The news about raw materials like pink mud and ammonia (more on that later) made us wonder: what other surprises are hidden in the food we eat? We ask food safety and manufacturing experts this question, and it turns out that all sorts of things turn into refined and processed foods that were not voluntarily put in the mouth. Here are some to read at your own risk!
This does not mean that it is not safe to eat. The Food and Drug Administration and other agencies invest a lot of time and energy to make sure you don’t eat things that kill you. But the idea that something seems “just wrong” is generally not part of the calculation.
Here is a list of food ingredients that have a high gross factor.
What it is: vegetarians are amazed! The same material that contains jiggle in gelatin and other gelatin products is made from collagen, a protein that is often extracted from animals’ skin.
The source varies by type of food, said Andrew Milkowsi, an assistant professor of animal science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. For example, the gelatin in desserts comes mainly from pigskin.
Where to find it: Gelatin, a thickener, is also found in frozen cereals, yogurt, candy, and some types of sour cream. (Check the label)
Gross factor: high for vegetarians, low for everyone else.
Mechanically separated meat
What it is: Mechanically separated meat remains after meat attached to chicken or pork bones has been pressed under high pressure through a sieve-like structure. “It looks like pasta or pasta,” said Sarah Klein, advocate for the Food Security program at Science of Public Interest. They also serve pieces of crushed MyWegmansConnect bone and cartilage and other things that can end up in this final paste.
What it is: We have carbon monoxide detectors in our homes for a reason: This odorless gas can be deadly. The same things that come out of the vehicle’s exhaust are also used to pack minced meat and certain fish like tilapia and tuna. This helps them stay young, said Patty Lovera, deputy director of Food & Water Watch.
Where to Find It: Carbon monoxide is injected into a plastic MyWegmansConnect wrap after all the air enters to block the oxidation process, which can lead to brownish-pink meat. The process is considered safe for humans, although it is no longer widely used, Lovera said. Consumer groups have spoken out against the potential of the treatment to disguise deterioration.
Gross factor: medium
What It Is: Candy Lovers, Cover Your Eyes: Sweet, shiny treats like gummy bears come at a price. They are often covered with shellac, a sticky substance that comes from the secretions of the female Kerria lacca, an insect native to Thailand.
Where to Find It: Shellac gives gummy bears, sweet corn, and other hard candy a shiny look. It can be called “confectionery icing” on the packaging. So cute and still so sick.