Inside your kitchen cabinets and lurking in your fridges are a bunch of chemicals, toxins, and even a bit of excrement. Believe it or not, your food was tainted with these contaminants long before you picked it up at the grocery store. In fact, the government is in on it.
The Food and Drug Administration tackles the nearly impossible job of regulating all the food produced and distributed in the United States. It’s a job so tough, executives admit there has to be some flexibility about how much crazy stuff can make it into our foods. These are the concerning limits of eyebrow-raising ingredients and plain old debris that the FDA deems acceptable.
1. Whole Insects: Ocean Spray commercials showed us how cranberries are farmed in watery marshes. That soupy process means a few critters can slip through the cracks. The FDA allows for 10 whole insects per 100 grams of berries.
2. Mammalian Feces: We are sorry to inform you that a small amount of animal poop is legally allowed to be in your food products, like cocoa beans. To be more specific, 10 milligrams per pound.
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3. Formaldehyde: What’s a mortician’s favorite fruit? Based on its high formaldehyde content, probably pears. There’s 50 percent more of the chemical in the plump fruit than in any available vaccines, and the government gives them two thumbs up.
4. Polydimethylsiloxane: Part of what makes chicken McNuggets stand out from the competition is the addition of this anti-foaming agent. It’s great for reducing grease splash back and even better at lubricating condoms. So far, not lovin’ it.
5. Potassium Bromate: Don’t let its friendly name fool you, this stuff is no good. The US is one of the only places you can purchase bread with this ingredient, which is concerning since it’s a carcinogen.
6. Cellulose: Instead of grating fresh parmesan on top of the FDA’s dish, the waiter is shaving cellulose, and the government won’t say when. An organic compound, cellulose comes from wood pulp and is a common ingredient in pasta and cheese.
7. Mold: You might prefer ignorance over knowing the secret ingredient in Grandma’s red sauce. Too bad! It’s mold! Cans of tomato paste are legally allowed to have a 45% mold content. Buttered noodles are starting to look appealing.
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8. Bromelain: The rough scratchy feeling left in your mouth after scarfing down pineapple? That’s the bromelain enzyme at work. It breaks down proteins in a powerful way, reducing marinated meats to mush. Avoid that unpleasant tongue feeling by soaking the pineapple in saltwater.
Bon Appetit / Netflix / Ugly Delicious
9. Collagen: In lieu of buying expensive supplements or useless topical creams, toss back a handful of gummy bears to achieve that bouncy elastic skin of your dreams. Gelatin’s composed largely of collagen, which comes from boiled animal skin and bones.
10. Fruit Pits: Honey Nut Cheerios should be called Stone Fruit Pit Cereal. But you can see how that’s a less glamorous title. If you shoveled down a bowl before 2006, you had the almond version. Nowadays the flavoring comes from peach and apricot pits.
11. Maggots: It’s what’s for dinner — if your dinner includes canned mushrooms. The good people at the FDA say it’s a-okay for there to be 20 maggots, alive or dead, per 100 grams of mushrooms. Good luck spotting them among the sea of beige fungi.
12. Clostridium Botulinum: What seems like a natural, healthier alternative to sugar can do some serious damage. Honey contains a particular bacteria that can trigger vomiting, paralysis, and even death in children under 1 year old.
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13. Rat Hair: Now that you know rodent feces gets an all-clear from the FDA, a few rat hairs in your peanut butter are really no big deal. Still, only one hair per 100 grams is acceptable. So if your jar has a sprinkle of tufts, call a lawyer.
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14. Foreign Matters: There’s a convenient FDA creation that’s responsible for many gross contaminators inside your pantry. The term foreign matters apply to a wide variety of objects that prove impossible to rid from food production, making the tide pod challenge seems like a necessary clean setting.
YouTube / Sam Zalabany
15. Cigarette Butts: If you’re craving the taste of a cigarette, rest assured, there could be some in your food. The FDA files cigarette butts under their catch-all “foreign materials” category, so trace amounts of discarded smokes in your foods are within the law.
16. Sand and Grit: Peanut butter, raisins, and cumin seeds are just a few of the foodstuffs that get a pass for containing sand and grit. They’re other examples of those pesky foreign materials that the FDA doesn’t fuss too much over.
17. Thrips: Thunderflies, thunderbolts, little clear creeps scurrying around your asparagus — whatever you call these tiny winged bugs, they are a major nuisance. Not to the FDA, though. They cap the limit at 40 per 100 grams of vegetables.
