While consumers are increasingly label- and ingredient-conscious when making food purchases, there are still plenty of items on the market with ingredients most people would find shocking or downright disgusting. Food coloring made from crushed beetles, anyone? Yes, it’s a real thing. Here’s a closer look at just some of the surprising stuff being used to make popular foods.
FISH BLADDER IN WINE
It may be shocking to wine connoisseurs everywhere (or not) that some vintners use isinglass, a gelatin derived from the swim bladders of sturgeons, during the fining process. In other words, it is used to make the wine clear and to remove particulates — meaning some wines may not be vegan.
Hair from Ducks, Humans or Pigs
L-Cysteine is an amino acid found most commonly in bread — and most often synthesized from human hair, duck and goose feathers, or hair from pigs, says Roberts, of Sift Food Labels. Some of the foods that contain L-Cysteine include Hot Pockets and Sam’s Choice Pizza.
Most often used to varnish furniture, shellac also shows up in candy. Possibly even lesser known: Shellac comes from the “resinous exudate” from a female Indian lac bug. Among the many uses (beyond furniture) found for shellac is stiffening hats and creating buttons. As for food, it is often labeled “confectioner’s glaze,” according to McGill University, and provides some favorite sweets — from jelly beans to ice cream cones — with a glossy sheen.
Sheep Wool Grease
The next time you sit down to a bowl of cereal, take a closer look at the ingredients. It may contain a type of vitamin D
made from sheep’s wool grease. Sourced from lanolin, or the substance sheep secrete to help wick water from their coats, food makers use it in vitamin D-fortified products. It can also be found in chewing gum.
Sugar seems like a simple enough food product, but few people realize that the process of making table sugar often involves the boiled-down bones of cattle. (Vegans everywhere, take note.) The process begins with sugar cane stalks that are crushed to gather the juice. Next comes heating the juice and
filtering and bleaching it, which is where the bone char comes in — the process creates the sugar’s blindingly white coloring.
Sand (also known as silicon dioxide) belongs at the beach, not in food, right? It turns out sand can also be a
good flow agent in food products, preventing clumping and caking. It has been known to show up in salts, dried soups, and coffee creamer. But manufacturers also use it in glass and cement. While silicone dioxide naturally exists in certain foods — such as dark leafy greens, beets and alfalfa sprouts, and some grains and cereals — and some studies have shown it to be safe in small doses, other researchers are calling for further investigation and stricter guidelines for its use in food.
Crushed beetles, anyone? A common color additive that gives many foods a bright red color, carmine is made from crushing the carcass of a specific South and Central American insect called a cochineal, Roberts says. It can be found in such products as Yoplait strawberry yogurt and Mentos Rainbow Chewy Mints.
Can’t pronounce it? Join the club. Carrie Roberts, founder and chief executive of
Sift Food Labels, an app that helps translate food ingredients in simple terms, says azodicarbonamide is a dough conditioner used in breads to make it lighter and fluffier. There are also less appetizing uses for this chemical that may leave you thinking twice. “Azodicarbonamide is also used as a chemical in yoga mats and rubber shoes, and its use is banned in foods across the European Union,” Roberts says. Some of the products it can be found in include Wonder’s Light Wheat Bread, Sunbeam hot dog buns, and Marie Callender’s croissant sandwiches, she says.
Also known as PDMS, this silicone chemical is basically silly putty. Used typically as an anti-foaming and anti-caking agent, PDMS shows up in fast foods and candy, fruit spreads, chewing gum, chocolate, and canned fruits. It is also used in shampoo and caulk.
Easily one of the most disturbing food items on this list, castoreum is a product derived from the castor sac scent glands of beavers. While it’s unclear how the tradition of using excretions from a beaver in food even got started, the resulting food additive is FDA approved. When it’s used, which is not often, castoreum might be found in raspberry-flavored foods — often unnoticeable because it is listed as “natural flavoring.”
Ever wonder what makes your vanilla icing or coffee creamer so white? In some cases, the answer may be titanium dioxide. A chemical that also turns up in such items as sunscreen, paint, and plastic, titanium dioxide in food has been the subject of much debate. That’s because ultrafine titanium dioxide can be a carcinogen, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — but when you breath it in, not when you eat it.
Salt Water Injections
While salt water isn’t bad for swimming, it may not be something you want (or expect) to find in food. Some manufacturers inject salt water into raw meat to enhance its weight and flavor. How to know if your meat has been injected with salt water? Read the label, which may say the product has been flavored or injected with solution. The amount of solution in the meat can range from about 10% to 35% — not good if you happen to be prone to high blood pressure.
Created by combining sulfuric acid with salt, sodium bisulfite has various uses — among them as a toilet bowl cleaner, purifying toxic wastewater, and also as a food preservative. It’s used to reduce bacteria growth and browning in food, and can be found in potato chips to keep them fresher longer.
The cheesemaking process may involve the use of a product called rennet, which helps milk thicken. Rennet can come from many sources, among them the stomach lining of either a calf, ewe, or baby goat. But not all cheesemakers use the animal form of rennet — other options include plant rennet, genetically engineered rennet, and microbial rennet.
Found typically in wood pulp or cotton, cellulose is also sometimes used in shredded cheese to keep it from sticking together, and as an inexpensive filler. It may also be found in some ice creams and drinks, to add fiber content and texture, particularly to low-fat foods. Look for cellulose on ingredient lists under names such as carboxymethylcellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, or MCC. While there are no known harmful side effect to cellulose, which is essentially non-digestible plant fiber, critics are largely concerned with companies using cellulose and improperly labeling it, essentially charging consumers for
what amounts to a filler. One solution? Grate your own cheese.
(article via http://www.MSN.com Food)