8 Gross Things You Had No Idea Are In Your Food

If you are a human person, chances are good that you, like a lot of other human people, happen to be in the habit of indulging in some food from time to time. It is an addiction that all we human people have! But, even the most ardent food-eaters among us might not be aware of one thing–that most of your food happens to contain some pretty gross things. It could be tapeworms. It could be mildew. It could even be anal secretions from a beaver.

Obviously, knowing these things should not serve as a reason for you to stop eating food altogether. Is it a good reason to eat more organically grown produce? Sure. Is it a good reason to source your food a little better, à la the best scene from the best episode of Portlandia? Always. But you have survived up until this point eating food that contains these things–albeit gross things–and chances are good that you will continue to survive a little longer after you eat them again, too. Still, it’s always good to know about the unsavory things you may or may not be putting in your body. So, check out these gross things you (probably) had no idea that you’re (probably) eating every day:


Tapeworms In Salmon

Big fan of sushi? If so, you might want to, uh, move on to the next slide. According to a study published in a medical journal called Emerging Infectious Diseases (sounds like some nice, light reading!) any salmon caught anywhere off the Pacific coast could be infected with Japanese broad tapeworms. If you're infected, you might notice some tapeworm bits in your stool (sorry, gross), and you may also experience nausea, diarrhea, weakness, and/or abdominal pain--and, if so, go visit a doctor. Tapeworms are pretty easy to treat, but it's important to get it checked out ASAP.

Image source:: iStock

Wasps In Figs

If you're a vegetarian, you might want to pass on the figs next time you have an opportunity to eat one. According to a PBS segment called "Gross Science" (my favorite kind!) many figs contain the dead bodies of wasps. This is because wasps use figs to deposit their fertilized eggs, but, in the process, usually ends up dying inside the fig. Then, many of the wasp eggs that were laid in the fig don't end up hatching or making it out, so they die in there too. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean that every fig (or fig byproduct) contains a bunch of dead wasps. Most ones that you get from the grocery store have been de-seeded, and thus, de-bugged. And, if you do get a wasp in there, don't worry about it too much. It can't sting you anymore, and, uh, it's good protein.

Image source:: iStock

Beaver Anus Secretions In Vanilla Ice Cream

At a first glance, vanilla ice cream probably seems like the least adventurous flavor you could go for. But some (but definitely not all) vanilla ice cream brands contain, um, anal secretions. From a beaver. This substance, called "castoreum" (it comes from the castor gland, which is  located right by the anus), and weirdly enough, smells pretty great. Because of this, it can be used to add flavor to some ice cream flavors, like vanilla, strawberry, and raspberry. The good news? Castoreum is generally recognized as being safe and non-toxic, and has actually been used for flavoring and medicinal purposed for hundreds of years. Still, if the idea of beaver anal juice in your ice cream skeeves you out, just look out for castoreum on your ice cream's ingredient list. If it's there, go for one that doesn't have it.

Image source:: iStock

Wood Pulp In Ice Cream 

Another thing to look out for in your ice cream? Wood pulp. Apparently, many low-fat ice cream brands use wood pulp and shavings to make the ice cream seem more creamy. It can also be used in some shredded cheese brands to keep it from clumping.

Image source:: iStock

Mildew In Canned Greens

If, for whatever reason, you like to get your Popeye on with some canned spinach, pay attention. The FDA actually allows a certain amount of mildew in any kind of canned green, so any canned spinach, kale, or mixed greens could have some mildew on the leaves. Legally.

Image source:: iStock

Crushed-Up Bones In Sugar 

Another gross thing that's legally allowed to be in your food? Crushed-up animal bones. In sugar. This is because cane sugar, when originally harvested, has a brown, rough texture that looks more like Sugar In The Raw instead of the white boxed sugar you're used to. To make it white, sugar manufacturers either bleach the sugar itself or bleach crushed-up animal bones and mix them in with the sugar. Either way, it might be better to get brown sugar whenever you can instead of white sugar.

Image source:: iStock

Paint Chemicals In Icing

Many foods that you think of as being white--milk, cottage cheese, cake icing, and some types of salad dressing--contain titanium dioxide. This is an additive that helps keep paint shiny and fresh-looking, and is often added to certain foods to make them whiter. Don't want to eat titanium dioxide? Try and get organic versions of these products--they won't be as white, but they also won't contain paint chemicals.

Image source:: iStock

Flame Retardant In Soda 

Looking for a reason to stop drinking soda? Many popular sodas--like Mountain Dew, Powerade, and some orange sodas--contain brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, which is a chemical that was initially used to keep plastics from catching on fire. This has been linked to health defects like skin lesions, memory loss, and nerve disorders.

Image source:: iStock

Were you grossed out by any of these things? Did I leave out any extra-gross ones? Let us know in the comments!

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.

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