There Are Some Incredibly Strange Ingredients Found In Our Everyday Food

Thank God for more transparency in our food. I mean, it seems like every day there is another major discovery of some gross substance in our favorite food. You’ll be depressed to find out that no matter how hard you try, you’re probably eating some gross things in your refined and processed dinner.

That doesn’t necessarily make them unsafe to eat (yet). The Food and Drug Administration spends a lot of time making sure you’re not eating stuff that will kill you (yet). But, not every substance that passes their approval process is appetizing, to say the least. Here are a few of the worst.

Coal Tar


Coming in hot at 199th on the list of most dangerous goods list, coal tar. Not going to lie, with a name like coal tar, 199th is pretty dang impressive. I would think it should be much higher just based on the name alone.

It was once the common source of the food coloring agent Allura Red AC.

Phosphoric Acid

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It shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise that there is acid in your soda. I mean, one taste of a Pepsi and even a newborn baby could say “goo-goo gaga acid.”

Phosphoric acid gives your soda a tangy taste. It’s used because it’s very cheap. Unfortunately, it’s been linked to decreased bone density and kidney problems.



Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that MSG is probably one of the most dangerous substances in your lunchbox. Well, maybe not so much. It’s been feared for a while and linked to some food poisoning, but that’s about it.

I’m not going to let a little MSG get in the way of eating Chinese food.

Beef Fat


I think that it should be pointed out that Twinkies have a lot of weird stuff in them. In fact, I actually feel bad for telling you that beef fat is one of the most bizarre ingredients that you’ll find.

I don’t know what makes Twinkies so addicting, but I can’t help myself for loving them despite knowing how bad they are.


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If you’re a vegetarian, you’re probably not going to like what you’re about to see. Yes, the same stuff that puts that jiggle in the Jello is also derived from animal skin.

Depending on the food, it differs what kind of animal. For example, gelatin for desserts is usually derived from pig skin.

Potassium Bromate

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It’s usually used to enhance the flavor and strengthen dough, and is what makes your sandwiches taste good. It’s a category 2B carcinogen that has been banned in the EU, Canada, Nigeria, Peru, and China.

I don’t know, I feel like if third-world countries are figuring out that this substance probably isn’t good in bread, we should follow suit.



Otherwise known as bisphenol A, BPA has been removed from most hard plastics. If you have a water bottle, you’ve probably seen the “BPA Free” advertised.

It was found to be leaking into soda cans or other acidic foods like tomatoes. It has been linked to brain, behavior and prostate problems in children.


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If you are a fan of candy, I think you’re going to need to close your eyes. Things like jelly beans and other “glazed” candies are coated with shellac.

The gross part is that it comes from the secretions of the female Kerria Lacca, which is a beetle native to Thailand.


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If you’re not a seaweed eater, you probably are now. Carageenan is literally everywhere and it’s extracted from seaweed. It’s a thick gel used as a thickening agent.

It’s injected into raw chicken or other meat as a way to retain water. It’s also in dairy products like cottage cheese and ice cream.


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Cellulose is derived mostly from wood pulp and cotton. It’s mostly used in paper manufacturing but it can be used in food too.

Often times it’s added to shredded cheese to keep the strands from sticking together. It can also be found in ice cream as well. It’s naturally in corn, but humans have a hard time digesting it.


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You’re probably going to need to brace yourself for this one. Castoreum is listed by the FDA as being generally safe, but the way that it’s extracted will make you want to vomit.

First of all, it’s used as a natural flavoring in many foods. Oh, and it comes from the castor sac scent glands of the male or female beaver, which is located at the anus.

Polysorbate 60


Do you want to know what polysorbate 60 is actually short for? No? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway just to make a point about how extra these substance names really are. Its real name is polyoxyethylene-(20)-sorbitan monostrearate.

It’s probably harder for you to digest that name than for you to digest this preservative. It’s used as a preservative in dairy products and bread because it doesn’t spoil. Even bacteria wants nothing to do with it.

Silicon Dioxide

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While the gross factor isn’t very high, silicon dioxide is still a substance that you should be aware of. By silicon dioxide, I really just mean sand. Yes, sand is found in your food.

If you’ve swallowed some sand at the beach before, you know that it doesn’t really have an effect on you. It’s used in soups and coffee creamer as a flow agent to absorb humidity and avoid clumping.

Sodium Benzoate


Have you ever taken a slug of juice or a soda and felt thing weird tingling in your throat? You probably have. Well, that’s probably sodium benzoate at work.

It’s a fairly common preservative that is listed as being generally safe from the FDA. It can be found in everything from soda to pickles.

Propylene Glycol


Yes, this substance is actually found in anti-freeze. It’s a safe substance for the most part. To put its danger level on a scale, it’s basically a safer version of ethylene glycol, which is toxic to dogs not to humans.

It has lubricating properties that can be found in condoms and salad dressing.

Butylated Hydroxytoluene

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You know what usually does not go together? Jet fuel, electrical transformer oil, and cereal. Unfortunately, when it comes to butylated hydroxytoluene, it happens to be in both.

Thankfully, it’s just an organic compound used as an antioxidant additive in all three of those things. So no, your cereal doesn’t have jet fuel in it.



So this is going to send some vegans for a little whirl. Rennet is used to produce cheese. This enzyme is extracted from the inner mucosa of a young calve’s fourth stomach.

Now, in countries like the UK, they set out warnings for vegetarians and vegans telling them which cheese use rennet and which don’t.

Liquid Smoke


Yes, you’re reading that correctly, liquid smoke. What is it? Well, it’s made from burning sawdust and capturing the components in either water or vegetable oil.

You’ll find it in many barbecue products, baked beans, hot dogs, bacon and beef jerky. Who knew you were ingesting smoke while you were just trying to eat?


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Get ready to be really grossed out. Carmine is a red food coloring that comes from boiled cochineal bugs, which are a type of beetle.

There have been reports that this kind of food coloring can cause some lethal allergic reactions. The FDA now requires this ingredient to be listed on food labels. It can be found in ice cream, Skittles, and lemonade.


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This is a common dough conditioner. But, this substance has a really weird conception story. At one time, it was obtained by the hydrolysis of a human hair.

Now, it can be found in duck feathers which is where it is extracted from mostly. It can be found in anything that has a dough.