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.

View as Slideshow

Ammonia

istock/numbeos

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

istock/delectus

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

istock/AnsonLu

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.

Content continues below ad

Sprayed-on viruses

istock/kasto80

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

istock/DreamyHarry

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

istock/ruslanshramko

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.


Content continues below ad

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.

Funny Jokes
Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane. Dennis Miller
Funny Jokes
I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.” Kevin Nealon
Funny Jokes
“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram @kristencarney
Funny Jokes
A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water. Comedian Greg Davies
Funny Jokes
Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous. @sixthformpoet
Funny Jokes
Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral. From clientsfromhell.net
Funny Jokes
My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.” @NicCageMatch
Funny Jokes
“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 
—Alcohol @yoyoha (Josh Hara)
Funny Jokes
My parents didn't want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that's the law. —Jerry Seinfeld
Funny Jokes
Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse's mouth? A: A mechanic.