There are those who eat to live, and those who live to eat. These are the people who snap photos of elegant dishes at restaurants and spend money to travel long distances for a certain meal. Hardcore foodies walk among us, and they exist in droves.
Of course, most people who enjoy a great meal — and even those who aren’t food-obsessed — don’t really know where the ingredients come from. Sometimes the truth isn’t so, well, appetizing. Buckle up, because you’ve probably enjoyed at least one of the foods with less-than-savory parts.
It’s not unusual nowadays to see groups of people at restaurants snapping artsy photos of their food before they start eating it. At one point in time, this most likely would have been considered rude, but today the foodie frenzy has officially taken over.
This all makes sense when you consider that the culture and traditions that bring certain cuisines to life is fascinating. However, there’s also a flip side to those fascinating details, and they’re hiding right within some of our favorite foods.
Look, If we’re chowing down on cheese we might as well just accept that it has a little pit stop between sheep and charcuterie plate. While it’s not the most pleasant idea to imagine your feta on an assembly line, it’s actually the least of your dashed dish dreams.
1. Shredded cheese: Ah, the wonderful world of bagged shredded cheese. It’s just so much easier to buy the pre-shredded stuff than have to purchase a whole block and grate it yourself. However, even though it saves time, it’s made with a shocking ingredient.
It contains cellulose, also known as refined wood pulp, to prevent it from clumping! That’s right, every bite you take of bagged cheese has little bits of wood. Now that’s a good reason to buy that block and start working out those forearms.
2. Maraschino cherries: What’s an ice cream sundae with a few glistening Maraschino cherries on top? The saying “cherry on top” is literally about them, and the best part is you’re consuming fruit when you eat them. Wait a second…
Calling Maraschino cherries fruit is quite a stretch. First of all, they’re made using the least ripe cherries from the orchard. Then, they soak in sugar-laden liquid for 45 days before being dyed red. So no, they’re hardly fruit at all.
3. Meat “glue”: The word “glue” should never even brush shoulders with “food,” but this isn’t actual glue. Sometimes butchers use a powdery substance to stick scraps together. It’s apparently not dangerous for consumption, but the words “meat glue” are stomach-churning.
4. Oreo: There’s few people in this world who can resist dunking a fresh Oreo in a glass of cold milk for a snack, and the best part is obviously the cream. Have you wondered what that cream is actually made of?
A nutrition consultant named Alissa Helton spilled the beans: “The main ingredient in Oreo filling is the commercial version of Crisco!” This highly processed ingredient contains chemicals that were actually used to create soap many years ago. Yikes!
5. Bread: As Dwight Schrute proudly put it, “Bread is the paper of the food industry. You write your sandwich on it.” Oh, how true. But, why is it when grandma bakes a loaf it spoils so much quicker than a store-bought one?
Ready for this? Many factories use an amino acid called L-cysteine as a preservative, and it’s made using duck feathers, cow horns, and even hog hair sometimes! So, keep that in mind the next time you enjoy a BLT.
6. Figs: Here’s a terrifying fact about this delicious fruit: Inside every open pollinated fig is a “digested queen wasp” according to Arthur Gillet, co-founder of research sustainability organization HowGood. During the pollination process, the queen dies in the plant and is digested.
7. Chocolate: Whether it’s a birthday, holiday, or any other special occasion, a box of chocolate is always a winning gift to give or receive. Even though chocolate in any form is amazing, it’s how the cocoa harvesting occurs that’s a major problem.
Much of it happens in West Africa. According to the Food Empowerment Project, which looks into human rights abuses, much of the trade is marked by child slavery. To ensure you’re not supporting it, always look for fair trade chocolate instead.
8. Kombucha: There are those who swear by kombucha, but some are freaked out that it contains beneficial bacteria. While the drink works for some, those who have mold exposure illness or fungal infections can experience adverse effects. Basically, know your body before indulging.
9. Ketchup: It should be a crime to munch down an order of fries without ketchup, but do you actually know how much unhealthier that batch is with a glob of the red stuff? Three tablespoons of most ketchups contain more sugar than a Krispy Kreme donut!
10. Ranch dressing: This creamy substance is a staple among vegetable platters, but you’ll be shocked at one of the common ingredients. It contains a chemical called titanium dioxide, and you can also find that in most sunscreens! Maybe ranch up before your next beach day.
