Monday, September 23, 2013

They Put What In Where?

Ok - it's been awhile, so I suppose it's time for another food post. 

Today, let's talk about something really ... interesting.  (That's Minnesota nice for absolutely disgusting).

Ever wonder what is really in that pre-made meal you're having?  Or that can of pop?  Read the label some time and see if you can decipher any of that garbage they call "ingredients".

I'm assuming at this point that you already know that added sugar/corn syrup, salt, and preservatives aren't so good for you.  So I won't talk about that.

But, did you know that some of the below might be in there too?  Mmmm, yummy!

Maybe you'll consider making your own food from scratch more often now?


Most commonly used in: Any food with pink or reddish hues - from sodas to yogurts.

What it is: Carmine can also be identified on food labels as Crimson Lake, Cochineal, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470 or E120, and is made from ground-up cochineal insects (or in layman terms, mashed red beetles).  The insects are killed by exposure to heat or immersion in hot water and then dried. Since the abdominal region which houses the fertilized eggs contains the most carmine, it is separated from the rest of the body, ground into a powder and cooked at high temperatures to extract the maximum amount of color.  Food manufacturers are well aware that word has gotten out about carmine, so a number of manufacturers have resorted to labeling as just "natural color".


Most commonly used in: Processed or cured meats.

What it is: Bacteriophages are a set of six viruses which are sprayed onto meat products in an effort to kill foodborne microbes.  Bacteriophages have hollow heads that store viral DNA and tunnel tails with tips that bind to specific molecules on the surface of their target bacteria. That viral DNA is then injected through the tail into the host cell, thus killing the microbe.  In a nutshell, as bacteriophages are thrusting their hollow, viral DNA-filled tails into their host cell, you are jamming the whole nasty battle right down your gullet.

Titanium Dioxide

Most commonly used in: Paints, sunscreen... oh, and processed salad dressing, coffee creamers, and icing.

What it is: A component of the metallic element titanium, a mined substance that is sometimes contaminated with toxic lead.  The food industry adds it to hundreds of products to make dingy, overly processed items appear whiter.


Most commonly used in: Vanilla or raspberry flavoring.

What it is: Simply put - this is beaver anal gland juice.  In nature, it's combined with the beaver's urine and used to mark its territory.  But this musky excretion has made it into food as well.  Unfortunately, manufacturers using this typically list it as "natural flavoring", so good luck figuring out if it's in your meal or not.


Most commonly used in: Glossy candies, pharmaceutical pills.

What it is: Shellac is derived from the excretions of the kerria lacca insect, most commonly found in the forests of Thailand.  The kerria lacca bug produces a sticky excretion to stick to the trees on which it lives. Harvesting the bug excretion is a pretty simple: harvesters just scrape the excretions right off the tree. But there is little room for quality control during harvesting, and most times the insects themselves are harvested as well. So, the insect simply becomes part of the shellac-making process. And the candy-making process. And the candy-eating process.


  1. Thanks for sharing these tidbits. I read all of these descriptions and was ready to scream "YUCK" at the top of my lungs and then run off hysterically into the sunset!

    All kidding aside, I have been making a concerted effort these days to eat more natural, unprocessed foods... and reading this has just reinforced the will to do so. I wasn't entirely shocked at the candy, soft drinks, and sandwich meats - but I was a little surprised to read about the salad dressing. Who knew?!?!? UGH!

    1. I know, gross right? It makes me want to make everything from scratch at home again. At least I'm sort of there, since my husband and I like to cook most of our meals from scratch anyway.

      The salad dressing one is the big bummer, because I really love me some ranch or blue cheese. I started to make the switch to olive oil and vinegar on my salads a few months back... it's actually pretty tasty, so I haven't minded the change.