These Foods You Eat All The Time Have Nasty AF Ingredients

by Talia Koren

How often do you really read and scrutinize the food labels of the stuff that winds up in your grocery shopping cart and then in your kitchen?

I mean, grocery shopping is already a tedious experience that can take way too long. Personally, I don't want to add time by reading the food label of everything I pick up in the store.

Some people read nutrition labels if they're counting calories or watching their sugar intake. But the reading shouldn't stop there. Maybe you know you should read ingredient lists, but you probably don't because you assume you're safe.

After doing some research, I'm going to re-evaluate my priorities in the grocery store to avoid picking up items that contain wood pulp and fish bladders.

This list will make you reconsider your grocery shopping routine and inspire you to check out the ingredient list of a packaged food item before you drop it in your cart.

Frosted Cereal

Gelatin comes from beef or pork, making some frosted cereal, like Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats, totally not cool for people to eat if they're vegan.

Here is a full list of Kellogg's products that contain gelatin. Some General Mills cereals, like Lucky Charms, also contain pork. So, no Lucky Charms if you keep kosher either.

Jelly Beans And Shiny Candy

You've probably never wondered what gives jelly beans their incredible shine, but I'm going to tell you anyway. The shiny stuff, shellac, actually comes from kerria lacca, an insect native to Thailand.

The kerria lacca secretes a sticky substance on trees, which is then scraped off and used to make shellac, which is used as an additive. And sometimes the bugs themselves are scraped along with the sticky stuff. So yeah, bugs are why jelly beans and even some pills in your medicine cabinet are shiny.

Canned Tomatoes

Even though it's there for a reason, Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, is hiding in foods like canned tomatoes. What it's supposed to do is help prevent the metal of the can from corrosion and also prevent bacteria from getting in. But the additive also gets on the food in the can so it's not great.

See, BPA imitates the hormone estrogen in the water. So, yeah, canned tomatoes come with an extra hormonal kick. It's not going to kill you, but hey -- the more you know.

Anything With "Natural Flavoring"

Many food labels boast "natural flavoring" but if you think about it, they never really clarify what that is. If "natural flavoring" meant it was like, flavored with a specific fruit, wouldn't it just say that?

Here's the truth. The natural flavoring you're eating is usually castoreum, which is made from a secretion from the anal gland of beavers. Your vanilla or raspberry flavored ice cream is sweet because of beaver butt juice.

Can we just pause a second and reflect on that? Beaver butt juice. OK? OK.

Castoreum is listed on some food labels, so you'll know when you're eating it. Of course, it's not harmful by any means, but it could be a reason to cut back on sweets. It's also used in perfume.


Skittles are great, but if you're buying them, you probably don't need to read the food label because you already know they're not exactly healthy. But if you did, you'd see an ingredient listed as cochineal, red number 4 or carmine.

If you see those ingredients on a label, just know that what you're eating contains crushed bugs. The cochineal has a deep red color which, after processing, produces an ingredient necessary to make red food dye. If you've been enjoying red colored food your whole life without thinking about it, you're fine. But if you're vegan or vegetarian, be wary of red colored foods.


Don't choke on your brew, but many brands of beer use an ingredient from the swim bladder of fish that's called Isinglass. It's used to de-cloud and filter impurities from beer and even some types of wine. That's bad news if you're vegan. To avoid this ingredient, pick up a case of vegan beer.

Shredded Cheese

OK, learning about the wood pulp in shredded cheese truly made me sad, because I throw shredded cheese on all kinds of meals I make at home.

Here's the deal. To keep the shredded cheese from clumping, an additive listed as "cellulose" on the ingredient label is actually wood pulp. It also gets added to other low-fat dairy items to give them a more creamy texture. Cool.

Packaged Bread

If you're not OK with consuming duck feathers and human hair, which produces the L-Cysteine found in processed bread, maybe it's time to learn how to make your own. The ingredient is used to soften the dough.

If you don't want to bake your own bread, you can buy bread that's kosher or gluten-free to avoid consuming L-Cysteine.

Chewing Gum

I'm not sure how they figured out that oil from sheep's wool keeps stuff we put in our mouths, like chewing gum, soft. But they did.

And if you've ever popped a piece of gum in your mouth, it's highly likely you've also consumed lanolin, which comes from sheep's wool. You might not see "lanolin" on food labels, but you will see it disguised as "gum base."

Hopefully, my mom, who is a vegetarian, won't read this.


Canned mushrooms are great to cook with, but that's not the only thing in your marsala sauce. The FDA says it's totally cool for 19 maggots and 74 mites to be in every 3.5-ounce can of mushrooms.

That won't necessarily hurt you, but if you'd rather stay maggot-free, buy fresh mushrooms instead. Or continue buying canned and expect a little bit of extra of, um, protein, in your 'shrooms.


I don't know any adults that still eat Twinkies. But for those out there that do enjoy the cakey, creamy, chemical-y treat, just know that there's a Twinkie in a classroom in Maine that has been sitting there for decades -- and it hasn't quite decomposed yet. In fact, it only started to get moldy in 2005 and it's been sitting in that classroom since 1976. Yup. This 40-year long science experiment should be a good enough reason to reconsider Twinkies for good.

This is why it's so important to know exactly what's going in your body. No, most of these ingredients won't physically harm you. And Lucky Charms aren't going to taste any different now that you know there's pork product in them.

But, taking the time to read food labels and dig a little deeper can save you from wigging out in the future, when you think about consuming human hair and duck feathers or something like that.

Citations: 40-year-old Twinkie still going strong (The Big Story), The unlikely (and disgusting) origin of our favorite foods (BBC)