If You Eat Food, Do Not Read This

Meet the all-natural ingredient that, when crushed, is used to turn your yogurt red and is described on the label as “Natural Red #4.” (Photo by Stephen Begin/Flickr)

Unless you are very, very good at suppressing the gag reflex, you are not going to want to read a new blog put up by a former food industry executive, apparently as an act of contrition for his years of pushing food-like substances on an unwitting public. In his latest post, Bruce Bradley identifies a few of the things that are not only added to industrial food, but qualify under existing regulations for the label “all natural.” [Hair-trigger gag reflex? DO NOT CONTINUE READING.]

 Human hair and duck feathers are the source of an amino acid that is used as a dough conditioner in many breads and baked goods. Of course it’s on the ingredients list: as L-cysteine or cystine. And it’s all natural.

Calves’ intestines are scraped for a substance known as rennet that curdles milk for cheese. Of course it’s on the ingredients list: as “enzymes.”

 Crushed Red Bugs, such as the cochineal beetle, add a lovely ruby tint to processed foods such as yogurt, and because it would be illegal not to tell you that you’re eating crushed bugs, they put it on the label: “Natural Red #4.”

 Beetle Spit (okay, secretions of the female lac bug, it could be worse than spit) scraped off tree branches is used to put the shine on some shiny candies, and it is labelled as confectioner’s glaze.

 Beaver Shit. Okay, that’s a little over the top, it’s actually castoreum, the secretion of the beaver’s anal glands, a nasty brown stinky goo that goes in the beaver’s urine to mark his territory. Food engineers use it as vanilla or raspberry flavoring — “all natural” — in processed foods and beverages.

Remember, we are not talking about impurities or contamination here, but insects and anal-gland output that the food engineers deliberately put in the food because it delivers a taste that sells at a price that makes a profit on a scale that makes a huge profit. This industrialization of food has turned the “developed” countries into nations of people who are at the same time overweight and undernourished, prey to diabetes, allergies, and disease even when their food is not contaminated with E. coli, salmonella, hanta virus or the like.

The food industry gets away with it because the alternative requires the consumer to gather information, make choices, go to some extra trouble and spend a little more time and money to buy or grow fresh, local, sustainably produced food. And the American consumer would rather die.

-0-[For updates on this and other Daily Impact stories, and for short takes on other subjects, check out The Editor’s Log.]

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5 Responses to If You Eat Food, Do Not Read This

  1. SomeoneInAsia says:

    I’ve always been under the impression that only the mainland Chinese would do things like adding melamine to their milk powder and making cooking oil out of raw sewage. I guess I now stand corrected. And so much for informed consent (regarding what you eat, that is).

    I sometimes wish I could photosynthesize my own food the way a green plant does. Then the food industry could do its worst, or oil could run out tomorrow, and I would still be happily living.

    • Tom Lewis says:

      But you can! It’s called a garden, and the results will be exactly as you wish.

      • SomeoneInAsia says:

        Only two problems. First, you’ll need at least a small patch of earth, and I enjoy no such privilege, living as I do in a high-rise flat. Well, maybe I can sell the flat and buy some place that will have a patch of earth, but I suspect it’s darn hard to get that sort of thing in Singapore, which is a small place where land is therefore expensive.

        Second, come the oil crunch, hordes of desparate, starving folks around would only be likely to raid your garden, leaving you with nothing. It would be hard to find a spot which would be remote from them so they wouldn’t find you. Singapore is a small and crowded place. :(

        Gotta talk to some of the MPs (members of parliament) here…

  2. Anarchy Wolf says:

    That really wasn’t so bad except for the beaver thing. Does that mean I am really jaded?