11 Facts About The Foods We Eat That Have Us Rewriting Our Shopping Lists

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It's fun to go out to eat at a restaurant, or to buy a bunch of ingredients from the store to cook a feast at home, right? 

Whether you hit up a drive-thru or sit down for some fine dining, it's a bit of a crapshoot in terms of where your food comes from and how it's prepared. But making a meal on your own should take the mystery out of it - but does it?

It turns out common foods people buy at the grocery store - fruit, veggies, meat, cheese, and everything in between - are just as eyebrow-raising when it comes to origin and handling. We just learned a lot about some of our supermarket staples - enough to make us consider crossing them off our shopping lists. 

  • Several examples exist of mites being used to mature cheese. Often referred to as Spinnenkäse or “spider cheese,” Milbenkäse translates to “mite cheese," which is a more accurate term. It's a German cheese that combines quark - or fresh cheese made from cow milk - with salt and caraway. The mixture is then shaped and put into a box with rye flour and cheese mites. 

    Over several months, the mites eat the outside of the cheese. Their digestive enzymes change the color of the crust, and when humans consume the finished product, they eat the mites right along with the cheese. Other “mite cheeses" include Mimolette, produced in France and Belgium, and Cabrales cheese from Spain.

    Mites aren't the only tiny arthropods used in the cheese-making process. Casu marzu is a cheese made by letting maggots infiltrate sheep milk. Considered a delicacy to many, casu marzu is illegal to sell, due to possible intestinal damage from maggots if they survive being eaten. However, according to Sardinian Paolo Solinas, “the maggot infestation is the spell and delight of this cheese.” 

    1,083 votes
  • Mussels And Other Mollusks Contains Microplastics
    Photo: PookieFugglestein / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    919 VOTES

    Mussels And Other Mollusks Contains Microplastics

    The presence of microplastics in the environment has raised concerns about their impact on the health of the planet and all living creatures. With plastic production expected to increase through 2050, the microplastics present in animals - including human blood - will likely increase. 

    With respect to humans, these chemicals enter the body via air, water, and food. Consumption of seafood, especially mollusks (like mussels, clams, and oysters) presents a high risk of ingesting microplastics due to the amount of plastic present in the Earth's oceans. One study from 2021 found:

    …24.4 trillion pieces of microplastics in the world's upper oceans, with a combined weight of 82,000 to 578,000 tons - or the equivalent of roughly 30 billion 500 mL plastic water bottles.

    Mussels were found to have the most microplastics, a reality succinctly stated by researcher Dr. Christian Laforsch:

    If you eat mussels, you eat microplastics. 

    919 votes
  • 3
    870 VOTES

    Figs May Have Wasps In Them When You Eat Them

    Some female wasps, aptly known as fig wasps, crawl into the fruit to lay their eggs. Because the hole the wasp entered is small, it may or may not be able to exit once it's dropped off its eggs. If the insect becomes trapped, it will perish inside the fig.

    This phenomenon has led to assertions that, when you eat a fresh fig, you might actually be biting into a wasp. This isn't true; any crunch you might get is likely seeds. That said, the presence of a dead wasp in your fig is possible, but much of the insect has likely been broken down by enzymes in the fruit

    870 votes
  • Some Of The Naturally Occurring Compounds In Milk Are Scary
    Photo: Endee n / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    Milk producers assure consumers that their product does not include pus - or large amounts of it - and prefer the term “somatic cells” when addressing the topic. These are any cell in the body that doesn't have to do with reproduction. When found in milk, they're often an indication the cow was suffering from udder mastitis. 

    In the US, the Food and Drug Administration allows for 750 million somatic cells in each liter of milk. This is the highest level worldwide. While it's not considered dangerous to consumers, it does raise concerns about antibiotics in the milk. If a cow has mastitis, she may be given antibiotics to help eliminate the infection

    Another ingredient that has proved difficult for some to swallow is butyric acid, which occurs naturally in milk but can increase through the process of lipolysis. This brings out a smell akin to vomit that many consumers of Hershey's chocolate detect. Hershey reportedly uses milk that's gone at least partially through lipolysis.

    708 votes
  • 5
    894 VOTES

    Hot Dogs Are Made Of Any Animal Part Considered Edible

    Like most sausages, hot dogs are made by combining meat (usually beef or pork), fillers, and spices into a casing. Poultry has increasingly been integrated into hot dogs. 

    As described by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, these hot dog ingredients are often blended into a “meat batter," which may also include chemicals to bind the product together, flavor enhancers, and additives to aid in the curing process.

    Hot dogs - also called wieners and frankfurters - include any “meat” taken from an animal by “scraping, shaving, or pressing" it from animal bones using machinery or by hand. Put another way, hot dogs comprise any animal tissue deemed suitable for processing. This can be muscle, connective tissue, or fatty tissue, as well as internal organs. 



    894 votes
  • “Vinegar eels” aren't actually eels; they're much smaller critters that thrive on the bacteria and yeast in vinegar. The “eels” are actually Turbatrix aceti - nematodes (roundworms) that possess no parasitic qualities and are relatively harmless if ingested by humans. 

    Because most kinds of vinegar on the market are filtered, there's relatively little to worry about worry about. The increased presence of unfiltered vinegar - namely apple cider vinegar - in conversations about healthy eating and healthy living alike has prompted the FDA to state that the presence of “vinegar eels in finished [vinegar] product would be considered objectionable,” but having them present in the production process is fine.

    623 votes