Home The War on Sugar The 6 Most Horrifying Lies The Food Industry Is Feeding You

The 6 Most Horrifying Lies The Food Industry Is Feeding You

by Erika Nicole Kendall

One of the readers dropped this lovely little link in via facebook, and I’m so glad she did:


If there’s one thing in the world the food industry is dead set against, it’s allowing you to actually maintain some level of control over what you eat. See, they have this whole warehouse full of whatever they bought last week when they were drunk that they need to get rid of — and they will do so by feeding it all to you. And it doesn’t matter how many pesky “lists of ingredients” and consumer protections stand between you and them.

#6. The Secret Ingredient: Wood

You know what’s awesome? Newspaper. Or, to be precise, the lack thereof. The Internet and other electric media have all but eaten up classic print media, with the circulations of almost all papers on the wane. Say, do you ever wonder what they do with all that surplus wood pulp?

“But Cracked,” you inquire, “what does this have to do with food ingredients?”

And we look at you squarely in the eye, then slowly bring our gaze upon the half-eaten bagel in your hand.

Oh, sh-t

The Horror:

What do they do with all the cellulose wood pulp? They hide it behind a bullsh-t name and make you eat it, that’s what.

And everybody’s doing it. Aunt Jemima’s pancake syrup? Cellulose. Pillsbury Pastry Puffs? Cellulose. Kraft Bagel-Fuls? Fast-food cheese? Sara Lee’s breakfast bowls? Cellulose, cellulose, g-ddamn cellulose.

It turns out that cellulose can provide texture to processed foods, so food companies have taken to happily using it as a replacement for such unnecessary and inconveniently expensive ingredients as flour and oil. As the 30 percent cheaper cellulose is edible and non-poisonous, the FDA has no interest for restricting its use — or, for that matter, the maximum amount of it that food companies can use in a product. It is pretty much everywhere, and even organic foods are no salvation — after all, cellulose used to be wood and can therefore be called organic, at least to an extent.

But the worst thing about cellulose is not that it’s everywhere. The worst thing is that it is not food at all. Cellulose is, unlike the actual, normal food items you think you’re paying for, completely indigestible by human beings, and it has no nutritional value to speak of. If a product contains enough of it, you can literally get more nutrients from licking the sweet, sweet fingerprints off its wrapper.

#5. Zombie Orange Juice

Quick, name the most healthy drink your nearest store has to offer. You said orange juice, didn’t you? It’s what everybody makes you drink when you get sick. Hell, that sh-t must be like medicine or something. And the labels are always about health benefits — the cartons scream “100 percent natural!”, “Not from concentrate!” and “No added sugar!”

And why not believe them? When it comes to making the stuff, orange juice isn’t sausage. You take oranges, you squeeze oranges, you put the result in a carton, with or without pulp. End of story, beginning of deliciousness.

But what if we told you that “freshly squeezed” juice of yours can very well be a year old, and has been subjected to stuff that would make the Re-Animator puke?

The Horror:

Ever wonder why every carton of natural, healthy, 100 percent, not-from-concentrate orange juice manages to taste exactly the same, yet ever so slightly different depending on the brand, despite containing no additives or preservatives whatsoever?

The process indeed starts with the oranges being squeezed, but that’s the first and last normal step in the process. The juice is then immediately sealed in giant holding tanks and all the oxygen is removed. That allows the liquid to keep without spoiling for up to a year. That’s why they can distribute it year-round, even when oranges aren’t in season.

There is just one downside to the process (from the manufacturers’ point of view, that is) — it removes all the taste from the liquid. So, now they’re stuck with vats of extremely vintage watery fruit muck that tastes of paper and little else. What’s a poor giant beverage company to do? Why, they re-flavor that sh-t with a carefully constructed mix of chemicals called a flavor pack, which are manufactured by the same fragrance companies that formulate CK One and other perfumes. Then they bottle the orange scented paper water and sell it to you.

And, thanks to a loophole in regulations, they often don’t even bother mentioning the flavor pack chemicals in the list of ingredients. Hear that low moan from the kitchen? That’s the Minute Maid you bought yesterday. It knows you know.

#4. Ammonia-Infused Hamburger

Any restaurant that serves hamburger goes out of its way to reassure you how pure and natural it is. Restaurant chains like McDonald’s (“All our burgers are made from 100 percent beef, supplied by farms accredited by nationally recognized farm assurance schemes”) and Taco Bell (“Like all U.S. beef, our 100 percent premium beef is USDA inspected, then passes our 20 quality checkpoints”) happily vouch for the authenticity of their animal bits. Their testaments to the healthiness and fullness of their meat read out like they were talking about freaking filet mignon.

