6 Gross Food Ingredients You Didn’t Know You Were Eating

Pink slime is just the beginning: Here are six more gross ingredients that might be in your next bite of food.

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You've heard about "pink slime," the nutritionally questionable, ground beef filler treated with ammonia that has graced school cafeteria and burger joint menus for decades. The backlash against the "slime" (also known as lean finely textured beef, or LFTB) earlier this year lead to layoffs at Beef Products Inc., one of the largest producers of the product, and an announcement that many U.S. school districts have scratched LFTB from their menus.

Regardless of the supposed safety of ammonia in beef, you probably don't like the idea of ingesting a product more commonly used to clean floors. Ammonia may also show up in small amounts in peanut butter, chips and other foods, and the truth is, processed foods contain all sorts of gross-sounding ingredients that have been deemed safe by the FDA and USDA. Here's a rundown.

Beaver glands

Beaver glands
You'll find castoreum, the dried perineal glands of beavers, used as a strawberry, raspberry or vanilla flavoring in some candy, gum, gelatin, and pudding.

Human or hog hair, or duck feathers

Human or hog hair, or duck feathers
When you see L-Cysteine on the ingredient label for bread or bagels, know that it's an amino acid derived from hair or feathers.

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Sprayed-on viruses

Sprayed-on viruses
To combat the threat of listeria, the FDA allows food producers to spray deli meats with the same bacteriophages that hospitals use to kill germs.

Insect parts

Insect parts
The female Lac beetle gives us the ingredient shellac—sometimes called "confectioner's glaze"—used to make candy and fruit (and furniture) shiny. Carmine, commonly used as a red food coloring for fruit juices and candy, is made from the shells of desert beetles.

Wood pulp

Wood pulp
Tiny pieces of plant fibers and wood called powdered cellulose are used to make some types of low-fat ice cream seem more creamy. It's also used to prevent some shredded cheese from clumping.

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28 thoughts on “6 Gross Food Ingredients You Didn’t Know You Were Eating

  1. Ammonia is in a lot of things. As is arsenic. It’s all just a bunch of chemicals and elements when you get down to it, people.
    And the organic-only people? You’re eating bugs, unknowingly, just as often.

  2. I agree, put it all on one. We don’t have the time to find the rest of the story. I gave up too.

  3. I L O V E hamburgers and I will not stop eating them. In all my yrs, I have never heard of anybody dying  from eating Hamburger meat. ONLY from OVEREATING . Thank you. 

  4. Shellac is a secretion of the Lac beetle, which does not live in the desert.

  5. The major problem is with marketing. No one should be idiotic to allow the name of “pink slime” to be attach that name to beef steak and round roast trimmings which are all mixed up together and sprayed with a small amount of ammonia to make sure it is safe to eat. Had they not attached that name to it, there wouldn’t be so much of a problem. “Slime” is a word we have all grown up with that meant something yucky and nasty. If you happen to read through all of the ingredients we normally eat, people would basically have to starve if they don’t want to eat bugs and things like that. 

    Think about where wheat and corn come from…they are grown out in the field where thousands of bugs are all over the plants. When the crops are harvested, where do you think all the bugs go?? Try to be sure you get all the bugs out of almost any crop that you have harvested. Even if the percentage of bug parts allowable by the FDA was .00001 there would still be a possibility that you would get part of a bug in your rolls or cornbread and even country-style biscuits. It’s a fact of life. We have moved too far from the farm and people have become too far sanitized to allow for the bugs we even get sometimes in our canned food. 

    My mama bought a can of greens one time and there was a bit worm curled up in the top of the can. She took it back to the store and all that happened was they gave her another can of greens, probably from the same batch that was cooked in with the worm. We probably got some worm parts in our can, too–at least some worm fat–that had cooked out of the other canned worm.  We will have trash in all farm products until all food is grown in sterile bubbles in hydroponic gardens and livestock raised in sterilized pens of some sort where the air and water for everything is sterilized completely and no air coming in and out. Nearly impossible to maintain and the cost would be unbearable for us to sustain the market. Get used to the fact that almost any processed food, whether cleaned by factory workers or by you, is likely to have insect parts included in it. We may as well bet used to it.

