3 Sneaky Ways Bad Ingredients Get Into Your Meals

round white ceramic plate filled with waffle

If you’re focused on cooking and eating healthy meals at home, you probably go to great lengths to ensure you only use the best ingredients. For instance, maybe you avoid sugar substitutes and anti-caking agents, bake your food instead of frying it in oil, and only buy the freshest, organic produce you can find.

Taking these precautions will go a long way to ensure you have pure food, but there are still ways bad ingredients might sneak into your meals.

1. Some foods secretly contain talc

As a natural mineral mined from the earth, talc is known for being ground into a powder and used as the basis for baby powder. It’s also used in cosmetics, and strangely enough, food.

Talc is widely used as an anti-caking agent in foods like rice, gum, powdered foods, and even dietary supplements. It also adds shine to food products. It’s hard to know what contains talc because it’s not always listed on the label. For example, white rice is often coated in talc, but you won’t see it listed as an ingredient. If you eat white rice, you’re probably eating talc. When manufacturers do list it as an ingredient, it’s usually called ‘hydrated magnesium silicate.’

What’s wrong with talc?

Talc is not recognized as a carcinogen in the United States, but the problem is that talc and asbestos are often found close together in the earth. It’s common for a small amount of asbestos to contaminate the talc during the mining process.

If you aren’t aware, there have been tens of thousands of lawsuits filed against Johnson and Johnson, claiming their talcum powder products cause cancer because of the asbestos contamination. Asbestos is also a naturally-occurring mineral, but unlike talc, it has sharp, jagged edges at the microscopic level.

When ingested, asbestos fibers become lodged in a person’s stomach lining. Over time, the presence of asbestos creates prolonged inflammation that eventually results in cancer. This type of cancer is called malignant peritoneal mesothelioma, and it is extremely aggressive. By the time people start to show symptoms, it’s decades later, and the cancer is already spreading fast.

The only way to avoid this sneaky ingredient is to skip using packaged foods that contain powdered ingredients and/or foods known to contain talc. Since not everything is labeled properly, it’s hard to know for sure.

2. Bad ingredients are often by-products

There are thousands of chemical food additives that are bad for your health, and most of them have been created in labs. However, that’s not the only way toxic additives get into your food.

Sometimes, chemical food additives also occur naturally as part of a chemical reaction, and it’s hard to know what you’re actually eating. For example, there are 40 different ingredients that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) alongside the additive known as MSG. In fact, since MSG is a by-product, it’s even found in some organic foods.

The FDA has no requirement that food manufacturers list MSG as an ingredient unless it’s being added to the food and is 99% pure. When the presence of MSG is the result of protein hydrolysis, it doesn’t need to be listed. You could be eating MSG without even knowing, and that’s scary, considering all of the neurological issues linked to consumption.

3. Companies use an FDA loophole

You would think all food additives need to pass the FDA’s test for safety, but that’s not the case. The FDA allows ingredients to be declared “generally recognized as safe” if they meet certain criteria and are determined safe by someone with the right credentials. That sounds nice, but there is no oversight or rules governing the process.

Food manufacturers can simply inform the FDA that they have determined a chemical to be generally recognized as safe and then start using it in food. The FDA has nothing to do with this determination.

Since you can’t rely on the “GRAS” label to know if an additive is safe for consumption, you’ll need to use your own judgment. Ideally, you should avoid all foods with additives since it’s hard to say any of them are truly safe.

Grow your own food to escape sneaky ingredients

Ultimately, the only way to know you’re eating good food is to grow it yourself or buy local produce from the farmer’s market and prepare food with raw ingredients. It’s time-consuming and takes effort, but in the end, it’s the best way to ensure you’re eating healthy food.