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You’d put that in YOUR mouth?!?

weird-food-additives

Ew! Crushed up bugs? You’d put that in YOUR mouth?!?

Good afternoon honorable judges, ladies and gentlemen, fellow 4H speakers, family and friends.

We always hear about the importance of reading food labels. I know I sure do from my parents. However, I’ve learned lately that something that sounds innocent on the food’s packaging can turn out to be pretty nasty in real life.

According to the British newspaper, The Guardian, store bought raspberry or strawberry ice cream possibly contains a beaver’s anal and urinary secretions. Castoreum, which comes from the castor sacs of male and female beavers, is an approved food additive popular in ice-creams, and is allowed to be called “natural flavouring“, meaning you probably don’t realize that you are eating a rodent’s rump squeezings.

You wouldn’t drink anti-freeze, but did you know that you may be drinking one of it’s main ingredients when you consume certain soft drinks? Well, you’re not drinking straight antifreeze, but if your soda of choice has propylene glycol in it, you’re consuming a compound that’s used for everything from antifreeze to cosmetics, and much more. How gross is that?

‘Carmine’, ‘cochneal’  or Natural Red 4 as this food dye is also known, sounds pretty mundane. Until you find out it’s made by boiling the shells of the female carmine beetle in a sodium carbonate solution. It takes about 70,000 of the bugs to produce one pound of dye. Coffee giant Starbucks stopped using it in their products in 2012 after public outcry, but the dye is still commonly used in many foods. If eating bug bits makes you queasy, there is Red Dye 40 instead. Except that it’s made from petroleum products. These red dyes are found in almost all kinds of licorice like Nibs and Twizzlers. Red velvet cakes get their name because of the red dye in them. Pick your poison.

Making food in a factory is nothing like cooking at home, and a big warehouse is sure to be home to a few rodents. Maybe that’s why the American Food and Drug Administration allows for a certain amount of rodent hair in various products, something they call an “unavoidable defect,” one they don’t include on the label. They allow one rodent hair for every 100g chocolate, 22 rodent hairs for every 100g cinnamon and five rodent hairs for every 18oz jar of peanut butter. Yuck! I am certain that my mother’s rodent phobia is warring with her love of chocolate right now.

Foods from big chain restaurants can be really funky. For example, Chicken McNuggets from McDonalds are super gross when you find out what’s in them. Sure, there’s some chicken muscle (what we normally call ‘meat’), but also lots of bone, skin, and blood vessels ground up and flavoured like chicken meat. There are also weird things like polydimethylsiloxane, an anti-foaming agent for fryer oil that is also used in making Silly Putty. Maybe that’s why they ‘stick’ with you.

I have only given you a few examples today. Sure, it’s important to look at the label, but much of what I’ve just told you about doesn’t appear on the label in a way that is helpful, and some may not show up at all. You will have to look beyond the label, do your own research, and become an informed consumer. After that, it’s up to you to decide for yourself whether you think these ingredients are safe or, more importantly, acceptable.

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This was my prepared speech for the 2014 4-H public speaking competitions. I made it as far as District level, but failed to place after a bit of a freak out on impromptus. Darn it! Oh well, next year, right?

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