11 Disgusting “Natural” Ingredients in Your Food

Years before today, the word “natural” actually meant something. It referred to food that came from nature, unaltered by humans. But as money became the primary concern for food companies, quantity preceded over quality. Today, “natural” is simply just a word that’s slapped on products to make them sound more appealing to the masses.

Did you know that natural labels are not actually regulated by anyone? “Natural” products can contain:

  • GMOs
  • Toxic pesticides and herbicides
  • Growth Hormones
  • Antibiotics

Now, that doesn’t sound too natural. If that isn’t disturbing enough, here are 11 disgusting ingredients in your food, that are usually labeled as natural.

Coal Tar

1. Coal tar

Processed foods contain many different types of dyes to change their colors to something that is “more appealing” to your eyes. Tartrazine is a dye derived from coal tar. This industrial waste-derived food coloring, also known as yellow #5, has been linked to hyperactivity in children.  Coal tar is often used for pavement sealcoats, medicated shampoos and now as an ingredient in our food. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, mixtures that contain more than 5% crude coal are considered a group 1 carcinogens.


Foods that Contain Yellow #5 / Tartrazine:

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Candy (Butterfinger, Lollipops, M&Ms, Starburst, Smarties, Pez, Sweet Hearts, gummy bears and almost all other colored candies), Colored Marshmallows, Fruit Snacks (Fruit roll-ups, Gushers, Twistables, etc), Skim Milk, Yogurt, Butter, Orange Colored Cheeses, Pickles, Orange Colored Snacks (Doritos, Cheetos, etc), Gelatin/Pudding, Mountain Dew, and MANY more products.

Carrageenan Side Effects

2. Carrageenan

Carrageenan is a strange sounding ingredient that is typically found in dairy products. It is commonly used in “natural” products to hold other ingredients together or to thicken them. Carrageenan is actually derived from red seaweeds. Which may not be gross to some, but carrageenan’s side effects include inflammation, which can lead to rheumatoid arthritis, arteriosclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease. Be careful to read the label, as carrageenan is even used in some organic dairy products.

Foods that Contain Carrageenan:

Buttermilk, Chocolate Milk, Cottage Cheese, Cream, Egg Nog, Ice Cream, Kefir, Milk (Shelf-Stable, Almond, Flax, Oat, Rice, Hemp, Hazelnut, Soy), Yogurt, Cheese Alternative,  Pizza, Deli Meat, Juice, and Dips. Here’s a shopping guide that will help you avoid carrageenan.

beaver anus in vanilla raspberry flavoring

3. Beaver Anal Glands

Do you enjoy strawberry, raspberry, or vanilla ice cream? Then you may be secretly “enjoying” beaver anal glands. This FDA approved food additive, is labeled as a “natural flavor”.  The real name for the additive is Castoreum, which originates from female and male castor sacs. So apparently, beaver butt has a raspberry taste to it.  It’s one of the most common “natural ingredient” in raspberry flavored goodies. Due to the tricky labeling, you’d never suspect a thing.

Foods that Contain Castoreum:

Raspberry flavored candy, strawberry/vanilla / raspberry ice-cream. It’s also used in alcoholic beverages, baked goods, gelatin, pudding, soft candy, frozen dairy, hard candy and chewing gum.

Boiled Beetles inside Skittles

4. Boiled Beetles

Do you enjoy an occasional meal of beetle bugs? If you eat processed foods, your answer should be yes! Crushed, boiled or dried beetle, eggs or wings of beetles produce beetle juice, which is then used as food coloring. It’s also referred to in food coloring as Carmine. Purple, pink, orange and red food coloring can all be derived from this insect. This insect-based food coloring has known to produce allergic reactions in some people. But hey, look on the bright side, bugs are low in carbs and gluten-free.

Foods that Contain Carmine:

Skittles, ice-cream, yogurt, candy, waffles, Good n’ Plenty, lemonade, and grapefruit juice.

Hydrolyzed Proteins

5. Hydrolyzed Protein

Hydrolyzed Protein is something that you’d imagine will make you healthy and strong. However, hydrolyzed is just a fancy word that basically means it’s been pre-digested. The protein is soaked in synthetic stomach-like acid. Which is supposed to make it easier to digest for your body. However, it’s also used as a loophole to load MSG into food without having to label it.

Foods that Contain Hydrolyzed Protein: 

Knorr Noodle Sides, Funyuns, Work Out Proteins.

