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Gross Myths

7 Gross Food Myths That Don’t Make Sense (but People Still Believe)

Photo: Yanawut.S (Shutterstock)Eating food that’s prepared by somebody else involves a lot of trust. We need to know that the person or company who made the food did the job right, and that’s why we have health inspectors for restaurants and farms, and ingredients labels that give some transparency as to what’s actually in our…

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Eating food that’s prepared by somebody else involves a lot of trust. Trust is essential when eating food prepared by someone else. We have health inspectors at restaurants and farms and ingredient labels that provide some transparency about what’s in the food.

Still, we don’t see a lot of what goes into making our food. There’s no limit to our imaginations, whether we’re talking of faraway farm fields or behind a wall in a restaurant kitchen. What if something really disgusting was in our food, and we didn’t know? These myths are not true but some people want to believe them.

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Myth: Chocolate milk is made to hide blood from sick cows

Myth: Chocolate milk is made to hide blood from sick cows

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Why is chocolate milk brown? It is not because someone added chocolate flavoring to regular dairy milk. One myth states that brown coloring covers up blood and pus from milk from sick cows. One dairy farmer notes that

this would require a whole separate set of trucks and equipment specifically for handling bloody milk
, making it a more expensive endeavor than simply discarding the milk as regulations require.

Blood can occasionally occur in milk, but it’s considered unfit for human consumption. Bonus: At that link you can find a photo of bloody milk that was incorrectly shared as what milk looks like “before they whiten it.”

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Myth: Milk is full of “pus cells”

Myth: Milk is full of “pus cells”

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A related myth is that milk (chocolate or otherwise) is full of pus. PETA points out that a government regulation allows for a certain amount of somatic cells per milliliter of milk. The grain of truth here is that the FDA sets a limit of 750,000 somatic cells per milliliter of milk (or 750 million per liter). But the cells mentioned here are somatic cells, or in other words, cells from the the cow’s body that include milk-producing cells and immune cells. Normal, healthy milk contains somatic cells. They are not the same thing as pus.

That said, cows with mastitis (an infection of the udder) can have more of these cells in their milk than healthy cows, which is one of the reasons a high somatic cell count isn’t allowed. It is not allowed to sell milk from cows suffering from mastitis. The milk tastes bad and spoils faster.

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Myth: KFC isn’t really chicken

Myth: KFC isn’t really chicken

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In 1991, the restaurant formerly (and currently) known as Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded to just “KFC.” Doing so de-emphasized the “fried” part of the name (remember, it was the ’90s), made the name shorter and slicker, and shifted the focus away from just the chicken offerings. These are the same boring reasons corporate rebrandings are made.

Sometime after that, an urban legend cropped up, claiming that the source of KFC’s drumsticks was a lab-grown mutant creature with six legs and no head. It’s fed a nutrient slurry, and we cannot help noticing that this particular version of the rumor reached Snopes in the same year that the Matrix was released.

Besides the fact that the menu items never stopped being called “chicken,” your biggest clue that this can’t be true is that scientists have still not figured out how to create lab-grown meat in an affordable way. It needs to be fed an expensive animal-derived serum and, as of 2018, still cost thousands of dollars per burger to produce.

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Myth: Fast food is so full of chemicals it doesn’t rot

Myth: Fast food is so full of chemicals it doesn’t rot

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Sometimes, we’re so eager to believe a gross food myth that we forget how actual food works. The Quechua people have been making jerky from llama meat for thousands of years, but apply the same concept by drying out a McDonald’s patty and suddenly it’s a horrifying demonstration of how many “chemicals” or “preservatives” must be in a fast food meal.

Same deal with the bun: Toast some bread and let it dry out, and you have croutons, or crunchy breadsticks, or crackers–unless the bread was a bun from a restaurant that sells cheap burgers, and then it’s a cautionary tale about how fast food is “not food substances.” We have a deep dive into non-rotting burgers here, concluding that this myth is a big nothingburger.

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Myth: Fast food burgers are full of eyeballs and worms

Myth: Fast food burgers are full of eyeballs and worms

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What’s in a McDonald’s burger? One assumes that there are all kinds of gross stuff in a McDonald’s burger. Oh, the ingredients list says it’s 100% beef? It must be some sort of trick.

One urban legend holds that the burgers are purchased from a supplier named “100% Beef” which happens to sell burger-like objects made from anything but its namesake. Ground beef can often be made from lower-market cuts of meat. But we are not talking about sirloin trimmings. It’s much more profitable for meat suppliers to sell cow eyeballs and burgers to science labs. It’s a similar story with earthworms, which have also been rumored to be a main ingredient of McDonald’s burgers; worm meat is not produced at anywhere near the scale of beef and is far more expensive.

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Myth: Jell-O is made from hooves

Myth: Jell-O is made from hooves

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This one is almost a rite of passage: as a child, you’re served sweet, fruity Jell-O and don’t question what it’s made of. Then you learn that its main ingredient is gelatin and gelatin comes from animals?!

So far, that’s all true. Gelatin is made of collagen. Collagen is a major component of connective tissues. Connective tissue can be found in many different places on an animal’s (or a human’s) body. Connective tissue can be found in many places on a person’s (or animal’s) body.

But, sorry, not hooves. Although hooves can contain some collagen, they are mostly keratin. Gelatin is made from skins and bones, usually of pigs and cows. If you find this still disgusting, please send me your uneaten Jell O.

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Myth: Taco Bell’s meat isn’t meat

Myth: Taco Bell’s meat isn’t meat

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Taco Bell is lucky enough to stand at the intersection of two targets of urban legends: It’s a fast-food chain serving meat, and it serves food associated with Latinx cultures. (Xenophobic food-related urban legends are a whole genre unto themselves.) 23 The same things have been said about Taco Bell’s seasoned beef burgers. But there’s more.

One lawsuit alleged that the chain’s taco beef was only 36% beef, leading us to speculate what the hell is in the other 64%. The only possible answer is meat from other animals or mayyybe-textured vegetable protein (TVP). You’ll be able to make chili using TVP if you’ve tried it. The lawsuit was eventually dropped, and Taco Bell’s recipe turns out to be beef with a bunch of pretty normal seasonings. The sauce contains soybean oil, oat flour to thicken, nutritional yeast, garlic, as well as a variety of seasonings

Another myth is that Taco Bell’s taco beef contains horse meat. Another myth is that Taco Bell’s taco beef contains horse meat. The meat was recalled. The same supplier also sold the meat to IKEA. Taco Bells in America don’t use European suppliers so this wasn’t an issue.

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Myth: Taco Bell’s beans aren’t beans! KFC potatoes are not potatoes

Myth: Taco Bell’s beans aren’t beans! KFC’s potatoes don’t taste like potatoes

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Every now and then, a fast food worker will post some aspect of their job on TikTok (or whatever is the dominant platform of the time) and some small corner of the teenage internet will absolutely lose their shit.

In one recent edition of this frenzy, people are scandalized that KFC’s mashed potatoes are not lovingly mashed from actual potatoes in the store; the potatoes are mashed at a factory, dehydrated, and reconstituted before serving. Before that, it was Taco Bell’s refried beans, which arrive at the store as dehydrated pellets. People can get instant refried beans and boxed potatoes at the grocery shop. They’re fine.

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