15 Terrifying Things You Never Knew Were in Your Food


We spend a lot of time worrying about healthy foods that can actually make you fat, or whether to engage in health fads like Paleo diets or oil pulling, but sometimes it’s the things right under your nose that should be getting the most attention.

For example, you’d be amazed at the kind of toxic chemicals and cringe-worthy substances that are often found in the foods you eat every day—from the vegetables at your grocery store to the snacks you’re eating at your office. Some are both horrifying and terrible for your health, while others are straight-up gross—even if they won’t necessarily do your body any harm.

Read on at your own risk...

Weed Killer

Round-Up, an herbicide that’s been shown to be deadly to human cells, can be detected in a ton of produce. In a nutshell, non-organic vegetables you’ll find in your local grocery store may still remnants on ‘em.  Studies have actually shown that this concoction may be linked to cancer, birth defects, and a host of other problems, giving you yet another reason to shop for organic vegetables if you can. At a minimum, make sure you wash those veggies thoroughly!


This chemical is used in a lot of cleaning products that kill surface bacteria, and it’s also apparently used on animal meat trimmings, which are particularly susceptible to bacteria. Maybe you’ve heard of that “pink slime” that’s used as a filler in some ground beef? Yep, that’s the stuff. Bottom line, if you want to avoid even a whisper of chemicals in your meat, opt for truly high-quality meat (ideally free-range and antibiotic-free!) from specialty stores. Good meat’s worth paying for!


Surprise! There are weird, microscopic things in your food—especially in the dairy aisle, apparently. Tom Philpott of “Mother Jones” went through the Project on Emerging Technologies’ list of nano consumer products and found 96 foods with unlabeled nano particles like titanium dioxide, which is evidently an ingredient that brands like Dannon use to make Greek yogurt whiter. Eep!

Beavers’ Glandular Secretions

We know, right? This one’s a real doozy. Castoreum is a chemical sourced from glands of beavers that’s often found in vanilla-flavored snacks that (surprise) don’t actually contain any vanilla extract. The beavers use these secretions as a way to make their territory—we use it to flavor things in a way that’s “natural,” even if it’s truly icky. (It really does smell like vanilla!)

Chemical Preservatives

Tertiary Butylhydroquinone (try saying that five times, fast!) is a preservative that can be found in everything from pet foods and skincare products to, yes, chicken nuggets (along with a lot of fast food products). We’re sure you’ve already heard that preservatives really aren’t good for you: Consuming the product in high doses (read: one gram) has been linked to a host of medical problems like nausea, asthma, and even cancer.


Are you a person who prefers holistic remedies to prescription pills when you’re feeling sick? Well, guess what: You may be consuming antibiotics without even realizing it...through the meat you’re eating. Livestock like turkey, cows, and chickens are often treated with antibiotics to help them get bigger, faster (and without getting sick), but those antibiotics may then be getting passed on to you, possibly fueling the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (Here’s a really scary statistic: antibiotic sales for use in animals are three times more than sales for human use.) Make a habit of checking the labels on your meat, and make sure they’re antibiotic and hormone-free!