Rodent Hair in Food

6. Rodent hair

If you are a fan of boxed macaroni and cheese or peanut butter, you may also enjoy rodent hair. Each mac and cheese may contain one rodent hair per 50 grams, while the FDA says peanut butter may contain an average of one rodent hair per 100 grams. Phew, I’m not sure if we could handle any more mouse hair or insect parts! These rodent and insect parts are often labeled as “natural contaminants”.

Foods that Contain Rodent Hair / Parts:

Boxed Mac and Cheese, Peanut Butter.

Borax in Food

7. Borax

Borax is an additive known for its preservative and acidity control qualities. It’s also known as E285. This ingredient has been banned from the U.S. and Canada but is still present in EU. Borax is used in household cleaning and laundry products, pottery and as a fire-retardant. There have been warnings that high consumption of this additive over 5-10 can cause cancer.

Foods that Contain Borax:

Caviar, Asian Noodles, Rice Dishes, and Bakso (meatballs).


8. Arsenic

Scientists have been finding traces of arsenic in foods for years. Arsenic is a known carcinogen and is generally hazardous to humans. However, it’s been known to turn up in many foods. For instance, beers and wines that are lighter in color may contain arsenic; as the brewers and makers use diatomaceous earth to filter their products, which contains iron and metals. Opt in for the unfiltered drinks instead.

Foods that Contain Arsenic:

Rice, Cereal, Juice, Beer, and Wine.

Sheep Secretions in Food

9. Sheep Secretions

The gross, strange smelling and greasy substance that moms (who are breast feeding) smear on their breasts is called Lanolin. Lanolin is basically secretions from a sheep. This oily substance comes from the inside of the sheep’s wool. If you ever chewed some gum, you’ve probably tasted this “delightful” additive. It’s listed as “gum base”.

Foods that Contain Lanolin:

Gum, Vitamin D3 Supplements.

Goat Stomach in Food

10. Goat Stomach

Rennet, which is used in making cheese, is extracted from the inside of a goat’s, calf’s, or sheep’s stomach. Many vegetarians consume rennet based cheeses, however, they are obviously misled by tricky labeling. Rennet gives the cheese a better texture, but it’s both disgusting and misleading as a food ingredient.

Foods that Contain Rennet:


Human Hair in Food

11. Human Hair

What do McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Burger King all have in common? Besides being extremely unhealthy, they all use L-cysteine as a food additive. This amino acid extends the shelf life of products like bread. It is usually found in cow horns, chicken and duck feathers. Unfortunately, most of the L-cysteine that is used in food does not come from either of those ingredients. It comes from China, where it’s harvested from human hair found in barbershops and hair salons. Buy freshly baked bread from your baker and as if you needed more reasons to steer clear of fast food restaurants, this may do it.

Foods that Contain L-cysteine:

Commercial bread products.

Do yourself a favor and buy fresh, raw and organic products. It is the best way to avoid these harmful ingredients, cleanse your body and feel great.

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  • debbiey


    Q. What
    is Carrageenan??

    A. Carrageenan
    is a naturally-occurring seaweed
    extract. It is widely used in foods and non-foods to improve texture and
    stability. Common uses include meat and poultry, dairy products, canned pet food,
    cosmetics and toothpaste.

    Q. Why the controversy?

    A. Self-appointed
    consumer watchdogs have produced numerous web pages filled with words
    condemning carrageenan as an unsafe food additive for human consumption. However, in 70+ years of carrageenan being
    used in processed foods, not a single
    substantiated claim of an acute or chronic disease has been reported as arising
    from carrageenan consumption. On a more
    science-based footing, food regulatory agencies in the US, the EU, and in the
    UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) repeatedly
    review and continue to approve carrageenan as a safe food additive.

    Q. What
    has led up to this misrepresentation of the safety of an important food
    stabilizer, gelling agent and thickener?

    A. It
    clearly has to be attributed to the research of Dr. Joanne Tobacman, an
    Associate Prof at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She and a group of molecular biologists have accused
    carrageenan of being a potential inflammatory agent as a conclusion from
    laboratory experiments with cells of the digestive tract. It requires a lot of unproven assumptions to
    even suggest that consumption of carrageenan in the human diet causes
    inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract.
    The objectivity of the Chicago research is also flawed by the fact that
    Dr Tobacman has tried to have carrageenan declared an unsafe food additive on
    weak technical arguments that she broadcast widely a decade before the
    University of Chicago research began.

