Who’s ready for some horror stories about the way food is processed? Some people don’t really want to know how the sausage gets made because frankly, it’s gross.
From rodent-based food additives to chemical preservatives to non-food elements showing up on our plates, we usually have no idea what actually goes down at the manufacturer. Time to look behind the curtain, people.
1. Canned Mushrooms
Canned mushrooms should be a reliable shortcut when you’re cooking dinner, but it’s not worth it when you realize that the FDA has specified that each can may legally contain 20 or more maggots.
Yep, maggots – those wiggly white worms that grow up in rotting meat, or on mushrooms apparently. There are acceptable levels of insects, rodent hairs, and other “objectionable material” for all of our processed foods, but mushrooms happen to be one of the worst offenders.
2. Chicken Nuggets
The rumor that chicken nuggets are made with pink slime is false, but the real process for making them isn’t too much better.
The meat that they are based on is in fact ground chicken breast. But, it only makes up about 50% of the nugget – the rest is ground chicken skin, bone, blood vessels, and connective tissues, plus fat. They also contain some salt, sugar, starch, and “binders and fillers”, whatever they are.
3. Coffee Creamer
Liquid non-dairy creamers have the color and consistency of cream but are entirely made of oil. That velvety mouthfeel is achieved with thickening agents and emulsifiers such as carrageenan, an ingredient that tends to cause inflammation and digestive issues.
Other texturizers include cellulose gel and cellulose gum, tasty fillers derived from wood pulp or cotton. Powdered creamers are so removed from actual cream that they are flammable, and that’s on top of tasting disgusting.3 of 12
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4. Mountain Dew
Long the favorite of caffeine junkies everywhere, Mountain Dew is so chemical laden that you wouldn’t want to drink the dew off of any mountain it came from. That powerful citrus flavor is created with a chemical called brominated vegetable oil or BVO.
And by the way, BVO is also used as a flame retardant. Besides Mountain Dew, it shows up in the sodas Squirt, Fanta Orange, Sunkist Pineapple, Gatorade Thirst Quencher Orange, Powerade Strawberry Lemonade, and Fresca Original Citrus.
BVO has been banned in foods from Europe and Japan, but not the good old USA. Overexposure to BVO had led some people to need medical attention for skin lesions, memory loss, and nerve disorders. Get your caffeine some other way.
You want to believe that cheese is vegetarian, right? No animals killed in the production? Well, that’s not always the case. Most cheeses contain a compound called rennet, which is traditionally found in the stomach of nursing calves.
It may not be impossible to find cheese that you can eat without turning your stomach. Approximately 80% of rennet used today has been genetically engineered by inserting cow DNA into certain bacteria, fungi, and yeasts.
6. Shredded Cheese
If you’ve ever used pre-shredded cheese as a convenience, you may have noticed that it has a distinctly different texture than cheese you shred yourself. That’s because bagged shredded cheese contains a significant amount of wood pulp.
To be fair, natural shredded cheese would absolutely clump back together during shipping if not for some sort of desiccant material. But really, it might be worth investing the time to shred some cheese fresh at home when you need it.
7. Salad Dressing
We get it, eating dry lettuce is not very appetizing. You need a little something to make it palatable. Unfortunately, most commercial salad dressings use a nanoparticle called titanium dioxide to add a pleasing white hue.
Titanium dioxide is also a chief ingredient in sunscreen and consuming too much of it has been shown to lead to stomach cancer. You don’t have to eat your salads bare, though. Salad dressing is a surprisingly easy thing to make from scratch.
Sometimes there’s nothing better than a tall frosty glass of beer. There are all different types and textures of beer, but the beautiful see-though amber versions are hiding a yucky secret.
As if the fermentation process isn’t gross enough when you really think about it, beer includes an ingredient called isinglass to help make the product more clear and bright. Isinglass comes from fish – it’s a type of gelatin made from dried fish bladders.
9. Vanilla Ice Cream
Made fresh and home, true ice cream contains milk, sugar, cream, eggs, and flavoring. Of course, mass-produced ice cream has got to be done differently, so grocery store ice cream may contain a stabilizer called castoreum.
No big deal, but you probably want to know that castoreum is secreted from the anal glands of beavers. Not to worry, though, this product is unsurprisingly difficult to harvest, so it is not used very widely.
10. Frozen Meals
Frozen meals are a handy go-to if you’re in a hurry but need a little fuel. They come in a huge variety of meals, both with side dishes and without. Some even contain desserts.
However, these meals are often chock full of salt and artificial preservatives designed to make the food edible when it finally comes out of deep freeze. By the time you heat and eat your meal, it has likely been frozen for several years, and it never looks anything like the picture on the box.