7 Gross Things You Eat All the Time (But Probably Don’t Realise)

Posted on by Tasanee 'Taz' Hermans (lessthanthree)
URL for sharing: http://thisorth.at/x4t
Got some gum in your mouth right now? We would seriously consider spitting it out before you read this article. Ditto any candy, pizza, or bagels you might be consuming. Yep, just put them right there next to the keyboard; you can have them again afterwards....if you want to. Ready? Let's begin....

I remember the time I told my little sister that Gummi Bears are made of cow's feet. (They are.) Naturally, I waited until her mouth was full of them before dropping my bombshell. Once she realised that I was not in fact lying, her eyes widened and multicoloured carnage oozed out of her mouth. "Excellent," I thought, :more Gummi Bears for me!"

It's weird: as a species we spent millions of years eating pretty much everything we could find that didn't kill us. Only now, for the first time in history, most of us have the luxury of being able to eat anything we want, and we've suddenly become all picky. We are so far removed from the processes involved in making our food that we can afford to forget our humble origins. That's why it can be a bit disturbing to find out that we've been eating things all our lives that we normally wouldn't deign to scrape up off the ground, or squeeze out of a beaver. Squeeze out of a beaver, you say? Why yes! Take a look at....

1. The Anal Glands of a Beaver in Your Candy

The first thing you should know is that it's perfectly safe. Castoreum extract, a.k.a. 'beaver love-passage juice', has been used by humans as a food additive for at least 80 years. You, your parents, and your grandparents have all been chowing down on anal sacs your whole lives. Could be the basis for an interesting family photo, we think.

Can I Stop Eating It? Please?

Cutting this one out of your diet is well nigh impossible. It is often just included as 'natural flavouring' on product ingredient lists. Your best bet would be to never eat anything vanilla-flavoured ever again, but then you would be a joyous thankless drone, incapable of human feeling.

2. Cochineal Beetles in Things That Are Red

If we assume for a second that you have eaten enough cakes, cookies, beverages, jam, jelly, ice cream, sausages, pies, dried fish, yogurt, cider, maraschino cherries, and tomato products in your life to coincidentally ingest one pound of red dye, then congratulations! You've eaten about 70 000 beetles so far. It turns out that carmine, which is the name of this beetle juice (sorry, couldn't resist), is better for you than many forms of synthetic dye, so you might not want to give it up any time soon.

Can I Stop Eating It? Please?

Well, if you must. Before January 5th of this year, you could only do it by keeping Kosher, since cochineal beetles violate Jewish dietary restrictions. But a new regulation by the FDA requires that cochineal and carmine be labeled as such on food and cosmetic products in the USA.

3. More Beetles of the Creepy-Candy-Coating Kind

The shellac beetle (Laccifer lacca to his friends) spends his life sucking sap out of trees and...errr... oozing all over the branches. Its secretions form a protective shell, which is then collected by trained secretion-retrieval personnel, who crush it and sift out the bits of twig and dead bugs. Mmmm, crunchy. Shellac is primarily used for wood polish and varnish, but it is also the thing that gives your candy that glossy finish. In fact, its use is mostly cosmetic: it's there to make your food look good. Those shiny apples in the grocery store? Yep...covered in bug secretions.

Can I Stop Eating It? Please?

Shellac is also used to coat pills and tablets, and may even be the key to making them more efficient, so we wouldn't advise trying to give up any life-saving medication you may be taking. You can, however, avoid covering your hair with beetle-goo everyday simply by giving up hairspray.

4. Human Secretions (in Restaurants)

I met someone the other day who told me that disgruntled waiters spitting in your food is a mere urban myth. How I larffed. Having been a waitress myself for several years, I don't need Snopes to confirm this one; it can and does happen. Someone (who is absolutely not me) used to serve their manager a whisky, lime, water, and spit cocktail at the beginning of every shift.

And it's not just limited to saliva: there are all sorts of ways to get revenge on a nasty customer. At a certain family restaurant where I live, the kitchen staff have been known to play a little game of soccer with a steak before they put it on the grill, at the waiter's request. But don't just take my word for it. Steve Dublancia, waiter at a fancy New York bistro, has confessed to all manner of dirty deeds, including but not limited to farting on the tables.

Can I Stop Eating It? Please?

