LOS ANGELES (CBSLA)   — If you faithfully read food labels you’ve probably come across ingredients you can’t pronounce, let alone describe.

CBS2’s Crystal Cruz reports that many of your favorite snacks contain such bizarre things as bug parts and there are other odd additives lurking in your food.

Instant noodles, soft drinks, frozen entrees  — they’re fast, cheap and easy.

Just know that many of your favorite foods are filled with items you would never suspect. And most likely things you wouldn’t knowingly put in your mouth.

John Swartzberg of Berkeley’s School of Public Health recently examined a smorgasbord of foods, all containing weird, shocking ingredients.

We asked mom Juliet and her daughter, Rosie, to play along with the “What is it?” game.

First up, shredded cheese.

It contains powdered cellulose.

“Well, cellulose is a plant product and it made from a variety of plants, including, of course, wood,” says Swartzberg.

The cellulose keeps your cheese from clumping. (Raise your hand if you don’t mind clumpy cheese.)

“The more cellulose you put in,” Swartzberg says, “and it’s very cheap to make, the more money you make.”

In some frozen burritos, snacks and pizza, there is a product called L-Cysteine, an amino acid. But it’s not just any amino acid.

“This particular amino acid is made from hair or duck feathers,” Swartzberg says.

It’s used as a dough conditioner to improve the texture.

Then there is carmine, an ingredient often found in some red juices and yogurts. Carmine is a natural red food dye made by boiling cochineal insects.

“If they ground them up, it makes a beautiful red dye,” Swartzberg says.

Then we get to granulated sugar. What makes it so sparkly white?

Sitting down?

Some brands use charred animal bones or bone char.

When it comes to alcohol, you might want a glass about now. Or maybe not. In some white wines and some beers makers use a special filtration process called insinglass.

“It’s made from bladders of bony fish,” Swartzberg says.

Lost your appetite yet?

How about those shiny little jelly beans. On the label it says “Confectioner’s Glaze.”

And what is that?

It’s shellac, made specifically from insects in Asia. The same shellac as in wood finish.

Swartzberg says all the ingredients are legal. The FDA classifies them all as “generally recognized as safe”.

Comments (24)
  1. Well, unless you can grow and make your own food, there’s no sense in getting uppity about it. Not much we can do about it other than read and pick out what doesn’t have the above ingredients, and even then you’re still likely eating bug parts.
    Did you know that ALL dry pasta has bug eggs in it? That spaghetti you cooked and ate has Miller moth eggs in it and there’s nothing anyone can do to keep them out. The trick is to freeze your dry pasta for 3-4 days and this kills the eggs, extends the shelf life longer and prevents the bugs from hatching unless new eggs are laid in that pasta.

  2. if you’re going to write a story, make sure its accurate, “generally recognized as ‘safe’ is the acronym GRAS.

    1. Indeed, and the people in the food industry pronounce it “grass.”

  3. So, not only is the article click bait with nothing of particular shocking interest, but clearly no editor has looked at this.

    1. Let’s be honest about this: What editor EVER looks at the stories they publish on the internet anymore? Journalism is truly dead.

  4. ben (@neaon) says:

    Typical example of rich westerners that are out of problems. 100% of these things (and more) are regularly the part of the diet in lower income countries, but the spoiled Americans can only eat white meat chicken, gluten-free whole wheat pasta, and extra-hot venti mocha caramel macchiatos, extra whip, chunk free-trade sugar only. The only disgusting thing is the author’s nice-nasty dietary needs.

  5. The article has merit. People have a right to know what is in their food. It is wise to eat fresh foods that are not packaged or processed.

  6. Don McCoy says:

    This stuff won’t hurt you. Not appetizing…but what do you THINK you’ve been eating? Things can only be SO clean and SO pure in a factory setting…

  7. Jerome Barry says:

    That’s an amusing list of facts. Your ethical vegans are defecating bricks.

  8. There are a lot of spoiled Americans who deserve to eat these and worse!

  9. Steve Hollar says:

    I care just as much about this as I do Stormy Daniels, which is not at all.

  10. Joe Schmolen says:

    Just for giggles, the Left should ban all grains that contain insect parts. Just ignore that it’s impossible to harvest grain from the field without a few insects getting caught up. So, now that there are no more grains in our foods, see how many foods are left on the shelves. Ignoramuses!

  11. Well, it ain’t gluten, so call us back when you got a real complaint.

  12. Nothing new here. People don’t want artificial dyes in their food. Ground up insects provides natural color. I guess, also a shiny crunchy coating to jelly beans.

  13. L-Cysteine is in almost all bread. Check your labels! It makes dough rise faster, which means they can produce more bread in a day.

  14. I had a supervisor, at Lockheed years ago, who told us this story: He refused to ever eat fish, brought in, in the huge holds of ships, into Long Beach, for example. And, especially tuna fish. I’ll allude to this,as politely as possible, while conveying the point & restating what he said. He had to go down into the holds of these ships to retrieve the fish. When you do this, when the workers do this, they DO NOT come out. They do not come out, FOR ANY REASON. Robert / Bob did this to support himself, during layoffs at the company we both worked at. I like fish, and tuna fish, and in cans. Of all kinds, different manufacturers. It’s my understanding that it’s cooked thoroughly, & it hasn’t hurt me. But, my attitude will not sway Bob!

  15. Lets not forget the most egregious ingredient: Aborted Fetal DNA for flavor and color in MANY processed foods especially beverages like soda and tea products… Eating another persons DNA causes cancer and sexual confusion when from a different sex. Although ingesting it is not as bad injecting it via Vaccines.