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You might try to eat healthy once in a while, but how often do you read the nutrition label? If you notice a bunch of big words that you don’t recognize, maybe it’s not the healthiest food. Unusual ingredients flood food labels, especially on processed items; some of the foods you are eating might not be food at all. How would you feel knowing you are consuming artificial products that started out as bugs or household cleaners? Even some of the most organic foods are not safe from food additives. On the other hand, adding certain things to our foods might save us from other illnesses.

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Shellac

When you hear this word, you probably think about a beautiful finish on your nails or a shiny wooden table. Shellac starts with the female lac bug; it’s native to Thailand and India. The insect excretes a solution to stick to trees. This resin is processed and dissolved in ethanol to create the liquid shellac. People use it as a high-gloss finish. In the food industry, shellac is a glazing agent for things like apples, which lose their natural wax after being picked and cleaned.

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Glyphosate

This hard-to-pronounce chemical is one of the active ingredients in weed killer. Farmers use brands like Roundup to shield their crops from weeds. However, the slightly toxic chemical is a systemic herbicide, which means the plants absorb it. Glyphosate can be found not only in the food we eat, but also in the soil, water, and air. The National Pesticide Information Center concluded that "Swallowing products with glyphosate can cause increased saliva, burns in the mouth and throat, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea."

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Castoreum Extract

You have probably heard this additive called natural flavoring, but it is a bit hard to swallow when you hear the truth. Castoreum extract is an orange-brown substance that is rather bitter; it’s used to flavor raspberry and vanilla treats like ice cream, cookies, yogurt, and so on. However, the extract comes from a beaver’s anal gland. The ingredient is in most processed foods, surprisingly.

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Wood Pulp

Also known as 'cellulose', wood pulp comes in a food-grade version that is often used to texturize your favorite meals. Although it is completely indigestible, you might be surprised to know that wood pulp is added to shredded cheese to prevent caking and maple syrup to thicken it. When it comes to baked goods, 'cellulose' helps reduce the calorie count while still maintaining a desirable size and weight.

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Phosphoric Acid

If you are a big Coca-Cola drinker, you might already know about this surprising food additive. The soda pop company uses phosphoric acid to create a thirst-quenching taste that is equally sweet and tart. In high concentrations, phosphoric acid removes rust on an industrial level. However, in your favorite drinks, it prevents mold and bacteria growth in the sugars while giving you that shot of acidity you crave.

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Cochineal Bugs

Harvested in the Canary Islands and Peru, the companies have been using cochineal insects as food additives for centuries. The bugs are killed and dried in the sun before being soaked in an alcohol solution. This process brings out the carminic acid, which is a vibrant red. Even though tens of thousands of bugs are needed to make a pound of dye, products like yogurt and grapefruit juice use the color.

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Coal Tar

Another way the food industry avoids bacteria from growing is to get rid of any natural colors. This process means artificial coloring is used to mimic the once-natural hues. After carbonizing coal, the fake food coloring comes from the tar. Not only does it make products with a long shelf life look appetizing, but coal tar is also binding graphite that seals parking lots.

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Ammonia

Another way the food industry avoids bacteria from growing is to get rid of any natural colors. This process means artificial coloring is used to mimic the once-natural hues. After carbonizing coal, the fake food coloring comes from the tar. Not only does it make products with a long shelf life look appetizing, but coal tar is also binding graphite that seals parking lots.

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Skatole

This food additive is found in ice cream and other foods to enhance their flavors. Although this seems perfectly reasonable, skatole is also a molecule used by the military as an olfactory warfare agent. Why? Skatole is created naturally in the body when hemoglobin from your red blood cells breaks down in stomach bile. The molecule is the exact reason why your fecal matter stinks.

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Bacteriophages

As we mentioned before, meat, especially beef, is a breeding ground for unhealthy bacteria. Listeriosis is a disease that is caused by bacteria known as listeria. To prevent this food poisoning, which is so violent, it can lead to death; food companies have been purposely spraying cold cuts and plastic-wrapped beef with bacteriophages. Even though adding a virus to raw meat might seem unhealthy, the bacteriophages are harmless to humans and protect us from potentially dangerous bacteria.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.