In some parts of North America, obesity has grown to epidemic proportions. But with a strong 'foodie' culture also growing, people generally take their food seriously. Often, foodies will pay hundreds of dollars for meals in gourmet restaurants that make their name serving the best-prepared food in the world. It’s normal in some countries to eat insects or even fermented (...rotten) shark but not in America; people want to hand over hard-earned money for fresh, clean, nutritious food. If it's easy to make at home, all the better. Although when efficacy takes priority over nutrition, things like Kraft dinners begin to invade cupboards the nation over, and that's where problems arise.
To keep companies in check, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an American organization responsible for the safe preparation and handling of food products, puts important standards in place to ensure food is delicious, not disgusting... Or do they?
Despite the rules and regulations that exist to keep food safe — especially the food you might find in your very own kitchen — it’s impossible to catch every gross, objectionable, or even dangerous thing that might find its way in people’s meals. After all, the majority of food is cooked and prepared in large factories where hundreds of people and complicated machinery are at work . With thousands of products made every minute, it can be surprisingly easy to miss something that would make the average person cringe.
It’s not just factories. It’s also restaurants, fast food chains, and small businesses that can miss the small — and big — things in food that make people squirm. But it’s not always an accident. More disturbing, perhaps, is that many of the really cringeworthy things found in food are deliberately put there from the beginning, as part of the ingredients. The FDA even has their own handbook called the Food Defect Action Levels to regulate the disgusting things unavoidable in common food.
Below we're revealing 8 such ingredients you may never have known about but be warned; after reading this, you'll probably wish you still didn't know.
Some people love the smell of saw dust. But does that mean they should eat it too? Cellulose is a wood byproduct made of fibers or pulp. According to The Mayo Clinic, it's becoming well-known as an additive in foods such as ice cream, barbecue sauce, and salad dressing. It's used to make these foods more "creamy" and "smooth". One reason food manufactures are using cellulose in their products is to retain consistency and moisture when they use less fat and sugar. So, when it comes down to the choice between that regular pasta sauce or the 'reduced fat' option, you might want to reconsider your choice.
According to a statistical theory, people eat an average of 10 spiders a year in their sleep. But people are also eating a number of insects in their food while they're awake. The FDA allows for 30 or more insect fragments per 10 grams of certain common foods, like spices and canned goods. The type of insect depends on where the food was harvested and where it was prepared. In other words, it's very hard to determine which insects you're ingesting.
It’s not just wood pulp that's in your food, but the chemical substance that makes wood shiny, too. Shellac is a coating substance made from the lac insect and it's produced predominantly in India. When food manufacturers want to make their candy look extra glossy, they use a compound made of 35% shellac, and other insect extracts that mostly evaporate. The shellac chemical is used in almost any hard-shelled candy. In the industry, it’s known as “confectioner’s glaze.” Clever.
You have probably cleaned your bathroom with it. Now you’re eating it. Ammonia is a common additive in parts of beef that are more prone to infection. Beef manufacturers spray these susceptible parts with ammonia hydroxide. Although the ammonia may prevent the formation of dangerous bacteria such E.coli, it's easy to be grossed out, and even outraged, by the use of such a harmful chemical in a widely consumed product.
Parasites stay alive by feeding off of their hosts. Needless to say, most people don't want them in their stomach. However, parasites are more common than people think, especially in seafood. According to Seafood Health Facts, there as many parasites in seafood as there are insects in fruits and vegetables. It's reported that they do not pose health concerns for humans, which may be the reason why the FDA allows for 50 parasitic cysts per 100 pounds in chubs or whitefish, and 60 parasitic cysts per 100 fish in water herring.
Maggots are probably one of the most disgusting bugs on the planet. They won’t kill you if you eat them. Some may argue that they are a good source of protein and nutrition. But most people would probably argue that’s no excuse for actually eating them. According to Men’s Health and the FDA, every time you buy certain berries, spices or fish, you are also buying a percentage of maggots. The same applies to insect eggs. In tomato puree, for example, the FDA permits 20 or more insect eggs per 100 grams. Yuck.
2 Rodent Hair
Rodents are not only disgusting to many people - they can also pose considerable health risks when their byproducts are ingested or even close by for long periods of time. Believe it or not, the FDA allows for a certain percentage of rodent hair — from animals such as rats — to be in any given food product. Some products that can contain rodent hair are chocolate, spices, and packaged fruit. Although it’s unlikely rodent hair is a threat to humans, it’s still extremely off putting to know it’s probably lurking in your favourites foods.
You might have heard of MRSA in the news. You also might have heard that it’s a deadly virus that can cause severe deterioration of human tissue. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MRSA can be found in raw food products such as beef, milk, and eggs. Although it is indeed found in these foods, the CDC reports there has yet to be a case where MRSA in food is directly related to infection. They also state that the thorough cooking of raw food will eliminate the threat of MRSA-related dangers. Phew.