Unpleasant Food Additive Sources

Harry Jackson Jr.

Posted June 21, 2012

Gross things you didn't know you were eating:

The online Readers' Digest this month has a list of a few things you're eating that are legal additives to food. A note, this may be the best weight loss diet yet, considering once you know what's in your packaged foods, you'll lose your appetite.


Pink slime is nothing new. That's the additive that uses ammonia to prevent hamburger from rotting too quickly. The backlash against the additive earlier this year caused layoffs at Beef Products Inc., among the largest producers of the product. Many school districts and grocers have stopped the practice. However, ammonia also is used in some varieties of peanut butter, chips and other food. "The truth is, processed foods contain all sorts of gross-sounding ingredients that have been deemed safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Beaver glands

The ingredient is called castoreum, the dried perineal glands -- anal glands that give off bad odors -- of beavers. It's used as a flavoring for strawberry, raspberry and vanilla flavoring in some candy, gum, gelatin and pudding.

Human or hog hair, or duck feathers

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

Sprayed-on viruses

Fight fire with fire. To combat the threat of listeria, the FDA allows food producers to spray deli meats with bacteriophages, viruses that infect and kill bacteria. It's the same disinfectant used to kill germs in hospitals.

Insect parts

The FDA allows foods, such as hot dogs and sausage, to have a minute amount of insect parts and rodent hairs. But it doesn't stop there. The female lac beetle secretes what's called "confectioner's glaze." It's used to make candy, fruit and shellac shiny. Carmine, a red food coloring that tints fruit juice, is made from the shells of desert beetles.

Wood pulp

Tiny pieces of plant fibers and wood, called powdered cellulose, make some low-fat ice cream seem creamier and to prevent some shredded cheese from clumping.

Follow health reporter Harry Jackson Jr. on Twitter at www.twitter.com/STLhealth for coverage of health, outdoors, health gadgets and tips from fitness trainers.

©2012 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com

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