    Q. What brings poligeenan into a
    discussion of carrageenan?

    A. Poligeenan
    (“degraded carrageenan” in pre-1988 scientific and regulatory publications) is
    a possible carcinogen to humans;
    carrageenan is not. The only
    relationship between carrageenan and poligeenan is that the former is the
    starting material to make the latter. Poligeenan is not a component of
    carrageenan and cannot be produced in the digestive tract from
    carrageenan-containing foods.

    Q. What are the differences between poligeenan
    and carrageenan?

    A. The
    production process for poligeenan requires treating carrageenan with strong
    acid at high temp (about that of boiling water) for 6 hours or more. These severe processing conditions convert
    the long chains of carrageenan to much shorter ones: ten to one hundred times
    shorter. In scientific terms the
    molecular weight of poligeenan is 10,000 to 20,000; whereas that of carrageenan
    is 200,000 to 800,000. Concern has been
    raised about the amount of material in carrageenan with molecular weight less
    than 50,000. The actual amount (well
    under 1%) cannot even be detected accurately with current technology. Certainly
    it presents no threat to human health.

    Q. What is the importance of these
    molecular weight differences?

    A. Poligeenan
    contains a fraction of material low enough in molecular weight that it can
    penetrate the walls of the digestive tract and enter the blood stream. The molecular weight of carrageenan is high
    enough that this penetration is impossible.
    Animal feeding studies starting in the 1960s have demonstrated that once
    the low molecular weight fraction of poligeenan enters the blood stream in
    large enough amounts, pre-cancerous lesions begin to form. These
    lesions are not observed in animals fed with a food containing carrageenan.

    Q. Does carrageenan get absorbed in the
    digestive track?

    A. Carrageenan
    passes through the digestive system intact, much like food fiber. In fact,
    carrageenan is a combination of soluble and insoluble nutritional fiber, though
    its use level in foods is so low as not to be a significant source of fiber in
    the diet.


    has been proven completely safe for consumption. Poligeenan is not a component
    of carrageenan.

    Closing Remarks

    The consumer watchdogs with their blogs and
    websites would do far more service to consumers by researching their sources
    and present only what can be substantiated by good science. Unfortunately we are in an era of media
    frenzy that rewards controversy.

    information available:

    June 11th, 2008, Dr. Joanne Tobacman petitioned the FDA to revoke
    the current regulations permitting use of carrageenan as a food additive.

    On June 11th, 2012 the FDA
    denied her petition, categorically addressing and ultimately dismissing all of
    her claims; their rebuttal supported by the results of several in-depth,
    scientific studies.

    If you would like to read the
    full petition and FDA response, they can be accessed at http://www.regulations.gov/#!searchResults;rpp=25;po=0;s=FDA-2008-P-0347

    • chris

      I appreciate your lengthy response, HOWEVER, I have been suffering from stomach issues over the last 3 years. The symptoms have ranged from severe constipation, upset stomach, extreme pain resulting in hospitalization multiple times, vomiting, etc… Sorry to sound graphic, but my stool was very infrequent and often coming out very, very thin. It would seem as though my stomach or digestive tract was getting smaller and not allowing food to pass. After seeing multiple doctors and having x-rays, enemas and more, doctors could not find a single cause of the problem. They believed that my diet was stellar, and I’m only 32 years old and not overweight.

      After 3 years of this issue and reading more about Carrageenan, I realized how many of the products I regularly ate had this natural additive. If it is at all suspected of causing stomach inflammation or digestive issues, I would point to this additive being the culprit. I am no doctor, but multiple doctors had a clue about how to help me. One doctor literally told me to stop eating indefinitely (huh)?

      I was eating healthy choice, cafe steamers for lunch. I often ate 2 per day for a time. I drank ovaltine with skim milk, I had oscar meyer turkey lunch meat, yogurt, protein shakes, and so on. Carrageenan was in all of this stuff. I ate relatively low fat foods, ate fresh vegetables regularly, drank upwards of 10 glasses per water per day, and still had the issues. So where is the proof, I have stopped eating some of those things, and my stomach has greatly improved. It started acting up again but I did not realize that some of the newer items I was trying had carrageenan in them.

      Despite all of your research, I charge you to tell me that I’m wrong. The concern with this additive is the stomach inflammation, crohn’s disease, ulcers, and stomach cancer, all things that doctor’s were concerned that I had. Praise the Lord I did not have some of the more extreme issues listed. The acute and extreme pain was definitely there. I’m going to err on the side of avoiding this additive. I would suggest that others do the same.

