Most people don’t know every ingredient in the food they eat, and that’s okay.
What everyone does know is that processed snacks and sweets aren’t the greatest for you – but how bad can they really be?
Let’s shed some light on the ingredients in some of the foods we eat every day.
1. Raspberry Flavouring
Raspberry flavouring adds a delicious element to most sweets, like ice cream and pastries. But the truth is, artificial raspberry flavouring is harvested from the anal glands of beavers.
Castoreum, the ingredient that gives that tasty raspberry flavor, is gathered by milking live beavers’ anal glands. The chemical, which is also used in perfumes, is used in many raspberry, strawberry and vanilla-flavoured treats such as flavoured yogurt, jello, and ice cream.
As a food additive, castoreum is “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA – meaning that food manufacturers don’t always need to include it in their listed ingredients on the packaging of food, instead referring to it as “natural flavouring”.
While studies have shown that the chemical poses no health risk to humans, many people rightfully prefer to avoid the ingredient, due to the animal cruelty involved in harvesting it and the fact that it’s not always listed on food packaging.
2. Propylene Glycol
Propylene glycol is a commonly used chemical found in antifreeze, which is often used in cars. Known to cause extensive damage to the heart, kidney, liver and central nervous system in large quantities – even if just absorbed by the skin! – this chemical is also found in most commercial ice cream. It keeps ice cream soft and scoop-able – unlike homemade ice cream which becomes hard and difficult to scoop after a few days in the fridge – and is generally not labelled on commercial ice cream containers.
3. Chicken Nuggets
This popular snack is a hit with kids and adults, but the truth is somewhat unsavoury; most chicken nuggets contain a chemical compound known as tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), a commonly- used form of butane.
TBHQ is used to preserve packaged food products so that they’ll remain “fresh” for months on the shelves or in grocery store freezers. TBHQ is a dangerous substance – in concentrated amounts, even a gram can cause serious health implications, from delirium to nausea and vomiting, to even collapse – larger doses can be fatal.
4. Milk That Contains Oestrogen
While milk is heavily marketed as a drink for children and adults alike, most milk today actually contains dangerous levels of oestrogen, caused by the high production levels in most modern dairies, where cows are milked almost every day of the year, often while they are pregnant, causing the cows to release large amounts of the hormone into their milk.
Due to the expensive nature of real vanilla bean extract, most vanilla-flavoured treats on the market are made with cheap alternatives such as vanillin – which is made with a mix of guaiacol, a petrochemical product, and lingin waste, which is a by-product produced by wood pulp mills.
While vanillin is known to trigger migraines, some of the alternatives can be even more harmful – cheap knock-off Mexican vanilla often contains a chemical called coumarin, a substance that causes liver and kidney failure at high enough concentrations.