#2. The Meat Might Be Wearing a Disguise
Thanks to Europe's recent, highly publicized horse meat scandal, where meat from elderly horses was blatantly sold as beef, it's no secret that at least some food purveyors are not above feeding you mislabeled meat. Still, the fact that this particular scandal made international headlines is proof that that this kind of thing just doesn't fly, and the media will jump down their throats the second they find out that their hamburger used to say "neigh" rather than "moo."
Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"I'm telling you guys, I swear it called me 'Wilbur.'"
And in fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is adamant that all meat sold in the U.S. is exactly what it says on the package ... right up until the microphones go off, which is when they're happy to state that actual testing is extremely rare. It turns out they're basing their entire "all U.S. beef is real beef" argument on the fact that, as far as they know, no one is actively butchering horses for food on U.S. soil. When it comes to imported meat, it's only ever tested when there's some reason to believe a shipment is suspicious, like they hear a curious whinnying sound from inside the container.
But worrying about badger turning up in your bacon has got to be paranoia, right? Well, one study of 1,200-plus samples of fish products in the U.S. found that a third of the fish on the market is deliberately mislabeled in order to sell random, cheap fish as the species that fetch the highest prices. These counterfeit fish pose as expensive ones such as tuna and snapper, and they range from relatively harmless (if tasteless) ones such as tilapia to fucking snake mackerel -- a generally banned, harmful fish that can cause severe gastric distress to the poor soul who buys it as delicious tuna (even if we would feel incredibly badass striding up to the counter and asking for a big basket of snake mackerel).
So bad ass.
#1. The Health Inspection System Is, Let's Say, Rather Lax
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If you live in a city with more than three restaurants, we're going to bet you can remember at least one getting shut down for health code violations at some point. It happens all the time, and usually you just pat yourself on the back for having avoided eating at a breakfast joint run out of a shipping container called the Bearded Sausage. But now ask yourself: When's the last time you heard of a grocery store getting shut down for that reason? They all have delis that serve food now, right?
It's not because they're all spotless -- it's that the inspection system tends to take it very easy on them.
Jack Hollingsworth/Digital Vision/Getty Images
"If you think I'm shutting down the only place in 20 miles that has Count Chocula, you're crazy."
While grocery stores do get inspected, unlike restaurants, they're not obligated to tell you if they failed the inspection, and they don't have a lot of motivation to change their practices. That's why when news reporters investigate the issue themselves by doing their own impromptu inspections, they frequently find dozens of violations, from moldy produce to meat sitting at temperatures way too low to keep germs away. These aren't things that the inspectors missed -- it turns out that the stores had failed inspections in the past, and when they brought the inspectors back, they failed again. No matter -- they get to stay open and keep serving customers. When NBC News did a check of 18 random stores that had gotten "critical" health violations in the past ("critical" meaning "bad enough to make a customer sick"), they found that 11 still had them -- and that was without being able to go behind the counter to see where the butcher was sticking his dick in the meat.
"Don't worry, the cheese is safe. Unless it's Gouda."
So why does the government let this go on? Well, that depends on what you mean by "the government" -- in the U.S., the federal government doesn't inspect places that serve food -- that's done by the local health departments, which are often too short-handed to keep up. Plus, grocery stores and restaurants are sometimes inspected by completely separate agencies. And the process of reporting and responding to the issues found in the inspections are almost exclusively between the inspector and the store.
So when the health inspector finds decaying rats next to your soon-to-be-purchased banana pudding, chances are he's not required to tell you, the customer, a goddamn word about it. And neither is the store itself. Sure, there is a failsafe where they have to cough up the paperwork if an individual specifically asks to see their scores, but the companies don't exactly advertise the option. Gosh, we wonder why.
"Honestly, my crabs are fresher than ours."
To be fair, these are huge buildings selling thousands of items, with tens of thousands of filthy strangers filing in and out throughout the day. We're sure they're doing their best. It's just that their best can still leave you with food poisoning. And it's not like they never get shut down: Here's a store that was recently shut down in West Virginia after inspectors found a stunning 36 health code violations. They were shut down on a Monday and weren't allowed to reopen until -- let's check here -- Wednesday afternoon. See! The system works!
For more reasons why you shouldn't eat anything ever, check out 5 Horrifying Food Additives You've Probably Eaten Today. Or learn about 6 Subtle Ways You're Getting Screwed at the Grocery Store.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 Ridiculous Things That Caused Recent Bomb Scares .
And stop by LinkSTORM where we teach you to drink your own pee.
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Extra Credit: Dimpled cans and half-full bags of potato chips are robbing you blind while everything ELSE makes you sick. But at least the stuff making you sick is probably real, which is more than we can say about half the food in your kitchen. Your cheese is not what it seems. On the upside, grocery stores aren't any shadier than any other type of store.