It's no secret that some of the ingredients in your food are stomach-churning. Nobody likes to think about the bacteria in yogurt or the veins of mold in their blue cheese. But, unfortunately, some of the grossest things in our food are ingredients most of us didn't even know were in there.
One of the biggest problems with our food is transparency. Often times, these upsetting chemicals and items are listed in the ingredients, but using scientific (and unrecognizable) names. Because so much of our food is pre-packaged and filled with chemicals, these nauseating ingredients go unnoticed and the same chemicals that go into plastics and paints make it into our shopping carts and onto our plates. This is, in part, why health experts often advise consumers not to eat foods with ingredients that they can’t pronounce.
The bigger problem, however, is that these ingredients are allowed in our food in the first place. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted these ingredients GRAS status; that means they are "generally recognized as safe." To be more specific, foods that are generally recognized as safe have “been adequately shown… to be safe under the conditions of their intended use.” What that adds up to is that ingredients like animal excretions and human hair are allowed in our food in certain quantities.
Should we worry about these disgusting chemicals and ingredients if the USDA has evaluated them and deemed them safe for inclusion in our food? Most likely, yes — remember that pre-packaged and convenience foods (the foods where we most often unknowingly encounter these ingredients) were first introduced in the 1950s, so we have barely begun to understand the long term impacts of a pre-packaged, convenience-food diet. There is a chance these ingredients are safe, but there is also a chance they're not — it’s simply too soon to tell.
Those pretty little shiny candies we all love are actually pretty gross; they get their shine from shellac, a substance excreted by female lac bugs. And yes, it’s the same substance used in wood finishes.
(Credit: Flickr/cesar harada)
Propylene glycol, a substance used in anti-freeze, is commonly used in salad dressing because of its lubricating properties — things that don’t combine well with water tend to react positively with propylene glycol.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal's Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.