The foods we eat may be purchased at the grocery store, ordered at a restaurant, or procured in some other fashion, but eating is a part of daily life. Historically speaking, food has been a luxury, a gift, or a limited resource, but throughout it all, food has remained an essential part of life.
You probably have some favorite edibles - junk foods, snacks from your childhood, or something you like that no one else does. Learning new things about the viands we eat every day can be a fun exercise, but sometimes ignorance is bliss. We discovered a few funky food facts that have us rethinking our orders, rewriting our grocery lists, and reconsidering what we put on our plates.
Proceed with caution - you may never look at food the same way again.
Beavers produce castoreum, a substance sometimes used as a food additive; the rodents secrete it from their anal glands and use it to mark their territory. Castoreum contains hints of strawberry, raspberry, and vanilla. According to wildlife ecologist Joanne Crawford, it is actually quite pleasant:
I lift up the animal's tail and I'm like, "Get down there, and stick your nose near its bum." People think I'm nuts. I tell them, "Oh, but it's beavers; it smells really good."
Due to its appeal, castoreum may be used in perfumes and other fragrances, alongside food flavorings. It's considered safe by the US Food & Drug Administration, but the expense associated with it has caused its presence to decline. Reportedly, in 2011, five companies that produced vanilla flavors indicated they didn't use any castoreum.
Ranch dressing is popular on salads, buffalo wings, French fries, and numerous other foods. The ingredient that makes ranch dressing white is titanium dioxide, which can also give skin products their white appearance, especially sunscreens. Titanium oxide was first used for white coloring in 1923 and has found use in paint, ceramics, textiles, and personal care products.
While considered to be safe in the US, companies like Dunkin' Donuts took titanium oxide out of their products in 2015. In May 2020, the European Food Safety Authority decided titanium dioxide was no longer safe as a food additive.
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Shrimp eat living and decaying algae, plants, worms, and other bits floating in the waters near them - and sometimes consume the excrement of other living creatures. When shrimp are caught, killed, and sold to consumers, the remnants of their omnivorous eating habits are still visible in what are generally thought to be veins.
There may be a vein or artery visible - as well as nerves - in a raw shrimp, but the most prominent "vein" is actually the intestinal tract. The black substance is fecal matter. Removing this line and its contents may be called deveining, but it's really a "de-pooping."
It's not essential to devein shrimp before consuming it, but not doing so may change the flavor of the shrimp itself.
It's pretty common knowledge that a raisin is just a dried grape, but exactly how that grape is dried varies. In some instances, it's sun-drying, although the process can be lengthy. Artificial light and added heat often supplement the sun and expedite the drying.
Putting grapes out to dry attracts insects and leaves the fruit exposed to dirt, sand, and other particulates. To combat bugs, many companies use pesticides, but they don't always dissipate or get washed off during processing. According to a report from the US Department of Agriculture in 2020, 99% of raisins sampled and tested were contaminated with two or more pesticides.