This one is easy: just be a little nicer to your friendly local waitroid. It's a completely crap job in the first place, and assholes like you (yes, you. Sit up straighter! Pay attention!) only make it worse. Remember, waiters are people too, not emotionless serving-androids.

5. Human Hair or Duck Feathers in Your Bread

There are hundreds of shampoo commercials out there that all promise to 'nourish' and 'feed' your hair. Ironic, because it turns out that your hair is waaay more likely to be nourishing you. Hair is essentially dead protein; like your fingernails, it is primarily made up of keratin, which is itself made up of amino acids like cystine and cysteine. Cysteine (or L-cysteine) also happens to be very good at making bread stretchy, and prevents things like pizza bases and bagels from shrinking once they have been rolled out. The cheapest source of cystine is from human hair, often cut off for ceremonial or religious purposes. However, it can also be derived from duck feathers.

It rather puts me in mind of that old joke:

"Waiter, there's a hair in my soup."
"Yes sir...those are the croutons."

Can I Stop Eating It? Please?

Not all bread products make use of Cysteine, and even those that do are not required to specify the source of the protein. Short of giving up bread altogether, there's not really much you can do about this one.

6. Sheep Juice (Lanolin) in Your Chewing Gum

Haha, sheep juice. But that's basically what it is: an oily secretion found in sheep wool. We mostly think of lanolin in terms of skincare products, but it is also used as a softening agent in the manufacturing of chewing gum. Didn't spit out that gum at the beginning of the article? Congratulations! You're chowing down on some waxy secretions right now!

Can I Stop Eating It? Please?

It's easy to cut chewing gum out of your diet, but that still leaves the lanolin that you smear all over yourself in the form of creams, ointments, and lip balm. So next time you whip out all the unguents for an erotic massage, we recommend not discussing the interesting facts you learned on the internet lately.

7. "Acceptable Levels of Filth," According to the FDA

Just when you think you're safe, you find out that the FDA has guidelines for the amount of "filth" your food is allowed to contain, including but not limited to insects, rodent hairs, and parasites. It seems that contamination of some sort or another is unavoidable, but hey, at least we can regulate exactly how much rat shit you should be eating.

The worst example has to be the standard for acceptable amounts of parasites found on ocean perch, which are deemed satisfactory if no more than "3% of the fillets examined contain 1 or more parasites accompanied by pus pockets." I don't know about you, but I'd like to keep my pus consumption down to a minimum.

Can I Stop Eating It? Please?

Not a chance, suckers...MUAHAHAHAHA!

Squeamish or indifferent?

28990 views & 118 votes

Debate It! 17

I tried to be a vegan for a couple years; as this article implies, about all I could safely eat was the grass in my own yard.

Posted By Cobanerd,

Wow, I'm sure this is just he tip of the iceberg. Ignorance is bliss...

Posted By matt,


Posted By Jamesastennant,

now who is smart to be on a starvation diet?

Posted By Karla,

@matt No, Magnus is bliss.

Posted By EliteFright,


Posted By dredgegolgari,

And don't forget to Wiki "Rennet" on your way out.

Posted By switch,

Meh food is food, as long as it taste good i dont care whats in it..

Posted By Grasper,

... Yayyy... sheep juice in my chewing gum....

Posted By B,

Ummm Realize is spelled with a 'z' by the way ;) (referring to your headline for the blog title.) Good info though.

Posted By KarinRochelle,

And I love what you said about treating the waitresses and waiters better. I am not a waitress but have been in the past. And though I never did those unmentionable things to anyone's food, we are all people who do services for other people. I would like to think if we respect others they will show that same respect.

Posted By KarinRochelle,

@KarinRochelle The spelling is actually correct because the author of this piece is South African, which, along with many other English-speaking countries, has subtle spelling differences.

Posted By Rebecca,

@Rebecca: I love you...marry me? Really though...my spell-checker keeps trying to bully me into Americanising (or Americanizing, if you will) things, but I beat it back with my mind-powers and the cat 'o nine tails I keep next to the desk.

Posted By lessthanthree,

That's one tasty article! Keep up the great work...

Posted By vk,

After I read about rectal juice from a beaver I'm giving it all up! How gross can anything get!

Posted By Mitchell,

finally i can clean the cobwebs of the love juicer I got as a wedding present.

Posted By bwshedderly,

Posted By bwshedderly,

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