Food Items That Might Be Hard To Eat Once You Know How They’re Made (Or What They Contain)

There are many foods that may make you pause when you realize that the ingredients aren’t good for you. And then there are those items that you hesitate to consume not for health purposes, but because the thought of how they’re made is downright cringe-worthy. For instance, gelatin has a bad rap for coming from animal bones, and some ground meat contains the unfortunately named “pink slime.” Read on for more foods you might regret learning about.

Chocolate Can Contain Insect Fragments

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In every 100 grams of chocolate, the FDA allows up to 60 insect fragments and one rodent hair. That means your chocolate bar could be loaded with tiny bug pieces that you’ll never know about. It may seem unlikely, but the FDA allows tons of foods to contain insect fragments, such as tomato products and macaroni.

Chocolate is made from beans that grow in pods on trees. So throughout the manufacturing process, there’s bound to be some bug bits that get in there. But don’t worry, they’re harmless.

A Certain Red Food Dye Is Made From Beetles

DESIREE MARTIN/AFP via Getty Images
DESIREE MARTIN/AFP via Getty Images

There’s something about the color red that’s extra appetizing. That is, until you hear that it’s made from bugs. The dye is called Natural Red 4, Carmine, or E120 and its found in various food items and lipstick.

It’s made from the cochineal insect and the process has been around for hundreds of years. As disgusting as it may sound, this red dye is actually far healthier than some that are derived from coal or petroleum. Still, Starbucks famously booted carmine dye because it freaked out customers so much.

Some Buns Have The Same Ingredient That Makes Yoga Mats

Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Some breads, particularly fast food buns, contain the chemical azodicarbonamide. The FDA states that the purpose of the substance was to bleach flour and condition dough. The problem is that it’s the same stuff they make yoga mats and rubber shoes from.

When a customer found out that Subway was using the “yoga mat chemical” in their sandwich buns, they petitioned to have the company ban the ingredient. Subway responded by promising to phase out azodicarbonamide.

Marshmallows Often Contain Bone-Derived Gelatin

Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Have you ever wondered what is in a marshmallow? While sugar and corn syrup seem like obvious answers, you may be surprised to hear that they were once made from the marshmallow plant.

Gone are those days thanks to a little thing called gelatin. A rumor spread that the questionable ingredient comes from animal hooves. On the bright side, that isn’t true. The downer is that gelatin is actually made from animal hides and bones, more specifically their collagen.

Some Red Meat Contains Carbon Monoxide

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

When you think of carbon monoxide, the first thing that probably comes to mind is air quality, not meat. As it turns out, the chemical is helpful to food manufacturers in that it keeps the product looking bright red.

The good news is that there’s such a little amount used that it won’t make you sick. The bad news is that the discoloration can make it hard to tell if the meat has gone bad or not. For this reason, some countries have banned the practice.

Chewing Gum Is Made From Sheep Wool Secretions

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Getty Images

Anything that you chew but don’t eat already seems suspect. Indeed, chewing gum has received some flak for its sugar alcohols and impact on the jaw, but nothing compares to its one unusual ingredient: lanolin. Sheep secrete the waxy substance into their wool to keep it waterproof.

Manufacturers remove the lanolin through a centrifuge and use it in lotions, and also in chewing gum. That’s why some people who have a wool allergy are also unable to chew gum. Allergies aside, too much consumption can cause lanolin poisoning.

Jell-O Is Full Of Questionable Ingredients

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Mark Sullivan/WireImage/Getty Images

If you have a strong hankering for jello, it’s worth being particular about the brand you choose. One of the most popular is Jell-O, but it’s riddled with questionable ingredients. For one, it has gelatin, that stuff made from animal collagen.

It also includes Blue 1 and Red 40, two food dyes that have been linked to cancer when consumed in high amounts. To top it off, Jell-O contains adipic acid, disodium phosphate, and fumaric acid, all of which the FDA acknowledges can be unsafe if overly ingested.

Some Cheesemakers Use The Stomach Lining Of Calves

An employee controls the coagulation on February 16, 2020, at the Donge Brie de Meaux cheese factory
JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP via Getty Images
JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP via Getty Images

One thing that separates vegetarians from vegans is that the former gets to indulge in dairy products like cheese. But don’t get too excited, vegetarians, because there’s one ingredient that gets a little sticky: rennet.

Rennet is an enzyme that some cheesemakers used to help coagulate milk. Unfortunately, this enzyme is derived from the stomach lining of a young goat, lamb, or calf, specifically one that was still nursing as the rennet breaks down their mother’s milk. The process occurs after the animal is slaughtered for its meat.

Worcestershire Sauce Is Made From Fermented Fish

lea-perrins
libbyandnicki/Flickr
libbyandnicki/Flickr

Worcestershire Sauce has been a popular condiment since it came out in the early 1800s. But have you ever looked at the ingredients? If so, you may have noticed that a vital component of the sauce is anchovies.

They don’t just mix the fish in and call it a day, though. The anchovies ferment in vinegar for more than a year! Rumor has it that Lea and Perrins accidentally forgot about the sauce, leaving it in the cellar for months, and that’s how they discovered the fermented creation.