And aside from the rare E.coli outbreak, the meat is clean. It’s how they get it clean that’s unsettling.

The Horror:

Ammonia. You know, the harsh chemical they use in fertilizers and oven cleaners? It kills E.coli really well. So, they invented a process where they pass the hamburger through a pipe where it is doused in ammonia gas. And you probably never heard about it, other than those times that batches of meat stink of ammonia so bad that the buyer returns it.

The ammonia process is an invention of a single company called Beef Products Inc., which originally developed it as a way to use the absolute cheapest parts of the animal, instead of that silly “prime cuts” stuff the competitors were offering (and the restaurant chains swear we’re still getting). Consequently, Beef Products Inc. has pretty much cornered the burger patty market in the U.S. to the point that 70 percent of all burger patties out there are made by them. Thanks, ammonia!

#3. Fake Berries

Imagine a blueberry muffin.

Even with your freshly gained knowledge that there may or may not be some cellulose in the cake mix, it’s pretty impossible not to start salivating at the thought. This is largely because of the berries themselves. What’s better — they’re so very, very healthy that it’s almost wrong for them to taste so good.

Everything is better with blueberries — that’s why they put them in so many foods. Now that we think of it, there sure seems to be a lot of blueberries in a lot of products. You’d think we’d see more blueberry fields around …

The Horror:

… not that it would do any good, as the number of blueberries you’ve eaten within the last year that have actually come from such a field is likely pretty close to zero.

Studies of products that supposedly contain blueberries indicate that many of them didn’t originate in nature. All those dangly and chewy and juicy bits of berry are completely artificial, made with different combinations of corn syrup and a little chemist’s set worth of food colorings and other chemicals with a whole bunch of numbers and letters in their names.

They do a damn good job of faking it, too — you need a chemist’s set of your own to be able to call bullsh-t. You can sort of tell them from the ingredient lists, too, if you know what to look for, although the manufacturers tend to camouflage them under bullshit terms like “blueberry flakes” or “blueberry crunchlets.”

There are a number of major differences between the real thing and the Abomination Blueberry: The fake blueberries have the advantages of a longer shelf life and, of course, being cheaper to produce. But they have absolutely none of the health benefits and nutrients of the real thing. This, of course, doesn’t stop the manufacturers from riding the Blueberry Health Train all the way to the bank, sticking pictures of fresh berries and other bullshit cues all over the product packaging.

Now, here’s some good news: The law does require the manufacturers to put the whole artificial thing out there for the customers. The bad news, however, is that they have gotten around this, too. First up, the Kellogg’s Mini-Wheats way:

This is somewhat recognizable. They just stick a picture of the berries there, while not actually bothering to conceal the fact that the actual cereal looks like it’s made of cardboard and Smurf paste.

A bunch of Betty Crocker products and Target muffins use the second route, which brings the cheat level even further by actually containing an unspecified amount of real berries. This way they can legally advertise natural flavors while substituting the vast majority of berries with the artificial ones.

Or, you can just take the “we don’t give a f-ck anymore” route, as evidenced by General Mills’ Total Blueberry Pomegranate cereal. The whole selling point of the product is that it contains a bucketload of blueberries and pomegranates, and the package boasts all the buzzwords the marketing department has been able to dream up.

In reality, not only are the blueberries fake, but also they’ve forged the freaking pomegranates as well.

#2. “Free Range” Chickens That Are Crammed Into a Giant Room

Buying “free range” eggs is one of the easiest ways to feel good as a consumer — they are at least as readily available as “normal,” mass produced eggs from those horrible giant chicken prisons Big Egg maintains. Hell, they even cost pretty much the same. There’s literally no reason not to buy free range even though, now that we think about it, we’re not actually sure what that means. But the animals must live in pretty good conditions. In fact, let’s buy our meat and poultry free range, too!

Well, according to law, the definition of “free range” is that chickens raised for their meat “have access to the outside.” OK … so that’s not quite as free as we assumed, and it appears to only apply to chickens raised for their meat. But at least they still have some freedom, what with the outside and all that.

