Starbucks’ use of crushed beetles in food coloring for its frappuccino products - which it had labeled vegan—is merely the tip of the iceberg. The cochineal beetle, often used in red food dyes, is one of many disgusting ingredients found in everyday foods. Food companies might advertise natural flavors, low calories and vitamins A through Z, but they’re much less likely to promote their use of fish bladders, sand or human hair.
And you won’t believe what beaver anal glands—that’s correct—are used for.
1| Red Dye: Ground Up Beetles
Between yogurt, maraschino cherries, jams, cakes, and tomato products, you’ve probably consumed at least one pound of red dye in your life. That means that you’ve also ingested at least 70,000 cochineal beetles, according to a petition on Change.org. The bug is crushed up to make red dye.
2| Ice Cream: Beaver Anal Glands
Vanilla and raspberry flavors might be enhanced by “castoreum,” a mixture of the anal secretions and urine of beavers. It’s also found in perfume. The FDA-approved product is categorized under “natural flavoring,” so you won’t know if you’re eating it. After celebrity chef Jamie Oliver went on David Letterman’s show and mentioned castoreum’s presence in vanilla ice cream—”If you like that stuff, next time you put it in your mouth think of anal gland”—manufacturers adamantly denied the claims.
3| Bread: Duck Feathers and Human Hair
L-Cysteine is an amino acid often used in dough conditioners, which softens mass-produced breads. It is made from human hair or duck feathers. Although 80 percent of L-cysteine is made of human hair, McDonald’s uses the duck feather variety in its Baked Hot Apple Pie and Warm Cinnamon Roll.
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