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Limits and potentials of African red palm oils purchased from European ethnic food stores

De Leonardis, Antonella, Macciola, Vincenzo, Niro, Serena, Nag, Ahindra, Panfili, Gianfranco
European food research & technology 2017 v.243 no.7 pp. 1239-1248
acidity, carotenoids, dietary fat, free fatty acids, functional foods, immigration, palm oils, peroxide value, phytopharmaceuticals, squalene, tocopherols, tocotrienols, traditional foods, Ireland, Italy, South East Asia, Western Africa
In the recent years, ethnic foods have become an important trading segment in Europe due to the increasing demand of immigrant people. Generally, the ethnic foods are produced in the native country, and their features not necessarily meet the European food standards. African red palm oil is an ethnic food produced and consumed in the West Africa since ancient times by using traditional techniques; it is extremely different from the better-known refined palm oil produced in the Southeast Asia. In this study, five commercial African red palm oils, purchased from ethnic food stores of Dublin (Ireland) and Rome (Italy), have been investigated. Label on the oil packages was found to be low conformed to European rules. The basic commercial parameters (free acidity, peroxide value and DOBI index) have evidenced very high level of free fatty acids, ranging from 7.6 to 13.4%. Likewise high amount of mono- (0.7%) and di-glycerides (5.8%) were obtained averagely. Peroxide value was averagely 9 meqvO₂/kg evidencing a good oil oxidative resistance. Analyzed oils showed considerable content of nutraceuticals, especially squalene (487 mg/kg on average), total phenols (161 mg/kg), carotenoids (453 mg/kg), tocopherols (116 mg/kg) and tocotrienols (387 mg/kg). This wealth of phytochemicals makes the African virgin palm oil a good dietary fat, appealing also for the European consumers. However, a restructuring of the manufacturing process is recommended to improve oil quality and limiting the hydrolytic reactions.