil. This seems like a small detail in food regulation and not something to think twice about, however the majority of oils sold to companies in the food-service industry was below standard. Researchers found that various brands of Olive Oils were able to pass the chemical tests that are used for quality control, however failed most sensory tests- done by blind tastings- where products were described as “rancid” and “musty.” Not necessarily the type of product you want to consume. Another fault that researchers discovered, was that most products did not list where or when the product was produced. This could lead to rotten oils or bad products being sold to consumers. Because of these results, researchers at UC Davis believe that quality testing of Olive Oils should be revised to create “more accurate and less expensive tests and to develop innovative packaging that will extend olive oil freshness” (www.news.ucdavis.edu).

This article reminds me of Deming’s Red Bead Experiment which we performed last week in class. The Quality Control for the test required two “Inspectors” to count all of the red beads that were produced in each workers batch and then have a “Chief Inspector” verify these results and submit them to be recorded. While there were always some defects in the batches produced, nothing was ever done to correct the process by which the product was created. The researchers at UC Davis mentioned that about 10% of the oils tested were “adulterated” and made of other oils such as canola oil, instead of pure olive oil. While the article did not say how many of the products tested did not pass the chemical tests, I would think that there were defective products in most batches- especially in the modified oils- that did not pass the chemical tests. I wonder how many Olive Oil companies then changed their processes and how many maintained the old process, factoring in defects as an expected occurrence.

The manufacturing of Olive Oil relates well to Deming’s Experiment. These companies may not realize that their production processes are flawed and are solely relying on the feedback of basic chemical testing for quality assessment. Two of Deming’s Fourteen Points for a better organization are “Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality” and “Constantly and forever improve the system of production and service.” It seems that based on the research done by UC Davis, most of the Olive Oil industry needs to look at Deming’s philosophies and revise their thinking on quality and the processes in production, something most companies may need to review in their operations.

Can you think of any other companies that base their quality measurements on testing that may not be relevant to the actual quality of their product?

6 thoughts on “Quality Control Testing; Methods That Don’t Work

  1. This makes you really wonder about food products on the market. It is surprising that food companies are willing to place items on the market that are not up to standard or what they actually claim to be. The fact that this olive oil company does not post due dates, place of production or even contents can cause a large number of problems not only for the company but the consumer as well, especially if someone has an allergy. While I cannot think of other specific companies that operate the same way, I am sure there are many others that rely solely on passing testing over quality.

  2. It is amazing to think about the fact that almost every product out there has to go through some sort of testing/quality control process. Clearly the olive oil business is an industry that needs modifications on their quality control process. The fact that some of the oils tested were not even showing up as olive oil really blew my mind. However, I think taste testing might be a difficult gauge of the quality of olive oil. It would be difficult to be objective regarding certain product and also not every person has the same “tasting ability”. What is certain is that these products should have all details listed on their packaging. This is required for consumers to make an informed decision while purchasing olive oil.

  3. I agree with the comments above that reading articles like this really do make you think twice about everything that is packaged and on the market. It really makes it seem like spending the extra money on organic brands is really worth it, and why more natural companies are thriving. This post/article did however get me to look up the difference between canola oil and olive oil and although canola oil is not harmful or in a sense bad for you over olive oil, it would be nice to know the flaws of the process. Even though a new process should be innovated for the quality control of olive oil and the date sensitive labeling, this all may all be included in what the FDA still considers ok due to “natural or unavoidable defects.”

  4. I think that it is a little off-putting that olive oil companies don’t openly disclose expiration dates or where the product is produced. This goes back to a customer having a sufficient sense of customer service, since as an olive oil customer and after reading this post, I don’t feel like I am beingsupplied an adequate amount of information about the product. It seems that if a company is not willing enough to disclose where the product is being produced, that they’re hiding something from the customer. On the other hand, it’s not something that I noticed before reading this post, so it may not have been something that customers were looking for, or were missing, during their product strategy meetings. It also may have been an element that olive oil companies failed to meet customer standards for. This relates to the paper airplane demonstration that we did in class where we realized the importance of the customers’ input in producing a product.

  5. First off, great post! I was disappointed when I read the blog post about the subpar quality control standards of the olive oil industry and was nearly convinced to boycott olive oil as a whole after reading the previous comment stating that olive oil companies don’t disclose expiration dates or the location of production. I definitely agree that there should be stricter standards for this, but if we’re going to monitor olive oil so closely, the food industry as a whole should be subject to stricter standards too…which could be very costly.

    The poor quality control standards reminds me of the paper puppets exercise we did in class. The factory needs to pump out the product as quickly as possible/according to schedule. Worker #5 who inspected the finished product OKed the paper puppet even though the quality was less than adequate. Our paper puppet company’s quality measurement was assessed by making sure the puppet folded in and out but was not relevant to the quality as some puppets were made from paper cut at funny angles or torn paper. Obviously the paper puppet company isn’t real, but I can’t imagine there aren’t other industries out there cutting corners on the quality of their products.

    Because olive oil is a food product, I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to not notify consumers of such hazards; expired foods could get consumers very sick, and sick consumers can sue companies into the ground. Naturally, I went to go check my own bottle of olive oil, which turns out was produced in Italy and has an expiration of May 2013. I made sure to check the article too (http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/article/28364), but it doesn’t mention anything about failing to disclose expiration dates/production location; I think it just exposes olive oil companies for producing products of lower quality but slapping on a label that says otherwise.

  6. It is surprising to know that so many of our foods have quality control problems. I would think that an industry such as the food industry would have more quality control programs in place in order to prevent such “faulty products”. Although Olive Oil may have been the product mentioned in this article, there are many other products that may have quality control problems. As in previous years, recalls in foods such as eggs have also affected the market. Placing more quality control programs may help to regulate the market but would also cause a higher price in food. Maybe organic products are the way to go, but I feel that something like the food industry is one of those markets that may be tough to control as far as quality control goes.

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