Cheap Meats Are Glued Together

MIGUEL MENDEZ/AFP via Getty Images
MIGUEL MENDEZ/AFP via Getty Images

There’s nothing like a juicy steak, but its important to recognize that not all are created equally. Literally, some are not made like others. Cheaper cuts often are molded out of various pieces of meat that have been glued together.

The glue is a substance called transglutaminase, aka “meat glue.” The FDA deems the substance GRAS (generally recognized as safe). While the bonding agent isn’t of concern, some may feel uneasy about not knowing what parts of an animal they’re really eating.

Jelly Beans Are Coated In Bug Secretions

Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Jelly beans are essentially little wax pockets full of sugar and starch. But there’s one other component that gives the candy pieces their noticeable shine: bug secretions. More specifically, it’s a substance called shellac.

As a female lap bug drinks tree sap, it releases a resin that manufacturers can collect from the tree. The resin is processed and turned into shellac, an ingredient used not only to glaze jelly beans, but also to finish wooden furniture, set jewelry, and repair pottery!

Some Grated Cheeses Have Wood Pulp In Them

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When it comes to shredded or grated cheeses, it takes a lot of elbow grease to make them on your own with a block of cheese. But before you go grabbing a container of parmesan, you may want to know how they prevent those tiny fragments from clumping together.

The answer is cellulose, a plant fiber commonly derived from wood pulp. Though it’s not digestible, cellulose is an important fiber that can keep things moving. The problem is that many companies don’t add it to their labels, so don’t get overzealous about your 100% parmesan bottle.

Ground Meat Is Packed With Filler Called “Pink Slime”

Tom Kelley/Getty Images
Tom Kelley/Getty Images

Ground beef is kind of an odd concept, really. And when you add in the fact that up to 15% of it is something called “pink slime,” it starts to seem unbelievable that we even eat this stuff.

The pink slime consists of meat trimmings that have been finely cut and had the fat removed from them. That doesn’t sound too bad until you hear that the filler is cleaned with ammonia! Given its nickname, we have a feeling it’s not a pleasant sight, either.

Most Orange Juice Is Made With Secret Flavor Packs

Houin/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Houin/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Before you pat yourself on the back for grabbing the 100% orange juice that’s not from concentrate, you may want to do some research into flavor packs. The short of it is that orange juice companies often flavor their drinks with orange byproducts.

This is necessary because by the time they remove the oxygen from orange juice to make it last longer, the flavor is depleted. Some take issue with these flavor packs because the FDA doesn’t require that they be specified on the label, even though they don’t exist in nature.

Sliced Bread Is Preserved With A Chemical Found In Hair

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Despite the sweeping emergence of gluten-free diets, bread remains a large staple in many households. Have you ever wondered how that loaf stays mold-free on your counter for so long? The answer is a little chemical called L-cysteine.

You may recognize the name L-cysteine since its an amino acid found in many mammals, including humans. So how do they extract this chemical? By dissolving hair clippings, pig bristles, duck feathers, and more, in acid! It may be harmless, but the thought is disturbing.

Orange Peels Are Dyed With A Possible Carcinogen

Luigi Galperti/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Luigi Galperti/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The next time you order an old fashioned, you may want to hold the orange peel. While it’s true that orange peels are loaded with vitamins, they may also contain Citrus Red 2, which is a group 2B carcinogen. That’s a fancy way of saying that it’s “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

The possibility is dangerous enough that the FDA only permits its use to dye the peel of oranges. Some states, including California and Arizona, have outright banned Citrus Red 2.

Some Meat Is Injected With Expensive Saltwater

Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images

If you look closely at meat labels, you’ll notice that some say “enhanced” or “brined.” What this means is that the raw meat was injected with a saltwater solution to make it last longer and taste better.

The problem is that meat is typically priced by weight, which can increase as much as 30% due to the “plumping” process alone! To top it off, the saltwater adds a ton of sodium to your diet that you may not even realize you’re consuming.

Ranch Is Sometimes Made With Titanium Dioxide

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Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Ranch is one of the most beloved dressings out there, but it has a dirty little secret. Many brands use titanium dioxide to make their ranch as white as possible. You know what other products gets its white shade from titanium dioxide? Sunscreen.

The chemical is deemed “possibly carcinogenic,” so the FDA has very strict rules about how much manufacturers can put into it. Some brands of ranch completely avoid the ingredient, so it’s definitely worth looking into.

Vanilla Substitute Castoreum Comes From Beaver Bottoms

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Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Castoreum has been used for centuries as a perfume, medicine, and flavoring. Most recently, it was a popular vanilla substitute, that is until people started realizing where it comes from. The substance is gathered from the base of beaver tails.

That’s to say, right near their bottoms. It comes out of sacs within the beaver and is secreted as a way for the animal to mark their territory. Since the smell has sweet, fruity notes, it made for a natural flavoring. The good news is that castoreum is rarely used nowadays.

Caesar Dressing

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Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Remember Worcestershire sauce and how it’s made with fermented anchovies? Caeser dressing takes it a step further. It contains both Worcestershire sauce AND anchovies in its ingredients list.

To top it off, it’s also loaded with mayo! While none of the ingredients are harmful and somehow blend to create an amazing product, imagining the preparation is not a pleasant thought. We applaud those who have been brave enough to make homemade caesar dressing and consume it right after.