The 25 Craziest Ingredients In Your Food

Posted by , Updated on March 12, 2014

For centuries people have added ingredients to food in order to enhance taste and preserve its freshness. While in the past they would use normal things like salt and vinegar, these days you never really know what kind of crazy ingredients you’ll find in your lunchbox. With that said, the point of this list is not to scare you into giving up processed food, but rather to show you how ridiculous it is that what we use in our rocket propellant we also use in our turkey.



As official sounding as it is, this chemical is nothing more than a beaver secretion. But it’s not just any beaver secretion. It comes straight from the anal gland. Although it is commonly used to enhance the flavor of raspberry candies it’s also used in perfumes, medicine, and as an aphrodisiac.


Potassium Bromate

24Ondrej Mangl

Typically used to improve flavor and strengthen dough this category 2B carcinogen is what makes your sandwich taste so good. You might have trouble finding it outside of the United States though as it has been banned in the EU, Canada, Nigeria, Brazil, Peru, and even China.


Coal Tar

Coming in at number 199 on the United Nations list of most dangerous goods, coal tar was once the most common source of the food coloring agent Allura Red AC. Thankfully today most of our Allura comes from petroleum instead.



Coming to us straight from secretions of a female lac beetle, this substance is commonly used to coat things, primarily wood and skittles.


Beef Fat


Although this could conceivably be a normal albeit stomach churning ingredient, it is actually commonly used in twinkies to make them taste better. Sorry vegans.



Everyone knows this is one of the most dangerous substances in your lunchbox…or is it? For years there has been a lot of fear concerning MSG due to several cases of food poisoning a while back, but honestly there are a lot of substances on this list that are much more dangerous and nauseating.



A food coloring agent that has been banned in several countries including Austria and Norway, this coal tar derivative is what makes your food yellow. Although the exact effects on your health are a bit murky, its has been known to alter the behavior of young mice in several toxicity studies.




Commonly used as a flour bleaching agent in the food industry, this substance is also used to manufacture plastics and synthetic leather. It has been known to cause respiratory distress and in the UK warning labels are required on food.


High Fructose Corn Syrup

17Andrew Butko

Having become the primary sweetener in the American diet HFCS has all but replaced table sugar in many foods. This is mostly thanks to the fact that it is a lot cheaper to use than regular sucrose. America runs on corn.



Also known as Propylene Glycol Alginate this additive doesn’t just thicken your food, it is also used in automotive antifreezes and runway de-icers.




Extracted from seaweed and sometimes used as a vegetarian alternative to gelatin, the long term health effects are still unknown.


Phosphoric Acid

14Phosphoric Acid

Used to give your soda that sour tangy taste, this acidifier is commonly  used due to its low cost. Unfortunately for us though, it has been known to reduce the calcium density in bones and has been linked to kidney problems.



13Dept. of Agriculture

While there has been some controversy over the health effects on humans, if you live in the United States then your country is the only developed nation in the world that lets you drink milk from cows given recombinant bovine growth hormone.



Derived from the collagen of animal’s skin and bones, gelatin is commonly used as a gelling agent in photography, cosmetics, and food, particularly marshmallows, jellies, and yogurts.


Ammonium Sulfate


While it would be understandable for small amounts of fertilizer to end up in our fruits and produce, ammonium sulfate is used extensively to make your sandwiches.  Why? It provides nitrogen to make the yeast more consistent. It’s also a flame retardant.


Sodium Nitrate


A popular food preservative, this compound is also used in smoke bombs and pyrotechnics.



Although you will never find Bisphenol A in your food (hopefully), it is often used to make the plastics your food is stored in. The jury is still out on this compound, as its effects on humans are not yet fully understood. There has been concern, however, over the effects it may have on infants via baby food and milk bottles.


Polysorbate 60

Short for polyoxyethylene-(20)-sorbitan monostearate, this emulsifier is used as a substitute for dairy products in baked goods because it doesn’t spoil. That’s right, not even bacteria want to touch this stuff.



7Jim Champion

Commonly used to produce cheeses, this enzyme is extracted from the inner mucosa of a young calve’s fourth stomach which is why in some countries, like the UK, cheeses are labeled as suitable or not suitable for vegetarians.




Butylated Hydroxytoluene is an organic compound that is used as an antioxidant additive in jet fuels, electrical transformer oil, and breakfast cereal.




How do your cupcake sprinkles get that beautiful red color? I’m glad you asked. We take thousands of insects and boil them in ammonia. Then we filter out whatever is left over and add alum. The finished product: Carmine.



4Dept. of Agriculture

Also called “wool grease” this substance is harvested from secretions found in the wool of domestic sheep and is commonly used to hold your chewing gum together.


Silicon Dioxide

3David Shankbone

Sometimes used by restaurants as an anti-caking agent in chili, those of you who took chemistry in college may remember this substance’s more common name: sand.




A common dough conditioner, this substance was at one time obtained by the hydrolysis of human hair. Recently, however, about 80% of it has come from duck feathers instead.


Potassium Nitrate

1US Navy

Your lunch meat is not he only place you will find this chemical. It is also one of the main constituents of gunpowder and it has been used extensively in rocket propellants and fireworks.

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