Five ingredients that will make you reevaluate your food choices


Veronika Dvorakova

Bread products such as hamburger buns contain the enzyme L-cysteine, which is frequently derived from human hair.

Veronika Dvorkova, Art Director/Columnist

Does a beaver’s anal gland juice make you think of dessert? Is flame retardant a great way to quench thirst? Although it seems unlikely that those things could possibly be associated with standard food products, they are actually quite common. And they’re just the tip of the yucky-ingredient-iceberg. The following five examples of surprising ingredients are likely to transform your perception of some of your favorite foods.

1. Beaver’s anal gland juice

A slimy, gooey brown substance secreted in the castor sacs within beavers’ anuses is frequently found in our food. The worst part is that you have no way of knowing it because it is recorded as “natural flavoring” on food labels. It is most commonly used in vanilla, strawberry, and raspberry flavored treats. According to an article on Natural News, it smells surprisingly lovely. I will take their word for it.

2. Flame retardant-laced soda

If you are a fire breathing dragon, Mountain Dew is the soda for you because it may protect your insides from catching on fire. Sodas such as Mountain Dew contain brominated vegetable oil, which is a flame retardant that is used on plastics.  “Brominated vegetable oil  is considered safe by FDA for use as a flavoring adjuvant in fruit-flavored beverages based on a large margin of safety between the expected human exposure from its use and the highest no-observed-adverse effect levels from several long-term animal studies that were conducted on this substance,” an FDA spokesperson said in an email to ABC News.

3. Human hair in bread products

Yummy things such as human hair, duck feathers, and cow horns are processed and added to commercial bread in order to extend its shelf life.  According to an article on Munchies, “The hair—mostly gathered from the floors of hair salons in China, it seems—is dissolved in acid and, through chemical isolation, the L-cysteine is isolated, packed up and shipped off to commercial bread producers.” The next time that you find a hair in your bagel, you might as well leave it there unless you want to throw the whole bagel away.

4. Bugs are everywhere

The FDA’s standards regarding insects in food are lacking; creepy crawlies are everywhere. Ten insects and 35 fruit fly eggs per 8 oz. of raisins is totally cool according to the FDA. In a tin of mushrooms, you can expect to find a maximum of 19 maggots and 75 mites. I doubt that consumers would agree that some sort of magical threshold of grossness exists only when there are more than 19 maggots in a tin.

5. Jiggly jelly derived from pig bones

Gelatin is a protein that puts the jiggle in jelly.  Gelatin is derived from the collagen that is found in cow or pig bones, skin, and connective tissues. This is mostly a problem for unsuspecting vegetarians. It is widely known that jello and marshmallows are off limits, but gelatin lurks in many other foods too.  You can find gelatin in yogurt, candy, frosted cereals and some brands of sour cream.