Food & Nutrition

10 Gross Food Ingredients You Didn’t Know You Were Eating

Pink slime is just the beginning. Here are more gross ingredients that might be in your next bite of food.


Close-up photo of raw minced meat / mince /ground meat. Textured food background.inter reality/Shutterstock

Concerns over this chemical came to a head in 2012, when there was so much backlash over ammonia-treated “finely textured beef” (aka “pink slime”) that it was taken out of school lunches. Regardless of the fact that you probably don’t like the idea of ingesting a product more commonly used to clean floors, research shows ammonia in beef is safe. Ammonia may also show up in small amounts in peanut butter, chips, and other foods, and the truth is, processed foods contain all sorts of gross-sounding ingredients that have been deemed safe by the FDA and USDA. Here’s a rundown.

Human or hog hair, or duck feathers

professional hairdresser scissors on dark backgroundSuslik1983/Shutterstock

Mass-produced baked goods often contain L-cysteine, an amino acid that helps strengthen the dough. Sounds innocent enough, but you might want to pay attention if you’re vegan. Most of the time it’s made from duck or goose feathers, though some companies have used human hair, or pig bristles and hooves. L-cysteine can be made synthetically, but it’s expensive, so you might want to call up a company if you’re worried about animal products. Don’t miss these disgusting (and dangerous) things you didn’t know you were eating.

Sprayed-on viruses

Lactobacillus bacteria colonies. A gloved hand holding a Petri dish that contains Gram-positive lactobacillus bacteria grown on agar. Lactobacillus is a common yogurt probiotic.NatalieIme/Shutterstock

Sounds a bit backward, but some companies add viruses to meat, poultry, and egg products to keep consumers healthy. These “bacteriophages” would prey on dangerous bacteria like Listeria, and the first ones were cleared as safe by the FDA in 2006. Since then, other cocktails of viruses have been given a thumbs up. “Virus” sounds scary, but the products are generally recognized as safe.

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