What you actually eat when you buy olives from the supermarket

“The raw olive is known to be bitter, especially if it is green, and it is necessary to ferment the fruit (which is done more quickly with lye or much more slowly with brine) to remove the source of bitterness and to ensure the firmness of the olive body. The market has gradually been made up of a wide variety of olives, made from fruit picked at different stages of ripening (green olives are picked before they go into the olive, reddish-brown olives are picked when they are ripe, almost black or black olives are picked when they are fully ripe) but also subject to a very wide range of treatments (dry or wet pickling, drying, oiling, etc.) which are costly and demanding. Clearly, the temptation to mislead consumers is great, and an uninformed consumer will not be able to tell the difference between black olives obtained by blackening techniques and those which have acquired this colour at the end of the ripening cycle. Olives have four times more fat than sweetness. In expert terms, the fats in olives account for over 15% and are particularly valuable – the beneficial unsaturated fats are six times more than saturated fats, which is why the medical world, nutritionists and informed consumers, in general, are quick to extol the virtues of olives and encourage their consumption,” says Prof. Univ. Dr Ion Schileru

The black olives sold on our market are heavily processed and contain an excess of salt and vinegar.

The American Heart Association recommends a daily salt intake of approximately 1500 mg for most adults to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Instead, it is enough to consume 15-20 processed olives and we have exceeded our daily salt intake.

To blacken olives, manufacturers use ferrous lactate (E585) and ferrous gluconate (E579), two stabilisers that should not exceed 0.8 mg/kg body weight in the daily diet. Ferrous lactate is an iron supplement that is not related to dairy.

Nine types of food additives were identified in the 20 products analysed: citric acid, lactic acid, ascorbic acid, sodium alginate, sodium glutamate, ferrous lactate, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate and ferrous gluconate.

With regard to the presence of the above additives in the olive varieties analysed, the situation is as follows:

65% of the olive varieties analysed contain lactic acid;

60% of the olive varieties analysed contain citric acid;

45% of the olive varieties analysed contain ascorbic acid;

35% of the olive varieties analysed contain ferrous gluconate;

20% of the olive varieties analysed contain sodium alginate;

15% of the olives analysed contain sodium glutamate;

5% of the olives analysed contain ferrous lactate;

5% of the olives analysed contain potassium sorbate;

5% of the olive varieties analysed contain sodium benzoate.

E202 – potassium sorbate, preservative. An additive that irritates the skin, eyes and mucous membranes. May be genotoxic and mutagenic to human blood cells.

E211 – sodium benzoate, preservative with antibacterial and antifungal action in an acidic environment. Sodium benzoate is a synthetic preservative which, in reaction with ascorbic acid, generates benzene, a toxic carcinogen.

E270 – lactic acid is used as a stabiliser and preservative. It can cause allergic reactions such as itching, swelling of the tongue and mucous membranes, shortness of breath, nasal discharge, promotes thinning of tooth enamel and caries, can irritate the mucous membranes of the digestive system causing various digestive disorders. Foods containing E 270 should not be eaten by babies and young children because they do not have the enzyme equipment needed to metabolise it.

E300 – Ascorbic acid is an antioxidant agent obtained from glucose which, in large quantities, can cause diarrhoea, attack tooth enamel and lead to kidney stones.

E330 – Citric acid is an acidity regulator. The best-documented effect of citric acid is the destruction of tooth enamel, which promotes tooth decay. Citric acid is not recommended in children’s diets. Foods containing citric acid should not be eaten by those with cardiovascular or kidney disease, digestive tract disorders and diarrhoea.

E579 – ferrous gluconate is an artificial colour stabiliser which, in combination with oxygen, triggers the oxidation reaction whereby green or blonde olives turn black. Ferrous gluconate causes erosion of the lining of the oesophagus and stomach.

E585 – ferrous lactate is an artificial colour stabiliser with the same technological role and adverse reactions as ferrous gluconate.

E621- sodium monoglutamate is a flavour and aroma enhancer. It causes allergic reactions, headaches and sore throat, dizziness, nausea, and diarrhoea and may block the assimilation of vitamin B6 and calcium. Vitamin B6 deficiency leads to muscle weakness, anaemia, insomnia, hair loss, chronic fatigue and neurological disorders. Calcium deficiency causes a number of manifestations such as cramps, memory loss, fractures, irritability, asthenia, intestinal disorders and lack of appetite. Products containing this additive should not be consumed by pregnant women, children, hypoglycemics, the elderly or heart patients.

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