The vast majority of people throughout human history have put very little thought into where their food comes from and how it is made. After all, it is only in the past few centuries that food manufacturing processes and technology has allowed countries to produce more food than is needed. Additional wealth has also made it possible for individuals to buy food that is not as basic as the population was once used to eating.
However, recent controversies have put the ingredients that go into our foods in the spotlight more than ever. Scandals such as the horse meat in beef products in Europe have made people more aware of how things they don’t consider appetizing can make their way into food and drink products. The increasing popularity of vegetarianism and veganism, in addition to legal requirements, means that companies are now beginning to explain exactly what ingredients are included in their recipes.
Even nutritional labels don’t provide the full picture, though. Companies go to extreme lengths to hide some of the most disgusting items that go into their products, giving them scientific sounding names to disguise what they really are. It should come as no surprise then that there are some truly gross ingredients that are present in food that is eaten every single day by millions. Regardless of the reason they were used, people might think twice about consuming any food containing these revolting parts.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that most people know is toxic and probably shouldn’t be consumed. After all, the chemical is capable of poisoning a human being and current estimates put the number of people affected by arsenic poisoning at around 137 million people.
14 Silly Putty
Polydimethylsiloxane is a silicon compound that many people will be familiar with simply because it is the main substance that goes into making Silly Putty. Its use is not exclusive to toys though, the properties of polydimethylsiloxane make it a vital part of many other products. These include shampoos, hydraulic fluids, medicine, skin lotion, lubricant, and even as fillers for breast implants. These uses are generally safe for human use as it is both non-toxic and non-flammable, making it an incredibly useful compound.
Shellac is a little known resin substance that is usually used to varnish wood and give it a shiny appearance. As a wood finish, companies will often utilize it to shine furniture and guitars. This is because it acts as a high-gloss varnish that is difficult to stain and prevents water damage by sealing the material it coats. These properties have also made it a useful material in the food industry.
12 Coal Tar
Unless you eat a diet that consists completely of natural and organic foods, then it is likely that you will come across various different types of artificial coloring during your day. Coloring is added to almost every single food and drink on the market, often to make it more appealing to the customer but also sometimes as a way of matching it with a brand. The widespread use of artificial colors is starting to decline slightly due to pressure from health campaigners who argue that many might be dangerous, though they still play an important role in the food industry.
Several years ago, campaigners discovered that ammonia was being used to treat beef burgers in a number of fast food restaurants, leading to outrage that the chemical was present in food without customers being fully informed. Ammonia is a colorless gas that is probably most famous for its strong smell. Usually, it is used as fertilizer and for cleaning products, though only in small amounts because of the fact that ammonia is both toxic and caustic.
If you have ever wondered how food manufacturers manage to dye the snacks they produce red, the answer is probably not something that you would have wanted to hear. The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of red food coloring is made from a substance known as cochineal. Companies use it to make everything from candy to meat, jam, and even alcohol.
9 Human Hair
Very occasionally, a person might find a hair in the food. It might have dropped from their own head while eating the meal or may have been introduced during the cooking process if the chefs did not take proper precautions. While unpleasant, it is a rare enough occurrence that most people simply don’t worry about it.
Seaweed has been used as an ingredient in all types of things throughout human history. In fact, it has been a hugely important crop in certain parts of the world for almost 3,000 years and is now used in around $6 billion worth of products. This is despite the fact that many people do not even understand completely what it is. Seaweed isn’t technically a plant at all, despite its rather confusing name, but rather algae.
Propylene glycol, otherwise known as antifreeze, is a chemical that most people would probably never choose to willingly consume. After all, it is not only used in the toxic antifreeze but has also made its way into other products such as cosmetics, medicine and e-cigarettes. Despite this, there are hundreds of different products that contain large amounts of propylene glycol in the United States, although its use in European countries is regulated much more strictly, with only trace amounts allowed in products.
Look at the ingredients of most cheeses and you will likely see something called rennet. What most people don’t realize though, is that rennet is actually a substance that is collected from the stomach of calves and other animals. The enzyme is taken directly from the fourth stomach chamber of very young calves after they have been slaughtered and the stomach is cut and sliced into very small pieces. Acid is then added to the solution to liquidize it and make extracting the rennet easier.
Lanolin is a wax substance that is made using sheep wool. This has led to it being called names such as wool wax, wool grease and wool wax, though it is always listed in ingredients as lanolin. The secretion helps to ensure that the sheep’s wool is water-resistant and not as exposed to the elements as it otherwise would be.
Gelatin is one of the most common ingredients used in food production. It is present in a wide range of different consumables, but can also be found in medicine, cosmetics and even technical items such as cameras and lighting. However, it is probably best known as a gelling agent in cooking. Any jelly-like food is likely to contain significant amounts of gelatin, as it is the best way to thicken food without changing the flavor or other characteristics of the food. Even foods such as cream cheese, yogurt and candy corn use it to some degree.
Like many other rodents and small mammals, beavers produce a liquid substance using special glands that can then be expelled from the body to ward off predators and mark territory. Castoreum is a non-toxic anal secretion that often contains urine and traces of excrement. However, because of the special diet of beavers, the mixture usually has a pleasant smell. When dissolved in an alcohol solution, it even produces a strong vanilla flavor and smell.
Although some tree bark can be eaten, most people tend not to eat wood if they can avoid it. The truth though, is that avoiding wood in food is much harder than you might have imagined. Wood and paper pulp has become a hugely important ingredient in the food industry over the past few decades and it is now included in a host of products.
1 Fecal Matter
Due to the fact that most food is produced in large warehouses, it is generally much more exposed to things like insects and rodents than food that is prepared in smaller locations or homes. This means that it is almost impossible for companies to ensure that their products don’t contain any defects. That probably doesn’t make the fact that millions of types of food contain rodent hair and fecal matter any easier to swallow, though.
The FDA recognizes that some defects are unavoidable and actually has acceptable levels of foreign objects that are allowed to be present. This ranges from maggots and insects to rodent hair and excrement. For example, cocoa beans are officially permitted to contain 10 milligrams of mammalian excreta in every pound, while peanut butter can have four individual rodent hairs and two pieces of fecal matter without being considered defective.
Sources: BusinessInsider.com, FDA.gov, CNN.com, Forbes.com, Reuters.com, BBC.co.uk, TheGuardian.com
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