Forget the fact that processed foods are laden with too much salt, sugar and fat. Something worse is happening. More and more additives are showing up in processed foods these days. Some of them go under hard to pronounce names. I am here to point out some of the most disgusting.
Castoreum – This has got to be the nastiest additive on the the market. Food scientists are using the castor anal sacs of female beavers to flavor your food. Castoreum usually adds a raspberry or vanilla flavor. You will never see it in the ingredient list. It usually falls under “natural flavors” or “natural vanilla flavor.”
Cochineal Extract – Another gross additive comes from the shells of female cochineal insects. They eat red cactus berries and it concentrates the color on their bodies. The bugs are trapped and shaken until they are killed. This retains the color of their bodies. Then they shells are dried in the sun. Once you mix the dried shells with water, you can make a red dye. You will see this ingredient on food labels as the one in my Dole Fruit Cups Exposed.
TBHQ – This is an additive used to retain freshness, and extend the shelf life of processed foods like crackers, chips and even cooking spray, like in my PAM Exposed post. It is also a chemical found in butane! TBHQ has been known to cause nausea and vomiting. Long term uses of TBHQ have been shown to cause cancerous tumors in laboratory animals.
Propylene Glycol – This is used as a preservative. It is especially used in ice cream to keep it from getting freezer burned. It is also very common in boxed cake mixes. What you should know is that propylene glycol is also found in anti-freeze. Propylene glycol may not be as toxic as ethylene glycol (also found in anti-freeze), but I still would not suggest eating it.
Cellulose – Cellulose is basically “wood pulp.” It can come from many plants, but the most popular form used by the food industry, comes from wood pulp. Food scientists use this as a calorie reducer. Humans cannot digest it, so it contains no caloric value. It also acts as a cheap filler, adding bulk to processed foods.
Shellac – This additive is how conventional apples and tomatoes get that unnatural shine. Personally, I think they look freakish and always go for the ugly organic apples. Shellac comes from the kerria lacca insect. This insect has a sticky excretion that it uses to stick to the trees it lives on in Thailand. Food makers use this to provide shine to all kinds of foods like apples, tomatoes and jellybeans.
L-cysteine – This one made me choke on my breakfast. I had no idea. Evidently, food scientists are using duck feathers to soften dough that is used in processed foods. It is most commonly seen in commercial breads, cookies and bagels. This could be a real problem for vegans who are unaware.
If this isn’t a reason to limit processed foods, I don’t know what is. Seems like most processed foods these days are more like science experiments. My rule on ingredients is this: If you can’t use it in your own kitchen, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.