Olive Oil Waste Finds New Life As a Food Additive

Teresa Madaleno

Food additives have long been associated with health problems, including behavioural problems and poor concentration in children. As medical experts have learned more about the connection between preservatives and consumer health, food manufacturers, grocers, and restaurant owners have demanded a change in ingredients in existing products. At the same time, another movement is calling on the food industry to cut down on waste. Alas, the two worlds collide. It turns out we just might be able to use olive oil waste as an alternative to artificial additives.

According to foodnavigator.com a group of researchers recently took the waste by product from producing olive oil and hydrolysed it. They then fermented it, which created molecules that the food industry could use as emulsifiers. Emulsifiers are usually used to stabilize processed foods.

These molecules, known as rhamnolipids and surfactins, are getting a lot of attention from food makers because of their ability to be used as natural additives. Having a substance that can reduce dependence on artificial or chemical ingredients is of great interest to many people in the food industry.

Last year food giants like Hershey’s and McDonald’s started to overhaul some of their products because consumers have been demanding healthier, preservative free foods. Many food manufacturers have been slowly replacing artificial colors and flavors with more natural ingredients. It is therefore understandable why this latest discovery, published in the journal Bioresource Technology, is turning heads.

There is a caveat to the discovery – it is costly to produce the emulsifier and yields are low. Some experts suggest that improved processing can address this problem or perhaps cheaper renewable waste products such as plant oils, starchy substances, and lactic whey can be utilized.

While much more scientific investigation is required; this news has certainly provided food for thought among industry insiders, as well as the environmentally conscious.