6 Dark Secrets Harbored By Your Favorite Foods
"Please, Cracked," you're already pleading, "Don't do this. Let me live my beautiful lie that is eating healthy and fresh. Don't take this from me."
Sorry, hypothetical reader, but duty calls. We all like to think we can add a few years to our lives by carefully choosing what we buy at the grocery store, but sometimes you'd be better off closing your eyes and throwing the first thing you find into your cart. Why? Because the food industry keeps fooling us into buying less-than-ideal products, using carny-level tricks like ...
Meat Is Packed With Carbon Monoxide To Make It Look Redder
One thing we all take for granted is that it's pretty easy to tell when food has gone bad, since you can usually just look at it. If that package of ground beef has turned a sickly color, is covered in mold, or has spontaneously grown an eyeball, that's when you know it's time to throw it out. Remember to cook it up while it's still a nice vibrant red, like you're eating the heart of your enemy to gain their courage, and you'll be good, right?
Unfortunately, the meat industry is on to our crafty tricks, and they've come up with a rather devious solution: They're packing meat with carbon monoxide, or CO, to make it stay deliciously red far longer than it should, even after it has spoiled.
"Oxygen hates him. Click to find out his secret."
You might recognize CO as the invisible, odorless gas that can straight-up murder your ass if you breathe in too much of it. The small amount in your meat won't kill you, but the meat itself might if you don't pay attention to the expiration date, because the color basically means shit.
Naturally, the food industry defended this practice, claiming it made the meat easier to distribute, and would also "prevent shrinkage," like a synthetic chemical fluffer. For once, thankfully, the government wasn't buying it; during a congressional hearing on the practice, they showed one package of meat that still looked pink and edible after two freaking years, at which point the meat could probably eat you instead.
"No thanks; I only eat free-range. When's the last time they even saw sunlight?"
The FDA hasn't banned this practice outright, since injecting food with mysterious science gas has some benefits, but that's why packages of ground meat now often say "color is not an accurate indicator of freshness." This also heads off the food industry's other plan to paint the meat with red nail polish.
Almond Milk Is More Like Almond Water (And Is Ruining The Environment)
Recently, the world has discovered that almonds are more than something you can insert into a candy bar to make people complain about them. Hailed as a "superfood," they're starting to show up in all sorts of recipes, and they're now a popular milk substitute. Most of us have seen that bizarre talking almond monstrosity in the Silk commercials, while the UK gets to drink Alpro, which is probably represented by a talking beaver or some shit.
OK, you win, England. This one's more disturbing.
But how do they make almond milk, anyway? If almonds had boobs, we probably would have noticed by now. Put simply, they take water and add a bunch of ground-up almonds to it. And by that, we mean that around two percent of Alpro "almond" milk is actually almonds. A handful of almonds is 160 calories, while a cup of almond milk is only 30 calories; to get the same health benefits as that handful of almonds, you need to chug an entire carton of almond milk like you're joining the world's wussiest fraternity. Almond milk has more potassium and vitamins, but those things are directly injected during the production process; it's like they tossed a single multivitamin into the mix.
Not only that, but this obsession with almonds is ruining the environment. California is the source of maybe 80 percent of the world's almonds, and almonds require water, by virtue of being things that grow. Meanwhile, California is also suffering from nearly unprecedented droughts, while almond farmers siphon off water from underground reserves to keep growing their crops. We'd make a pun with the word "nuts" right now, but Cracked HQ is in Santa Monica, so we're too dehydrated to think of anything.
That water spike before 2003 was the torrent of tears from Firefly getting cancelled.
So our most populated state is going thirsty so we can provide the world with its favorite candy-ruiner and pretend we're too good for regular milk. Nice, everyone.
Wheat Bread Is Sometimes Just White Bread With Food Coloring
If you've ever wondered why laws and regulations are so long and have such specific wording, it's because companies will take advantage of any loophole they possibly can. Case in point: You go to the store and buy some wheat bread in an attempt to be healthy, since white bread is all but one factory step away from being pound cake. Joke's on you, though; sometimes bread that's labeled as "wheat" is really white bread wearing artificial caramel coloring, trying to lie its way back into your life like a disturbed ex.
"I'm not going to be IGNORED!"
So you decide you'll be more conscientious and look for actual "whole wheat" bread this time. But the joke's still on you, you incredibly gullible customer; if you buy some bread specifically because it's whole grain and you don't want your body limping its way to old age, you might be surprised to learn that many breads labelled as "whole grain" aren't wholly grain -- they're more like "barely over half grain." It's bullshit, and it's also perfectly legal.
Basically, if a package doesn't say "100-Percent Whole Wheat" on it, you can bet your continuously expanding ass that it is significantly less than 100-percent whole wheat. It may in fact be as low as 51 percent. That's the minimum amount necessary for the packaging to contain health claims, and we imagine that bread companies won't be bumping it up to 52 percent out of the goodness of their hearts. So remember: If it's not 100-Percent Whole Something, it's probably 49-Percent Bread Garbage.
This one is two white bread kids in a trench coat.
Rice Has Disturbing Levels Of Arsenic
We recently told you about the fake media panic some sites tried to drum up over the tiny amounts of arsenic present in wine. All along, the real danger lay in a much more inoffensive and less sexy product: rice.
