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25 Foods with Shocking Ingredients – What Are You Eating?


Americans are oblivious to the hidden ingredients in their food. Although people are more likely to look at food labels now more than they were in the past, food manufacturers are hiding the inexcusable ingredients behind obscure names. Even worse, the government has passed laws stating that these practices are legal. Companies are allowed to use toxic chemicals, bird feathers, animal bones, human hair, insects and E. coli in food, all ingredients the government deems Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). People who choose to be vegan, vegetarian and certain religious groups may unknowingly be eating products that go against their beliefs. Likewise, those with food allergies are unwittingly consuming the very foods to which they are allergic. This article will expose 25 foods that contain appalling ingredients.

1. Wine and Beer


Most vegans and vegetarians wouldn’t think twice about drinking a glass of wine. It’s made from grapes, right? While it’s true that most wine is made from grapes, one of the processes when making wine is called “fining”, a filtering process that makes the wine more clear. The most common fining agents are casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (fish bladder protein). There may only be trace amounts in the final product, but if you have allergies or simply desire your beer and wine to remain animal-free, you must choose wisely.

Special Note: Go to http://www.barnivore.com to find out if your happy-hour beverage contains unsavory ingredients.

2. Sugar


The hidden danger of sugar is alarming for vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike. It comes from two sources, sugar cane and sugar beet. In order for it to obtain its bleached white color, bone char, or ground cattle bones, is used as a filter and whiting agent. Manufacturers normally list this as “natural charcoal”. Even brown sugar is processed with bone char, after which, molasses is added. The FDA prohibits the use of animal bones from the United States’ meat industry. However, bone char can be used that is imported from meat manufacturing plants located in other countries. These loopholes, or cracks in the system, are an excellent reason to follow Michelle Obama’s advice on starting your own garden.

Special Note: To avoid bone char, use 100% pure beet sugar or “raw” sugar that is unbleached, and therefore hasn’t gone through the filtration process.

3. Red Candy


Although the sugar in the candy is already a red flag, there’s another super gross factor for this product that will turn everyone’s stomach. Cochineal, or red bug dye is used in anything from red candy to food coloring to lipstick. The use of this ingredient makes products off limits for people on vegan or kosher diets — or contestants on Fear Factor. Starbucks was “busted” last year for secretly using the bug juice in their Frappuccino, causing the company to discontinue the use of the product.

Special Note: On labels look for cochineal, carmine or carmine acid to know if the product contains the ingredient.

4. Fruit Juice


Some apple and orange juices were found to contain Carbendazim, a chemical found in pesticides, and also known as arsenic. Although the chemical has been banned in the U.S., the juice was being imported from countries that continue use the toxic chemical. Along with poisonous substances, vegans, vegetarians and people with food allergies must read the label on packaged orange juice for added animal by-products.  Orange juice fortified with Omega-3’s contains fish and lanolin. If it contains both, that also makes it non-kosher.

Special Note: Any juice with Vitamin D3 on the label has animal by-products in the ingredients, and should be avoided by anyone with special dietary restrictions.

5. Refried Beans


Some brands of refried beans use lard, or animal fat, making them unsuitable for those on kosher, vegan or vegetarian diets. They are also not a good idea for people who wish to avoid heart disease and high blood pressure.

6. Bread


If you have tried to cut back on carbs, but can’t seem to stay away from bread, this may help. L. Cysteine, a non-essential amino acid made from duck feathers, pig hair and human hair, is used as a dough conditioner in bread. Simply finding a hair on your plate is gag-worthy, but hair mixed inside as an ingredient along with duck feathers and pig hair tips it into barf-worthy. If that wasn’t enough to keep you from reaching for those warm yeast rolls, another surprising ingredient found inside bread is potassium bromate, a carcinogen used in enriched-flour.

Special Note: Either make your own homemade bread or search for vegan or gluten-free bread to avoid these disgusting components, but read the ingredients before purchasing.

7. Diet Soda


Using diet soda to cut back on calories is a load of crap — literally. The substitute sweetener aspartame is a chemical made from the defecation of genetically modified E. coli bacteria. It’s the poop of poop!  It’s no surprise that there are also several studies proving the health risks associated with the consumption of aspartame, such as Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis.

Special Note: If you are addicted to bubbly drinks, make your own soda at home. For an added bonus make it with fresh juice.