11. Ice cream: “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” This frozen dessert is perfect for any hot summer day, and new flavors seem to come out every year. But, read one of the labels on a carton and you’ll probably see “carrageenan.”
It’s a common ingredient in ice cream and gelato to help them set, but most people have no idea it’s derived from seaweed! Even though seaweed is a plant, the chemical’s been linked to several illness, including cancer. Always check ingredients before buying your next tub.
This just scratches the surface of the hazardous underbelly of certain food productions. One country that could definitely use stricter guidelines is China, because some of the food they import is downright terrifying.
1. Cod: Believe it or not, this common fish is among the absolute worst foods to get from China. Thousands are cramped in small areas teeming with sewage and garbage, making them highly toxic.
2. Eggs: If you get eggs that were imported from China, you might want to think twice before scrambling them up. Factories there use calcium carbonate and paraffin in their eggs, which can cause serious food poisoning.
3. Lamb: In 2013, police arrested 900 people in China because they were pawning off rat meat as lamb, and that’s disgusting. Officers seized about 20,000 pounds of spoiled rat meat, as well!
4. Wine: If you consider yourself a wine connoisseur, you’ll probably want to avoid wine that was “Made in China”. Sure, you’ll find your standard grapes, but you’ll also consume sugar, dyes, and artificial flavors. Cheers!
5. Tea: Even though China is the biggest purveyor of tea throughout the world, close to 29 toxic chemicals have been found in various brands. Luckily, none of them were exported to other countries, but still…
6. Industrial salt: For years, industrial salt has been sold throughout China as table salt. However, this type of sodium is not meant for human consumption; it can cause hypothyroid problems and reproductive system disorders.
7. Watermelon: Many of the watermelons exported from China are covered in a highly harmful pesticide that causes them to grow at rapid rates. Buy your produce locally to avoid getting sick.
8. Tilapia: Much like the factory-farmed cod, these fish are placed into small overcrowded areas where the water is full of toxic chemicals. The fish breathe in the chemicals and then end up on your dinner plate.
9. Rice noodles: The Chinese sure love their noodles, but you should probably try to avoid imported rice noodles. Some factories use sulfur dioxide to make their noodles appear fresh. This chemical has been linked to cancer.
10. Pork: Some people prefer beef over pork, but in China, beef is about twice as expensive. So what does a company do to counter the problem? They pump borax-filled additives into their pork to make it look like beef!
11. Garlic: Chinese garlic farms are known to be coated in chemical products before the garlic is picked and shipped to stores. If you ever eat Canadian garlic and then Chinese garlic, you can instantly taste the difference.
12. Mushrooms: When food inspectors examine mushrooms coming in from China, they often find tainted batches. Some companies will even label their product “organic” just to increase sales.
13. Plastic rice: Nearly every meal in China is eaten with rice, so you’d think they would ensure it was safe, right? Nope. It turns out many factories add a cancer-causing synthetic resin to their rice. Gross!
14. Milk: Melanin is a chemical that causes serious damage to kidneys, and it’s been found in imported milk. The problem is so bad that six children have died over recent years and 300,000 have gotten very ill.
15. Apple juice: Amazingly, 50 percent of the apple juice sold in the United States comes out of China. This is scary since the number of pesticides sprayed on the fruit prior to processing is at an all-time high. Stick to water, instead!
16. Cabbage: During the super high temperatures of the summer months, Chinese farmers will spray a highly toxic formalin solution onto cabbage to keep them looking fresh. Best not to dabble.
17. Peas: Wasn’t it John Lennon who said, “Give peas a chance”? Well, you don’t want to give canned peas from China a chance. In 2005, food inspectors found artificially colored fake peas in thousands of cans.
18. Black pepper: You might have heard of the “famous” Chinese black pepper, but if you ever get a chance to try it, you might want to pass. Some people are simply selling hardened mud pellets!
19. Oil: A massive food company in China made the disgusting decision to recycle used olive oil from thousands of restaurants, filter it, and then resell it. Oil vey!
20. Chicken: Avian influenza and other food-borne illnesses are prevalent in China, so when it comes to imported chicken, you might want to walk in the other direction. It’s never the right time to get salmonella.