      • Tom

        Dear Chris sorry to hear about your gastrointestinal troubles but I assure you its not because your hippy diet wasnt hardcore enough. Without having access to your test results I would suggest these could be symptoms of Crohns disease which (oddly enough) my dog and my father are afflicted by. Unfortunately for you, Crohns is not caused by chemical additives in food. It is an autoimmune disease that people are genetically predisposed to and can only manage slightly with diet (and not in the way you think). The best way to cut down symptoms is to avoid lots of carbs, meat and alcohol. Crohns disease is accelerated by presence of certain microflora in your gut, taking antibiotics and pesticides out of foods will not make harmful or beneficial bacteria leave your body and could potentially make your crohns worse.

        One case of observational evidence doesnt constitute a scientific truth (if you consider what you said such). It could be a coincedence or a placebo. where are the peer reviewed and impartial studies?
        Youre wrong.

  • NatesMama1128

    There’s nothing wrong with GMO’s. Quit perpetuating that myth that has been debunked several times over.

    • Seriously? Perhaps from a very narrow lens, but clearly not if you look at the impact from lab to plate and all points in between? Since the first transgenic approved foods in the early 90’s the use of glyphosate has increased 16-fold. And while that application was originally used before or during planting, farmers are now starting to use it to kill weeds days before harvest to remove obstruction weeds to aid harvesting. That’s has resulted in significant increases in glyphosate residue on some fruit/vegetables in distribution. And this is also a very narrow lens on the entire chain. I share just this one to show the baselessness of your comment. So please hold your sweeping, and erroneous, generalization to yourself lest you get in the way of people actually trying to attain knowledge on a the subject.

      • Terry Licia

        But aren’t there a few other theories about that? Change in timing re: application of herbicides? Cause ‘transgenic’ isn’t about weed or bug killer, it’s about changing DNA of the plant … ?? I’ve now confused myself. Great article .. this is an older article, in web time! lol a year.

    • Sue367

      Thats why the European nations have banned all GMO productions, becasue they are harmless?

      • Ed

        European Union banned them out of caution, not because there was actually any tangible evidence of GMOs causing real harm. They wanted to play it safe, that’s all there is to it. Not some giant conspiracy by the NWO or some stupid thing like that that people come up with to deny cold hard facts.

        • leslie landberg

          Follow the money. The EU is corrupt. Environmental agencies tasked with investigating the ecological and medical impacts of growing and consuming GMO products as well as the pesticides which they are designed to withstand, have demonstrated again and again the many dangers to fertility and biological health. Those studies have been ignored in favor of industry led rubber stamps.

    • Timsoonourside

      Nothing wrong with Indian farmers drinking glyphosate?! Things are pretty hellish in South America too, from what I hear.

    • Ed

      Finally, someone with their head screwed on tight. People don’t realise we’ve been genetically modifying food ever since we’ve learnt the art of agriculture. Modern methods are akin to taking an F1 car down the highway versus plodding along on your two feet.

      • leslie landberg

        You display ignorance on the topic when you confuse age old horticultural methods with genetic splicing. Yes, they both ostensibly have the same purpose, namely to improve some aspect of the plant. But the comparison stops there.

  • bereal

    While most of the ingredients listed are indeed disgusting, rennet isn’t. That’s how cheese is made and has been made for thousands of years. There is a gland in the calf’s stomach that enables the calf to digest milk. It separates the milk solids from the water. People (for thousands of years) have harvested that gland(when they kill a calf) dried it, pulverized it and then added it into milk at a precise dose. Within 30 minutes the milk is thick and then ready for the next step. It’s not disgusting. It’s good. Every real cheese maker in this world(99.9%) uses rennet, while a few hippies use a vegetarian substitute.

  • Sue367

    Agreed, I don’t believe any animal should be harmed for human greed. There are so many cheese making companies that make organic and or rennet free cheese. Its all about the good choice’s we make that improve humanity as a hole.

    • anonymous


      • Sue367

        Oh My Goodness, thank you so much for your grammar correction, damn me for missing the “W”. I am not sure where I would be without it. Unless I am submitting a paper for a university degree, I do-not care If one letter was not typed. You obviously do not have much to fulfill your days with. Regards nameless person.

