There are some rather
1. Duck feathers and human hair (l-cysteine)
These are the two most-common sources for l-cysteine, an amino acid used to condition dough for increased pliability, which facilitates better machine processing.
Although originally the primary source for l-cysteine was human hair, many manufacturers seem to have moved away from hair-derived l-cysteine and on to the more-palatable duck feathers. About 80 percent of l-cysteine is now derived from feathers. In other words, there is still a %20 chance you are eating human hair.
To be fair, the resultant additive is far-removed from its original source — but still.
2. Sand (silicon dioxide)
Silicon dioxide, also known as silica (also known as sand!), is used as an anti-caking agent. It is often added to processed beef and chicken to prevent clumping, and is listed in the ingredient panels for chili from both Wendy’s and Taco Bell.
3. Wood (cellulose)
Processed wood pulp, known as cellulose, is used in everything from cheese to salad dressing, from muffins to strawberry syrup. Food processors use it to thicken and stabilize foods, replace fat and boost fiber content. Mmm, fiber!
Ironically, with the increase in nutritional awareness has come an increase in the use of cellulose — with the addition of wood pulp, products can boast of less fat and more fiber. Just don’t mind the wood.
McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC, Sonic, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Jack in the Box, and many others include cellulose in their repertoire.
4. Silly Putty plastic (dimethylpolysiloxane)
Dimethylpolysiloxane, a form of silicone used in cosmetics and Silly Putty, is also found in many a fast-food fried thing. It is the secret ingredient that keeps fryer oil from foaming. McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish and French fries have it, as do Wendy’s Natural-Cut Fries With Sea Salt. In fact, most fast-food items that bathe in a deep-fat fryer are imbued with a hint of dimethylpolysiloxane.
5. Petroleum-derived preservatives (TBHQ)
Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is made from compounds derived from petroleum and finds a home in cosmetic and skincare products, varnish, lacquers and resins — and processed food. McDonald’s, for example, uses it in 18 products ranging from their Fruit and Walnut Salad to Griddle Cakes to McNuggets.
6. Soil fertilizer (ammonium sulfate)
Ammonium sulfate is sold by chemical companies to food manufacturers as “yeast food for bread,” and many fast-food companies list the ingredient in their bakery products.
Beetle juices (carminic acid, confectioner's glaze)
Carminic acid, is a commonly used red food coloring that comes from the dried, crushed bodies of female scale insects called cochineal. Variously known as Cochineal, Cochineal Extract, Carmine, Crimson Lake, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, E120 — it is used in a wide variety of products ranging from some meat, sausages, processed poultry products, marinades, bakery products, toppings, cookies, desserts, icings, pie fillings, jams, preserves, gelatins, juices, drinks, dairy products, sauces and dessert products.
From the same family of the cochineal comes the Lac beetle, which is the source of shellac. The female beetle secretes a resin that is scraped from trees in Southeast Asia and Mexico. The resin is collected and processed into a shiny coating to be donned by a variety of foods, including candy, vitamins, pills, tablets, capsules, chocolate and waxed fresh fruit. You won’t find beetle excretions on the ingredients list, however, look for its aliases: Confectioner's Glaze, Resinous Glaze, Shellac, Pharmaceutical Glaze, Pure Food Glaze, Natural Glaze, or Lac-Resin.
8. Meat paste-goop (mechanically separated meat)
It is commonly referred to as “pink slime.” Looking more like frosting than pureed meat and bone bits, the FDA defines mechanically separated poultry (MSP) as “a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible tissue, through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue.”
After the meat slurry has been produced, it is sometimes treated with ammonium hydroxide to remove excess bacteria. Ammonium hydroxide is also used as a household cleaner and in fertilizers.
Mechanically separated meat is to blame for a number of processed meat products; think hot dogs, salami, bologna, burgers and many a chicken nugget.