Five of the Creepiest Food Additives You Wish You’d Never Heard About

Posted by – February 11, 2011

If you like processed food, it’s probably best if you don’t read this article. Of course I want you to read it and I’m happy you’re here on my website, but this stuff is really going to turn your stomach.

You see, for years now you’ve been eating sand, animal waste, human hair and ground-up insects without necessarily realising it. Or else not thinking about it — which was probably the right thing to do.

To be fair, the additives on this list are not identical to the substances I’ve mentioned next to their E-numbers, but are extracted from those substances. Clearly that makes a difference. How much difference, I’ll leave it to you to decide.

So, just in case you’re still reading, here’s my list of the permitted food additives from Hell, together with their assigned European Union “E” numbers, just in case you don’t believe me.

5. E551: Sand (silicon dioxide)


Sand. Source: Rosino on Flickr. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.


Apparently putting sand in our food is entirely legal. Silicon dioxide, known to most of us as “sand”, is widely used in the food industry as an anti-caking agent, to stop powders such as table salt and powdered milk solidifying into cakes. Well, I guess it does the trick alright.

4. E172: Rust (iron oxides)


Rust. Author: Laitr Keiows. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.


Mmmmmm! Rust tastes good! Not. But yes, rust is a good way of making things rust-coloured — if you’re sick in the head! Or a food manufacturer.

3. E252: Animal Waste (potassium nitrate)


This picture was taken by en:User:Acatenazzi at La Vieja Island, Paracas National Reserve, Departamento Ica, Peru, in July 2003. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported


Potassium nitrate may cause cancer and it may be implicated in heart disease, but it can still legally be added to our food. Why? It’s your fault. You’ve been eating bacon and sausages without ever asking yourself how it’s possible for meat to be kept so long without going off … this chemical is the answer! The Dutch, who are all crazy, also like to use it in cheese, as a preservative. But then again I suppose bacon does taste good, so whatever the hell.

Bat droppings and rotted animal urine are the traditional sources of potassium nitrate. But don’t worry, these days it’s mostly made from other animal waste. Just kidding … some of it is made from animal waste. The rest is made from … other stuff.

If you want to read more about potassium nitrate (and who wouldn’t), check out my article Five Surprising Facts About Gunpowder

2. E120: Insects (cochineal)


Cochineal. Source: The Houshold Cyclopedia printed in 1881; Author: Henry Hartshorne, M.D. License: public domain (copyright expired)


This lovely red food coloring is basically nothing other than ground-up mites. Think of that next time you choose the red pill over the blue one. Still, at least it’s organic (as opposed to inorganic).

1. E910: human hair (L-cysteine)


Author: Esby (talk) 15:09, 20 October 2009 (UTC); Photograph taken during the 2009 edition of the Comic Strip Festival named O Tour de la Bulle of Montpellier. License: GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2


I’ll be honest with you, I felt quite sick when I found out about this one. As I implied earlier, human hair and L-cysteine are not the same thing; but at least some L-cysteine is extracted from human hair (and feathers), typically the hair of third-world women. L-cysteine is used to give things meaty flavours (now I really feel sick!) or to make things springy. Bagels, for instance. Springy, meaty hair extract! Tasty! It’s also widely added to cigarettes, although no-one outside the tobacco industry seems to know why. Potassium nitrate is also an important cigarette additive (it keeps them alight), so now you know what to do when you need your fix of animal waste and human hair clipping extracts.

So that’s it for the food additives … but don’t stop now! I’ve written about even more disgusting things …. check this out: Brain Parasites: There’s a 1 in 6 Chance That You’re Infected.

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