  6. And bacon comes from PIGS!!!! And don’t ask where mushrooms come from. Ewwwwww.

    1. The ground? The side of a tree? :) I always think of that kid’s rhyme, “God made dirt and dirt ‘don’t’ hurt!”

  7. Why would they want to harm us this way?
    We’re not lizards to feed us beetles and bugs!!!! If they could not serve the world community healthy foods in candies or hot dogs or ready-to-be used pastries why would they even bother doing that??? Is it really a must? Hell, we’re not even suffering from any kind of starvation. Heaven has granted us heavens of fruits and veggies for our sweet teeth and meat of many kinds of birds and cattle and we do have the liberty and time to use any food prossesor for grinding and thank God there are recipes to use for making any kind of pastries at home with normal whole wheat flours. God … what on earth had gone wrong with this world???? I bet even Lice don’t thrive on hair as they wish we do!!!

    1. I’d rather eat a bug than poison or chemicals or any GMO food.

  8. Years ago, I read the medical thriller novel, TOXIC, by Dr. Robin Cook.  It was based on fact about the meat butchering industry.  The author’s bibliography encouraged me to read further.  It caused me to evaluate my diet; and I subsequently eliminated red meat, which is often cited in nutritional studies to contribute to breast cancer.  Every person must do what you feel is right for your diet and health.  Magazines such as PREVENTION has been helpful to me.  You can avoid many potential toxins by staying current on safe eating suggestions.  We don’t have to  agree with all of them.  Hey, I’ll never give up my nacho chips and salsa . . .

  9. You guys will do anything to try to get folks to read you stuff.   That apparently includes using sensational language about ordinary things, mislabeling substances, and innuendo in place of facts. 

  10. Because some Government Food Inspector became irate with a company, he gave this product which  beef is rendered through a process that uses heat and centrifugal force removes the fat suet from the beef, he named it pink slime the whole country has an hissy fit. People have been eating this finely textured rendered beef for a long time, and no one died. I listened to the gentleman who heads the Beef Industry explain the actual process. It’s a process that has gotten a bad rap because of people like you who call it gross. When writing about something get the whole story  

  11. just as honey is a secretion from bees, shellac is a substance secreted by the lac beetle. if shellac is gross, so is honey.  red food coloring, however, is derived from the beetle itself.  that’s gross.

    1. Only if you think beetles and other insects aren’t good to eat! Many cultures consider bugs a good source of protein … why is eating a beetle ‘gross’ but eating the liver of a goose a ‘delicacy’ ? Food is made from plants and animals. That in and of itself is a little ‘gross’ get over it. Now eating ammonia and other strange things, well, THAT is a bit over the top! :)

  12. What a wildly irresponsible article.  Nowhere does it say what the harm is in any of these ‘ingredients’.  Let’s just play on the emotional ‘Ewww’ response.
    You left out the centuries old method of dipping dough (especially for bagels and, my personal favorite, soft pretzels) in a solution of water and lye.

    1. Many Norwegians still use blood in their food dishes. How about that?

  13. I would like to read the 6 gross items, but I’m not going to go to 7 different pages to do it.  Put it all on one!

    1. One page !! Great idea I endorse. Where would you put all the advertising?  I’ve got a couple of suggestions.

    2.  print preview and you get the whole article, with pictures, without advertisements.

    3.  print preview and you get the whole article, with pictures, without advertisements.

  14. You guys are idiots, LFTB is beef,  yes beef.  so putting LFTB in beef they are putting beef in beef.  All the media has done drawing attention to this product was: a.) put people out of work, b.) scare people to pay more for ground beef, c.) drive up cost of meat because now it takes more cattle to produce the same amount of ground beef, d.) spend more of our tax money one something we did not need to spend our money on.  This just points to the fact that our economy is going in the wrong direction when idiots (like the person that wrote this article) drives out economy in the wrong direction because of misinformation. Again just want to make sure you all understand LFTB is BEEF!

    1.  Go ahead eat your rat poison and amonia, and when your sick and dying, you will wish you didn’t listen to yourself either. Don’t you dare tell me to poison my children, just so you can make an extra dollar. Food was not meant to be made with chemical products from factories. I hear you saying money is more important than a few dead children.  We will eat organic, so go buy yourself some Decon and a spoon, jerk.

      1. Be nice, you will never convince anyone that you’re right if you yell & call them names. Comment sections on the Internet: Changing Lives! Haha

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