They chose ... poorly.
And we're not talking about some specific kind. Pretty much every kind of rice you can think of has way too much arsenic, with the highest levels found in those which grown in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. And this isn't just rice itself; every rice-related product has arsenic in it as well, like rice cakes and Rice Krispies (Kellogg's has gone through three Crackles and two Pops for this exact reason). One serving of rice cereal might be enough to put a kid over the maximum level of arsenic they should have in a week. But they had it coming for trying to poison their moms with those crappy kindergarten rice art projects.
Now, you probably won't eat enough rice to drop dead, unless you're a really picky sumo wrestler or something, but the American Cancer Association still warns that rice is one way you could get arsenic poisoning. Because yeah, besides irregular heartbeat, liver or kidney damage, and decreased blood cell count, cancer is one of the possible side effects. And don't think you can avoid the arsenic by eating brown or organic rice all the time. Arsenic tends to build up in the brown outer shell of the rice, which is scrubbed away to make the more child-friendly white rice; brown rice is white rice without all that arsenic scrubbed off.
You might as well snort it and get this over with.
Damn. Maybe we should avoid foods that contain arsenic in them -- which, according to the WHO, include "fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, dairy products, and cereals." That leaves ... candy. Eat tons of candy and you'll be fine, probably.
Companies Can Add Allergens To Their Food Without Telling The FDA (Or You)
If there's one food-related thing that makes people totally lose their shit, it's allergens, because those will kill you dead. People with peanut allergies can have a fatal reaction simply from making eye contact with a person who had peanuts two days ago.
Everyone with peanut allergies who was reading this article just died. Sorry.
So it makes sense that the FDA would track those slightly better than China tracks DVD pirates, right? Yes it does, and that's why we were very confused to discover that a whopping 35 percent of all food recalls in 2012 were due to food allergens. How does that happen? Doesn't the FDA know what companies are putting in their food? You're not allowed to put in whatever chemical shit you want, right? Do hypothetical questions ever have good answers on this website?
Apparently no, the FDA doesn't keep track of everything those little industry rascals are putting in our food. The FDA has a term for certain additives: "GRAS," which stands for "Generally Recognized As Safe." They also have several separate lists of approved GRAS additives, but they're not all-inclusive. In fact, they consider the task of listing all GRAS food additives to be impracticable (because that sounds better than "can't be arsed to do it"). Not only that, but thanks to a loophole in an ancient law, food companies can declare their use of food additives to be GRAS and the FDA doesn't even have to know they're doing it. We aren't politicians, but we're fairly certain that declaring what foods are safe is the FDA's entire freaking job.
"That better not be poison, mister! Just kidding. We wouldn't know."
Since the FDA's taking a fairly chill stance and being the "cool dad" on the whole GRAS thing, it should come as no surprise that some comically dangerous shit is showing up in our food. A substance called mycoprotein, also known as Quorn (slogan: "it's like corn, but fucked up!"), has been showing up in vegetarian foods in the UK and the US, among other places, despite studies showing that it can cause symptoms ranging from nausea to anaphylactic shock. Others have been linked to things like fetal leukemia or testicular degeneration, which 50 percent of respondents agree is the worst kind of degeneration.
And if that weren't enough of a kick in the chemically-degenerated balls, it turns out that even if food does include one of the eight major allergens, it's not required to have a warning label. All they need to do is state the allergen somewhere on the package, such as in the ingredients list in tiny font. Essentially, if you have food allergies, you should encase yourself in a plastic bubble and only eat food you grew yourself.
Coke Pays "Health Experts" To Say Coke Is A Healthy Snack
If you're one of those weird people with a "not dying of a heart attack" fetish, you may have noticed that in February, as part of National Heart Month (sorry about that, Black History Month), a number of nutritional experts wrote blog posts about healthy eating. A common recommendation in their articles? Drinking a refreshing can of Coke as a healthy snack. Well, if we can't trust the experts, then-- who are we kidding, we can't even finish this sentence.
When asked about the posts, Coca-Cola owned up to paying them off, saying that "every big brand works with bloggers or has paid talent," according to the Associated Press. In a number of the blogs, the authors were disclosed to be "consultants" for the food industry, while a particularly popular one was mentioned to be "sponsored content" at the very bottom, which surely made a huge difference for the one percent of people who read articles to the end.
For instance, we could say anything in this caption and no one would notice. You dumb bastard.
A smaller can of soda is healthier than a normal-sized can of soda, but in the same sense that stabbing yourself with one knife is better than stabbing yourself with two. The smaller cans still contain 90 calories of high-fructose corn syrup, the highly tasty but fattening substance that makes you shovel Doritos into your face until you end up with Garfield's complexion. One nutrition professor from Tufts University said that she "wouldn't recommend soda as a snack" while noting that less soda is obviously better than more soda. At the same time, one of the paid consultants stood by her decision, while noting that she doesn't drink soda herself.
"I love Coca-Cola, though. I eat it all the time."
If you are looking for a nice healthy drink, we always recommend a nice glass of water ... unless, of course, there's arsenic in that, too. Goddamn it.
Also check out 6 Gross Foods from a 50's Cookbook (That We Taste Tested) and 41 Amazing Food Tricks You Won't Believe You Didn't Know.