        • Terry Licia

          The correction symbolized more than a misspelling, but … think of this: humans have used rennet for 1000’s of years, and they have eaten meat protein for about two million years. It’s not about greed – it’s about food, eating something that’s been in the Euro diet for forever practically. It’s both a huge cultural desire and it was once an absolute need, and still is in significant parts of the planet. The additional protein and calories from meat gave us the very large human brain size. 🙂 We are who we are today, because of we ate meat we’ve been eating for about two million years! Everyone can choose today in prosperous countries. We’re quite blessed, IMHO. But never forget the influence of time … two million years?!! Grew our brain sizes! Just Google these words ” meat eaters, protein, earliest humans, brain size ” — and check out just the first page! 🙂

  • Corinne

    I’ve never done this before but I have been looking for someone to help me get a message out. I have been a hairdresser for 38 years and in the last year and a half I have noticed a rapid decrease in mostly females hair. I do believe it is from the food we are consuming. Something in our bodies are now showing the effects. I need someone to help me do research. I have pictures to document the decrease of hair. All anyone has to do is look in the mirror..it to is most noticeable at the temple areas. I love what I do but it is making my job harder because I can’t do the styles people want. Someone please help so we can find out what is causing this and can get healthy hair back.

    • leslie landberg

      Yes, I can handle this one! Our follicular health, and by extension (no pun intended) our hair shaft’s health, is determined by the nutrional profiles found in our blood, organs and skin. The skin, by the way, is an organ and this includes, especially in this case, the scalp, in which the follicles are imbedded and derive their nutrients. Biotin is a very important nutrient and, along with vitamins E and C, is essential for healthy hair growth. Most individuals eating ordinary, conventional diets are sorely lacking in essential nutrients of all kinds, including vitamins and many minerals. In fact, in the past 80 years or so of industrial farming, our soils have been severely depleted of their mineral content and thus our food is sorely lacking in those minerals. 97% of the minerals in the soil are gone compared to 100 years ago, even if you eat organic. I take fulvic acid liquid organic supplements, biotin, complex B, liposomal C, ioncally suspended liquid calcium and magnesium, folate (not folic acid, which is not the same thing, chicken bone broth and other things, all of which help my heart, liver, gut, brain and hair growth. Getting to bed before 10:30 at night and avoiding stress are also absolute essentials. The melatonin our brain makes is only produced when we are rested and sleep regularly. Melatonin helps regulate pituitary function and endocrine function, all of which, when impaired, will cause your hair to thin and break. In short, modern living is killing us, our hair is one of the earliest indications of our bodies not being in healthy balance and so we are losing hair.

      • Hey Leslie, you make some great points. How would you like to contribute an article on Organics on the topic? Reach out to us at love@organics.org.

  • Loboe Rex

    Seriously? You think they kill a calf just to get rennet? The calf is already dead because it is being processed into meat, leather and other products from it’s bones and organs. Rennet is only one of those materials. And they are not killing cute little baby calves “Veal”.. or cute little baby lambs when “Lamb” goes to the store. You have the internet at your disposal. Put the games and Facebook away and start doing some research and educate yourself.

  • Teacher Needs a Raise

    They forgot to add “cochineal’ to the list. I’m highly allergic to it. I googled it, and its really gross. if you have a cockroach allergy, be sure to steer away from products containing red #40 or cochineal. It’s in almost anything with red dye.

  • Joshua Martin

    and cheese is delicious.

  • Bmathena

    Why the hate on castoreum? I thought you were for all natural organic? Can’t eat anything more organic than wild beaver.

  • leslie landberg

    Just want to put on a good word for arsenic. Seriously. Not joking. Look up Arsenic Essers. This may be controversial, but the science on this one is valid. It appears that throughout the region we know as the Tyrols and extending into Croatia and the Transylvainian region there were ancient groups of people who were extremely long lived and agile well into advanced old age. They attributed much of their uncommon vigor to the traditional consumption of really huge quantities or arsenic! typically the arsenic eaters (essers in German) would start their children with just one grain, increasing the dose over many years by a grain at a time until mature people would be consuming quantities that given at a single dose would prove instantly fatal. But far from being fatal, it imparted in their communities a supernaturally youthful quality. Must was written about their practices at the time, but the practice all but died out in the early 20th century, when vast hordes of European immigrants flooded the shores of America seeking refuge and discovered that arsenic was difficult to obtain and most likely beyond their financial reach. Unless arsenic was consumed in the quantities they had taken it before, they very quickly died. Thus the practice was hastily discontinued. The ancient Greeks and Romans knew about the practice as did the Essenes and Stoics and quite probably Aruvedic texts mention it, as well. The Borgia’s, the Tudors and French aristocracy practiced a version of arsenic eating, ostensibly to prevent death by poisoning, but also for vigor and longevity, as the practice was well known. I, for one, am fascinated. And when I hear that Chrystal Geyser was forced to filter out the minute quantities of arsenic which was naturally occurring in their protected Aquifer fed spring water, I was saddened at the prospect that a little understood and much maligned organic was removed.