Disgusting things you’ve been eating your whole life without even knowing it

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The blissful ignorance of glancing at an ingredient list and thinking, “Well, if I can’t pronounce it, it must be harmless, right?” And “hey, it’s FDA-approved!” Hold onto your double-shot, almond milk, no-whip, extra-foam lattes, folks! Turns out, the FDA’s “good-to-go” list is more like a lax parent who lets their kid eat dirt because it “builds character.” From beaver-butt-gland excretions to industrial cleaners, you’ve been munching on a smorgasbord of “generally accepted as gross” food additives while naively trusting that three-letter acronym.

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Crushed bugs

That strawberry-flavored yogurt got its vibrant hue from somewhere, and spoiler alert, it wasn’t a strawberry field. Cochineal extract, often listed as carmine or carminic acid, is derived from the cochineal insect, primarily found in Peru and Mexico. These bugs feed on cactus plants and are collected to extract their color. The extraction involves crushing the insect bodies to produce a vibrant red dye, which is then used in a variety of products including food, cosmetics, and textiles. Scientifically speaking, the dye is a stable, natural alternative to synthetic food colorings and is high in anthraquinones, contributing to its bright hue. Just think of it as protein-based color!

Image Credit: Vahe Marytosian/Flickr.

Beaver butt-gland secretions

When your vanilla ice cream lists “natural flavoring,” you might be enjoying a scoop of beaver gland goodness. Castoreum is a yellowish secretion produced by the castor sacs of beavers, located near the base of the tail. Scientifically, it’s a complex substance made up of various compounds including salicin, benzoic acid, and fatty acids. The secretion serves multiple purposes in nature, including marking territory. In the food and fragrance industry, castoreum has been used as a flavoring agent, particularly to imitate natural vanilla, raspberry, or strawberry flavors. It’s generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. FDA, though it’s less commonly used today due to more readily available synthetic alternatives. Nothing says “delicious” like a little beaver butt in your vanilla ice cream

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Fish bladder

Love a clear, crisp pint of beer? You might be drinking fish bladder. Isinglass is used to clarify some beers and wines. Isinglass is a substance obtained from the swim bladders of fish like sturgeon and is primarily composed of a type of collagen. It’s used in the clarification process of some beers and wines. The collagen positively charges the liquid, attracting negatively charged particles like yeast and solid impurities, which then form a gel-like substance that’s easy to remove. This leaves you with a clear, purified beverage. Cheers to drinking responsibly—and piscatorially!I

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Human hair or duck feathers

The next time you enjoy soft, fluffy bread, just remember: you might be eating a hair sandwich. L-cysteine is an amino acid used in the food industry as a dough conditioner and flavor enhancer. It can be found in bread products, pizza dough, and other baked goods. While synthetic versions are available, L-cysteine is commonly derived from either human hair or duck feathers. It’s hydrolyzed to produce the amino acid and is considered safe by food standards agencies, including the FDA. 

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Bug secretions

Shellac: perfect for wood furniture and, oddly enough, coating your Jelly Beans. This insect secretion might shell-shock you next time you’re reaching for that shiny candy. Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug, found in forests in India and Thailand. It’s processed and sold as flakes, which can be dissolved in alcohol to make liquid shellac. This substance is commonly used as a food glaze or as a coating for pills. It’s approved by various food safety organizations, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as a safe food additive.

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Flame retardant

Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) is a complex mixture of plant-derived triglycerides that have been reacted to contain atoms of the element bromine. It is used in some citrus-flavored beverages, including Mountain Dew, to help disperse the flavors evenly throughout the drink. The FDA categorizes it as “generally recognized as safe” when consumed in specific low amounts, but it’s worth noting that it’s also used as a flame retardant in plastics.

Next time you’re enjoying a refreshing Mountain Dew, remember you’re also sipping on a fire-fighting hero!

Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Animal bones & cartilage

Love a good gummy bear? Well, chew on this: those cute little candies might just be a cocktail of cow bones and pig skin. Gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, hooves, ligaments, and/or bones with water. Typically sourced from cows or pigs, it’s used in a myriad of products, including your favorite jiggly desserts, marshmallows, and even some ice creams and yogurts. Gelatin is high in amino acids, which makes it a popular choice for food processing. It’s generally considered safe to eat and can even offer some nutritional benefits, but the “ick” factor remains for those who realize its origins.

Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Industrial cleaners

Sodium Aluminum Sulphate is an inorganic compound used not only in food but also in industrial cleaners. It acts as a leavening agent in baked goods, working in synergy with acidic components like cream of tartar in cake mixes and baking powder. While the FDA considers it safe for consumption in small amounts, it’s still a chemical compound that is also employed to clean metals and control pH levels in water.

Picture this: One moment you’re polishing pipes, and the next you’re fluffing up pancakes. Ah, the versatile life of sodium aluminum sulphate! Honestly, if it’s good enough to wipe away industrial grime, think about what it’s doing to your insides. What a tasty cleanse!

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Oil from sheeps’ wool

Next time you’re chomping on gum, savor that extra chewiness. It’s brought to you by the underbelly of a sheep. Lanolin is a yellow, waxy substance obtained from the wool of sheep and is primarily used for its moisturizing properties. In the world of food, it’s an additive that can make chewing gum softer. Lanolin is composed of esters and fatty acids and has FDA approval for use in a variety of products, including cosmetics, sunscreen, and even baby products.

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

Rat hair

Believe it or not, the FDA allows for a small amount of “foreign material” in food products, and yes, that includes rodent hairs. The official term is “mammalian excreta,” and it’s just as nasty as it sounds. While the presence of rat hairs is generally considered a sign of poor sanitation, they can inadvertently end up in your food during the manufacturing process. The FDA guidelines specify that a certain minimal amount is permissible as it’s neither hazardous to health nor can be entirely avoided.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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