8. Muffins


The next time you need to knock on wood, reach for your breakfast muffin. One of the ingredients found in muffins is Cellulose, the pulp of wood and cotton. Where did you think the fiber came from? The next time you feel irregular, just chew on tree bark, it should have the same affect.

9. Margarine


For people looking for a butter substitute, margarine may seem like the obvious answer. However, it can pose a problem for those with dietary issues, such as dairy allergies, vegan and kosher. It’s made from vegetable oil, but it also contains whey (milk serum) and casein (milk protein). On top of the hidden dairy products, it is also comprised of gelatin and suet, a type of animal fat, making margarine extremely unhealthy as well.

Special Note: Kosher or vegan margarine is available, or you can make your own with this super easy recipe.

10. French Fries and Chicken Nuggets


No one associates the word “healthy” with french fries and chicken nuggets, but they also don’t associate plastic with them either. polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a form of silicone found in Silly Putty and caulk is used in french fries and chicken nuggets as a preservative. This is an important mental note to make the next time your child asks for a Happy Meal. Save money and buy Silly Putty instead, it’s a meal and toy all in one!

Special Note: The amazing difference in chicken nuggets and fries cooked at home compared to the same meal from McDonald’s is brilliantly shown by 9-year-old Ian.

11. Yogurt


Yet another red alert for those with seafood allergies, vegetarians and those following a kosher diet is yogurt. It contains stearic acid, a component of animal fat. Jamie Lee Curtis never mentioned that in all those poop-inducing yogurt commercials.

Special Note: A new yogurt product on the dairy shelf is Muller yogurt, which contains tilapia gelatin to make it kosher. However, people with fish allergies need to be aware of this unlikely ingredient.

12. Snack Cakes


Not exactly health food, but also not the milk, flour and eggs you put in your homemade cakes either. The creamy goodness inside snack cakes and baked goods is made from lard (animal fat) and sugar. So, they are essentially animal fat mix with ground animal bones. Yum! Yum! It’s no wonder Woody Harrelson’s character couldn’t find a Twinkie in Zombieland. The zombies were eating them as human substitutes.

Special Note: To stay true to his vegan beliefs, Woody Harrelson requested special vegan-friendly Twinkies to be used on the set of the movie.

13. Packaged Peanuts


Before reaching for this popular source of protein for vegans and vegetarians, check the label. Some brands are coated with gelatin, collagen obtained from animal by-products.

14. Canned Vegetable Soup


What could be wrong with vegetable soup? It practically screams healthy, right? However, it’s not always straight forward vegan, vegetarian or kosher. Before reaching for a can of vegetable soup or ordering it in a restaurant, a label check is in order. Many times it will contain chicken or beef broth. Even mushroom soup will sometimes contain gelatin.

15. Prepared Salads


You’re running around in a rush and decide to zip through a drive-thru. Before you pat yourself on the back for not ordering a giant burger with fries and a milkshake, you need to know about another secret sauce first. Those “healthy salads” at fast food places contain Propylene Glycerol, an ingredient found in antifreeze and sex lubricants. It is used as a preservative for the greens. This doesn’t mean you should order the burger, fries and milkshake. It means you should stay away from any place handing you “food” through a drive-thru window.

16. Marshmallows


Before you start gathering the ingredients together for s’mores, know what you’re eating. Not only do these campfire treats contain sugar, but also gelatin. They are basically puffs of animal fat and bones. Think of the Adipose from Doctor Who the next time you consider reaching for a marshmallow.

17. Jelly Beans and Hard Candy


Ever wonder what makes these confections so shiny? Here’s a hint, it’s also found in your nail polish and furniture glaze. Although, it’s not allowed in hairspray anymore, shellac is considered GRAS by the FDA.

18. Worcestershire Sauce


Before you reach for that Bloody Mary, check your vegan status because Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies. The thought of this may turn away the non-vegans as well.

19. Sticky Rice


Although no animal products go into the making of this product, processed sticky rice served in fast food restaurants does contain dimethylpolysiloxane, the same silicone based product found in adhesives and Silly Putty — and you were worried about the MSG.

Special Note: True “sticky rice”, or glutinous rice, cooked in your own home or reputable restaurants gets its stickiness from the high levels of starch, not chemicals. As with all food, the only way to truly know is to cook it yourself.

