How many disgusting things do you eat in your food that you are not aware of?


Maneka Sanjay Gandhi


(Bihar Times) Let’s list a few based on dead insects, animal slime, vomit and faeces.

1. Many sweets, jelly beans, and chocolate products are coated in something called confectioner's glaze. Confectioner's glaze comes from the Lac bug, Laccifer lacca, a scale insect which lives as a parasite on plants, particularly banyan trees. The Lac bug is used to create a waxy, waterproof coating, called shellac, for shine on furniture and food, waxes, adhesives, paints, cosmetics, varnishes, fertilizers, medicine pills coatings and confectionery. Look for any of the following ingredients on labels to find the hidden Lac bugs in your food: candy glaze, resin glaze, natural food glaze, confectioner's glaze, confectioner's resin, Lac resin, Lacca, or gum lac.

2. Every country has come to terms with the fact that they cannot take out animals from food. So the Indian government has mandated that rat faeces are allowed in wheat and rice. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the body overseeing the protection of public health by insuring the safety of food. However, giving food companies a strange loophole to protect themselves, the FDA permits a certain degree of insects, such as worms or aphids, so long as their presence doesn't compromise the “aesthetic”  quality of the food – the look! The FDA has a Defects Level Handbook which allows insect fragments, rat hair and faeces “legally” – which means you cannot sue the manufacturers of various foods, should you find insects in your food.  Staples like broccoli, canned tomatoes, and hops readily contain “insect fragments”—heads, thoraxes, and legs—and even whole insects. Fig paste can harbour up to 13 insect heads in 100 grams; canned fruit juices can contain a maggot for every 250 millilitres; 10 grams of hops can be the home for 2,500 aphids . Writers at the Scientific American estimate that “an individual probably ingests about one to two pounds of flies, maggots and other bugs each year without even knowing it.” For spinach, the action limit is 50 or more aphids, thrips and/or mites per 100 grams. Beer should be reclassified as Bug Beer. The FDA’s limit on the hops that go into the tank is 2,500 aphids per 10 grams of hops.  5% of the total weight of the hops making your beer can be insects. 100 kilos of chocolate allows one kilo of insects and 100 kilos of bread can have 1.5 kilos of insect. Ten insects and 35 fruit fly eggs per 8 oz. of raisins is allowed and four rodent hairs per 100 grams in wheat, curry powder, allspice, and ground pepper. The number of whole aphids that the FDA deems permissible varies from vegetable to vegetable. 30 whole aphids/100 grams in Brussels sprouts and about 60 in frozen broccoli is permissible. 50 Corn lice or thrips are allowed in every 100 grams of canned or frozen spinach or in a package of frozen cabbage / sauerkraut. 75 white mites and 20 maggots for 100 gms of canned mushrooms. 5 fruit flies in canned fruit juice. 5 brown weevil larva in every can of peas or lobia (blackeyed peas). 10% of coffee beans are allowed to be infested with insects.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has its own way of grading food with insects in it. For cabbage, 10 aphids on a head can still equal a no.1 grading during inspection, but any presence of worms on the head (not the leaves) brings the vegetable down to a no.2 grading – still permissible to be sold but cheaper.

The Jains have been campaigning for years that tapioca (sabudana) should be banned because it has thousands of dead insects in it.

3. Rennet is a group of enzymes found in calves to digest their mothers’ milk. It is a crucial part of making commercial cheese. Rennet for cheese making is obtained by slicing up a calf's stomach, soaking it in whey and wine or vinegar, and then filtering it. Unless it says specifically on the label that rennet has not been used, you can be sure that your branded cheese has calf enzymes in it. 

4. Castoreum, a common additive, is made from beaver anal glands. Castoreum is an anal secretion beavers use to mark their territories. It smells like vanilla. Castoreum (CAS NO. 8023-83-4; FEMA NO. 2261)  is an extract that is used  in baked goods, especially as vanilla flavouring. The beaver is killed and the anal sacs cut off and dried in alcohol and macerated. It has been used extensively in perfumery and has been added to food as a flavour ingredient for at least 80 years and labelled as “natural flavouring”. The raw form is described as "birch tar or Russian leather."

Fernelli's Handbook Of Flavor Ingredients puts individual annual consumption of castoreum extract at .000081 mg/kg/day, in products like frozen dairy, gelatines, puddings, and non-alcoholic beverages. Castoreum extract can be used to enhance raspberry or strawberry flavourings.

5. All commercial biscuits and breads contain an amino acid, called L Cysteine, which is made from boiled and filtered human hair and duck feathers. All the hair cut from devotee heads and sold by the Tiirupati Temple Trust goes to L Cysteine manufacturers.

6. Carmine is the red pigment that is used for any cosmetics, food or drink that is red/pink in colour. 70,000 scale insects called cochineal bugs, which suck the sap from cactus, are killed, dried and crushed and used in cosmetics, wines, camparis, shampoos, sauces, sweets and food colouring for everything from sausages and crabs to pink pastries, yogurts and juices. Recently, Starbucks admitted to using the dye in their drinks. To find out if a product contains cochineal bugs, look for any of the following ingredients on the label: cochineal extract, cochineal, carmine, carminic acid, E 120 or Natural Red No. 4.10. Fish bladders are used to clarify wines, beers and food. Millions of fish are killed daily just for their bladders and these are called Isinglass.

I haven’t even started on the bee products: honey made from bee vomit for instance.  Or the industrial chemicals that dye food from fish to salad dressing. Next week I will tell you about the disgusting things in your cosmetics.

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in



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