18. Parasites: When purchasing fish, you might be getting more than you bargained for. Per 100 pounds of fish, 59 parasitic cysts are acceptable. So keep that in mind and scan your fresh fish for clingers before you make a purchase.
19. Rot: Everybody’s picked a suspiciously off-color chip from the bottom of the bag. The general consensus from moms around the globe was that these chips were safe to eat. Turns out, they’re rotted! As long as less than 5% of the bag is rotted, it’s legal.
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Given all the things the FDA let squeak by into our foods, there’s a surprisingly number of items where they draw a hard line. Poop and parasites? Strictly in moderation. Chocolates encasing harmless children’s toys? Slap it on the banned foods list.
San Francisco Gate
1. Kinder Surprise eggs: These treats from Europe were banned in the U.S. because of a law stating that edible food cannot contain inedible products inside them. These eggs have small plastic toys hidden within their chocolate shells, which could be a ‘choking hazard’.
2. Casu Marzu: The ban on this cheese is for one obvious reason – it’s made using live maggots! On the island of Sardinia, Pecorino Romano cheese is intentionally infested with thousands of these creatures to supposedly “enhance” the flavor.
3. Shark fins: Shark fin soup is a popular Chinese delicacy, but the fins are banned in the United States because overfishing is destroying the shark population around the world. Stick to fish sauce if you want that extra oomph in your dish!
4. Sassafras oil: While the oil from the plant itself isn’t necessarily harmful, the safrole and shikimol chemicals found inside it can be used in the production of the psychoactive drug MDMA.
5. Ortolan: This French delicacy has been banned due to the unethical treatment of the ortolan birds used. Not only are the birds endangered, but they’re cooked and served whole! Most people prefer to not look at it while eating…
6. Beluga caviar: This comes from the Caspian Sea, but importing beluga sturgeon eggs into the United States is prohibited due to overfishing and the dwindling whale population. Don’t worry, there are plenty (other legal types) of fish in the sea!
7. Mirabelle plums: Although some varieties of these plums are grown in America, the authentic fruits from Lorraine, France, are banned as part of a trade agreement that doesn’t allow their importation. That’s because the shipping process jeopardizes their quality!
8. Ackee fruit: Looks like we can’t consume Jamaica’s fruit either! This treat is used in plenty of authentic dishes. However, if you consume the fruit before it ripens properly, it can actually kill you.
9. Absinthe: This beverage was banned entirely in the U.S. until 2007, when the government started to allow its importation… so long as the psychoactive chemical thujone was left out of its production.
10. Haggis: Mix a sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs with spices, oatmeal, and suet, then stuff it into the animal’s stomach and serve it; that’s the traditional Scottish dish known as haggis. Unfortunately, lung is one of the organs banned from importation into America.
11. Redfish: This aquatic creature became quite popular for its flavor during the 1980s, but now Mississippi is the only state that sells it at market. Redfish is banned simply so the species’ population can be replenished.
12. Pig’s blood cake: This traditional Taiwanese dish consists of pork blood and sticky rice. You wont find it anywhere in America due to sanitary precautions regarding the blood used in its production!
13. Lazy Cakes: These simple brownies may seem ordinary, but they actually contain the sleep-inducing agent melatonin. Arkansas banned the snacks because it’s too easy for young children to get their hands on them.
14. Puffer fish: Also known as “fugu,” puffer fish requires a special license to prepare, and only a handful of restaurants in the United States carry it. If improperly handled, the poison in the fish causes asphyxiation.
15. Unpasteurized milk: Also known as “raw” milk, most states do not allow for its production because the pasteurization process is vital in removing toxic microbes from the milk.
16. Sea turtles: These beautiful creatures have been endangered for quite some time now, so the U.S. strictly forbids their importation or exportation. The ban on sea turtles for consumption is an easy one to support!
17. Bird’s nest soup: This delicacy started in China, but today it’s even rare to find it within those borders. The main ingredient in the soup is bird saliva, which can carry a plethora of harmful bacteria.
18. Foie gras: While this one isn’t banned throughout the entire United States, California outlawed it due to the unethical treatment of geese during the process. They’re force-fed through tubes to increase the size of their livers.
19. Queen conch: Since 2003, it’s been illegal to import this crustacean because of the species’ low numbers. If you want queen conch, you have to travel outside of the U.S. where it’s far less regulated.
20. Bushmeat: This refers to any meat from animals hunted and slaughtered in Africa, including gorillas, antelopes, and elephants. Not only is it banned because it can carry fatal diseases, but it encourages illegal trading.