Wednesday, April 9, 2014



There it was, lurking in a can of otherwise innocuous, run-of-the-mill (or so I though)"black" olives (keep reading and you'll soon know why "black" is placed in quotes): a suspicious-sounding ingredient:  ferrous gluconate. 

So, you're thinking, ferrous = iron. Correct! But gluconate? What the heck is that?? According to Mirriam-Webtser, it's "a salt or ester of gluconic acid." Gluconic acid?? Found this on a government website: "Gluconic acid, the oxidation product of glucose, is a mild neither caustic nor corrosive, non toxic and readily biodegradable organic acid of great interest for many applications." Applications?? Is that what food is--an application?? 

Ferrous gluconate is added to the brine the olives bathe in. 

Why, pray tell? Read on.
Well, I thought, in the giant scheme of things, it doesn't sound all that bad. But here's another layer: What is the source of the glucose? Upon further research, I've concluded that it's most likely derived from potato or corn. You know where I'm headed with this..if it's corn, you can bet it's been genetically modified. Yick!

So why, you ask, is this stuff added to canned black olives? Because black olives are NOT REALLY BLACK…they're DARK BROWN!!

Ferrous gluconate TURNS them BLACK!! See below, from a very interesting site, Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Zingerman's, is named "One of the 25 world's best food markets" by Food & Wine. They really know their olives:

The color of an olive indicates the stage of ripeness at which it was picked. Green olives are olives picked before they are ripe, usually in September or October. They should have a firm texture and nutty flavor. What we refer to as "black" olives actually run the gamut from light brown, to beautiful shades of red and purple, all to way to deepest black. As a general rule, the darker the olive, the riper it was when it was picked. Black olives are usually picked in November and December, sometimes as late as January.

The lone exception to this rule is the "olive" which more Americans eat than any other-the canned "black-ripe" olive. These olives are picked green, then (for reasons unknown-greater marketing appeal?) pumped with oxygen to turn them black, their new color fixed in place with ferrous gluconate. Since they taste like no other black or green olive (in fact, they have almost no taste at all), it is impossible to put them in the same class as you would any other olive. "Black-ripe" olives are to a hand-picked Kalamata olive what Wonder Bread is to a great loaf of double baked rye.

Gotta love that last sentence!!

More, from

Ferrous gluconate is water soluble iron salt combined with a reduced sugar acid. It is used to fix the black color on the olive and the iron reacts with the tannins in the olive skin and helps to hold the black color. Lindsay Naturals do not use ferrous gluconate which produces a chocolate brown olive. There are no allergens, glutens or proteins in ferrous gluconate, even though it's from a corn or potato acid.

I wasn't able to find Lindsay Naturals at my local Shoprite. 

Somebody, please enlighten me-- Who decided that jet-black olives would be more attractive to consumers than chocolate brown?? 

I'm going to look for better quality, NOT BLACK olives from now on. Happy ferrous gluconate-free olive-eating! 


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