20. Berry Flavoring


You may want to sit down for this one. The scary ingredient in strawberry, and other berry flavored items, is castoreum, excretion from beaver perineal glands, or in layman’s terms, juice from the beaver’s anal scent sacks. Can you imagine having the job extracting juice from beaver bums? Strawberry bubblegum anyone?

21. Chocolate Milk


The ingredient used to keep the chocolate from clumping is powder cellulose, also known as wood pulp. That’s what gives it that rich, brown color. You thought it was the chocolate, didn’t you?

22. Condiments


Those handy little items used to top almost everything consumed by Americans has an ingredient that is very telling about the screwed-up GRAS system. These tasty toppings contain the chemical, propylene glycol alginate. Although it is illegal to use it in cat food, it is apparently perfectly fine for humans to consume, according to the FDA (clearly an acronym for F’ing Dumbasses).

23. Fiber Cereal


Every woman in America has tried the “Special K diet” at some point in their life. What most people didn’t know they were consuming, with this so-called healthy cereal, is high fructose corn syrup, the same unhealthy ingredient found in soft drinks and most other things you give up when you’re on a diet. Not cool!

23. Buns


Before your next cookout you may want to re-think your menu. There are three scary ingredients in the buns for your burger, veggie or otherwise. Ammonium Sulfate, also found in soil fertilizer, Sodium Benzoate, also found in fireworks and Azodicarbonamide, a substance used to make yoga mats, are all ingredients found in both white and wheat buns. Who knew you could make hamburger buns from fertilizer, fireworks and yoga mats? Now that’s repurposing!

24. Skim Milk


If you have switched from whole to skim milk to cut fat from your diet, you have unknowingly added something much worse. Low fat milk, or skim milk, contains titanium sulfate, the main ingredient found in sunblock. For those who may remember, skim milk once had a blue tint to it. This apparently caused people to be wary of it. To fix this little money-making problem, the good folks at the milk manufacturing plants decided it would be better to add a toxic chemical to make the product more appealing. It’s sort of a screwed-up Mary Poppins approach. Just a spoon full of titanium sulfate helps the pasteurized, homogenized, genetically modified dairy product go down.

25. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables


Most people are aware that some fruits and vegetable can have a coating of wax to prolong the shelf life. These coatings could come from beeswax, carnauba or shellac. The new more disgusting coatings being used on fruits and veggies are even less vegan-friendly. With companies working to making fresh foods safe from cross contaminates and to further increase shelf life, they are turning to more “natural” or “edible” coatings, which translates to “animal by-products” in most cases. Some coatings may derive from animal collagen, while others may be made from a mixture of eggs and shellfish. Large companies have been working on these “smart films” for years. Some are already being used on some fruits and vegetables, while others are still being tested by the FDA. Using a mixture of vinegar and water will help rid these films from your fruits and veggies. Also, buying from farmer’s markets will decrease the likelihood of obtaining fruits and veggies tainted by animal by-products. You’ll find better and fresher food there anyway, while helping your community grow by purchasing locally-grown produce.

The bottom line is that unless you grow or make your own food, there is absolutely no way to know what is inside of it or what was used in the process of making it. Besides the gross factor and the effects on our health, the continued growth of animal and dairy farms is exponentially responsible for increased human-induced greenhouse emission and thus, perpetuating global warming. With all of the chemicals and animal by-products hidden in food, it is no surprise that America is a nation occupied with people who are suffering from both obesity and malnutrition at the same time. This strange new phenomenon, which is the focus of the new film A Place at the Table, is unique to the United States. The attitude of ignoring what’s in your food or having the hubris to think, “We have the right to eat whatever we want to eat,” is no longer acceptable. The fact is that the freedom to choose what you eat has already been stripped away without your knowledge or permission. The term “junk food” has become literal and Americans are being fed a pack of lies.

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About Sheri Hosale

Sheri Hosale is a writer, former ballroom dancer and opinionated redhead. She likes British humor, Alabama football and picking through people’s brains like a knowledge-hungry zombie.

One comment

  1. Correction marshmallows and gelatin – gelatin is made from rendered down collagen which is a structural protein found in skin and bone whilst Adipose is the name given to fat tissue and cells. Full fat milk is actually more healthy than skimmed milk because when the fat is removed the fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) are also removed. Just because these ingredients sound disgusting does not make them unhealthy accept for the high fructose corn syrup.

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