We all know that some foods come with ingredient lists so long and with so many convoluted words that almost no one really knows what every single ingredient in a product is. However, what some foods happen to have in them is shocking.
Are you accidentally eating fish bladders? Animal bones? Cow stomachs? Bugs? Surely not, you might think. However, you would be surprised. These ingredients are hidden in common, everyday products that you are likely consuming regularly. Some of them might even be listed on the label, but you just don’t know what to look for.
Read on to find out 5 completely gross hidden animal additives you didn’t know were hiding in everyday food that you have in your kitchen fridge and pantry, and how to identify them. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Are you a fan of Jell-O? Marshmallows? Yogurt? Gummy candies? Chances are you’ve been eating melted down skin, tissue, ligaments and bones of animals like fish, cows, pigs and chickens.
Gelatin, the colourless and tasteless thickening ingredient that gives these foods their gel-like consistency, is made up from collagen extracted from the carcasses of animals. The collagen layer is submerged in an acid bath that is repeatedly warmed to extract the gelatin and make it water soluble. A centrifuge extracts the water and the fat from the collagen layer, leaving it to be filtered and purified. Worldwide production is equal to about 250 000 tonnes per year.
In addition to it’s use as a thickening agent in Jell-O, yogurt, some sour creams and margarine, and many gummy candies, this ingredient can also commonly be found in juices and vinegars to help them clarify, gummy vitamins, and any gel capsule pills.
Not happy with eating gelatin in foods? Vegetarian gelatin is made with agar agar or carrageen (irish moss) seaweeds. It is possible to find alternative yogurts, candies, and even alternative jello with this substitution.
Cheese. Who doesn’t love cheese?
It turns out when Little Miss Muffet was sitting on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey, she was likely eating veal stomach.
Rennet is an ingredient used in the cheese making process to help the curds (which will later go on to become cheese) coagulate . It contains an enzyme (chymosin) that baby cows and other young mammals have in their stomachs to break down and absorb the nutrients of their mother’s milk. More often than not, it is taken from veal. Adult cow and pig rennet can be used, but only with certain types of cheeses.
The stomach is taken, washed and dried, and then cut up into tiny pieces or milled. This is then put in an enzyme extraction solution to produce rennet.
Rennet can be found in some cheeses (always check the package), as well as cheese flavoured chips and other foods (such as Doritos). It can also be in quite a lot of frozen meals containing cheese, like lasagna or pizza pockets.
Cheese lovers, don’t despair! Rennet alternatives and substitutions exist, and vegetable rennet can be composed of mold (called microbial enzyme on the package).
3. CARMINE DYE
Have you ever been dared to eat a bug? You might have been for years and not even known.
Carmine dye (or cochineal dye, Natural Red 4, Crimson Lake, E120) is a red dye used in some yogurt, juice, candies, apple sauce, drinks, mouthwash and ice cream, along with a whole host of other products. The dye is created by crushing the boiled and dried carcass of the female cochineal bug. Reportedly, 70,000 beetles must be killed to produce one pound of this red dye.
Up until 2009, carmine dye could be listed as “natural colour”. It was only when the carmine acid it contained was discovered to be a severe allergen that it was required to be listed as a separate ingredient. Carmine has been linked to cases of anaphylactic shock and near death.
Carmine dye hit the news when it was revealed that coffee shop franchise Starbucks had been using carmine dye in their red and pink beverages such as the Strawberries and Creme Frappachino, the Strawberry Smoothie, and desserts like their Red Velvet Whoopie pie, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Doughnut with Pink Frosting, and Raspberry Swirl Cake. Pressured to change, Starbucks pledged to switch the dye in their beverages to a tomato-based dye called lycopene, and promised to find an alternative to the red dye in the food products as well.
Carmine dye is mostly produced in Peru and the Canary Islands, although it has a history in South America as well, and used to be used as a clothing dye. Now, it can be found in beauty products like lipstick, blush, shampoos and conditioners, and facial products. Because who doesn’t want to be spreading bugs on their lips?
Alternatives to carmine dye include beet juice and alkanet root.
2. RESINOUS GLAZE/CONFECTIONER’S GLAZE
Those temptingly shiny candies may look appealing, but they actually contain yet another bug substance.
Confectioner’s glaze (known as shellac when it’s not in food) can be found on shiny candies, chocolates, chewing gum, medication and as a coating on fruits and vegetables. It is made from the resin of the female lac, or laccifer lacca bug. Roughly 300,000 lac bugs are killed for every kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of lac resin made. Almost a quarter of all that unrefined lac resin contains particles of the insects.
Shellac can also be found in wood varnish, coating on aluminium foil and paper, hairspray, shampoo and other cosmetics, including mascara and lipstick.
Do you partake in the yearly tradition of knocking back a few pints of Guinness to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? It turns out that along with the malted barley, hops, spring water and Guinness yeast, you are actually consuming traces of fish bladder.
Isinglass is an ingredient that is missing from Guinness’ lauded ingredients (and is in fact not listed on the website), but it is definitely there. Isinglass is a gelatin-like substance that is made from the air bladders of fish (what keeps them buoyant in water). Sourced from fish like the sturgeon, isinglass is added to casks of beer like Guinness to aid in helping the yeast and other solid particles left within the beer to settle. The isinglass attaches itself to the particles (which can make the Guinness hazy) and help them settle to the bottom in a gelatinous mass.
The isinglass is made by scraping off the mucus on the membranous parts of a freshly caught fish (preferably freshwater), twisting the mucous, and then allowing it to air dry.
Although the yeast and particles in the Guinness will settle on their own, isinglass speeds up the process and does not affect the taste of the beer.