The Horror:

Words have power, and “free range” in its original sense means unfenced and unrestrained. That makes it a powerful phrase that, no matter how smart we are, conjures subconscious images of freedom hens, riding tiny little freedom horses out on the plains, wearing hen-sized cowboy hats and leaving a happy little trail of delicious freedom eggs in their wake. There may be mandolin music.

But the reality is there are absolutely no regulations whatsoever for the use of the term “free range” on anything other than chickens raised for their meat. Your Snickers bar could be free range for all the government cares.

The industry knows this full well and happily makes us lap up the free range myth, even though in reality a free range hen lives in pretty much the same prison as a battery cage hen — except its whole life takes place in the prison shower, rather than a cell.

Awareness of the free range myth is slowly increasing, but although a manufacturer that has been pushing his luck a bit too much does get jailed every once in a while, that doesn’t do much to the overall phenomenon. In fact, Europe is set to ban egg production in cage systems come 2012. Guess what the replacement is going to be?

#1. Bullsh-t Health Claims

Nuts that reduce risk of heart disease. Yogurts that improve digestion and keep you from getting sick. Baby food that saves your kid from atopic dermatitis, whatever the hell that may be. Products like that are everywhere these days, and we do have to admit it’s hard to see any drawbacks to them. We eat yogurt anyway, so why not make it good for our tummy while we’re at it?

It’s just that we can’t keep wondering where all these magic groceries suddenly appeared from. One day your peanuts were peanuts, and then, all of a sudden, it was all coronary disease this and reduce heart attack risks that. Maybe Food Science just had a really, really productive field day a while back?

Or, of course, it could be that we’re being fooled yet again.

The Horror:

The vast majority of product health claims use somewhat older technology than most of us realize: the ancient art of bullsh-tting. The “health effects” of wonder yogurts and most other products with supposed medical-level health benefits can be debunked completely, thoroughly and easily. So why are they able to keep marketing this stuff?

It all started in 2002, when many ordinary foods found themselves suddenly gaining surprising, hitherto unseen superpowers. This is when the FDA introduced us to a new category of pre-approved product claims. It was called “qualified health claims,” and it was basically just another list of marketing bullsh-t the company can use if their product meets certain qualifications. This was nothing new. What was new, however, was that the list said no consensus for the scientific evidence for the product’s health claims was needed.

Since “no consensus needed” is law-talk for “pay a dude in a lab coat enough to say your product is magic and we’ll take his word for it no matter what everyone else says,” companies immediately went apesh-t. Suddenly, everyone had a respected scientist or six in their corner, and the papers they published enabled basically whatever they wanted to use in their marketing and packaging.

We’re not saying that none of the products boasting health properties work. There are plenty out there, but they’re kind of difficult to find under the constant stream of bullsh-t supplementary claims. Come on, food industry — just tell us the truth. Don’t you realize that we’ll just eat it anyway? Shit, people still buy cigarettes, don’t they?


Welp, to put it in the words of my mom, “You can’t eat anything, anymore!”

Neither the blueberries nor the wood should come as a surprise to BGG2WL readers, but the orange juice threw even me for a loop. The meat, well… let’s just say that pre-packaged ground beef has its flaws.


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atribitt September 27, 2011 - 9:37 AM

I’ve been reading your posts for months now and this is my first time commenting. Wow! BRAVO! I’m crying because this is so sad, but I’m laughing because your delivery is so on point. That’s all. I feel like it’s pointless to “read labels”. Why waste the time on reading labels when I should get the stuff that’s not in a package, right?

Natasha September 27, 2011 - 11:39 AM

So I knew about the berries. The OJ doesn’t surprise me; good thing I stopped drinking it eons ago.

But the WOOD IN BREAD?????? Depressing.

Natasha September 27, 2011 - 11:42 AM

Shoot, I hit ‘submit’ too soon.

The NYT had an article this past Sunday that extinguished the belief that eating good, healthful foods is more expensive than fast food.

But when you take this article into account, what’s safe to eat? Meat and eggs from the Farmer’s Market (which I’m assuming is the best source) is MUCH more expensive.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 27, 2011 - 1:27 PM

Yep – the one by @bittman? I’m right there with you. 🙂

KalleyC September 27, 2011 - 1:23 PM

Dang! These food companies are a trip! When I started my weighloss journey more than a year ago, I decided that I didn’t want to buy prepackaged stuff. Of course I thought that orange juice was okay. Boy was I wrong!

Goes to show that the food industry are really not interested in us as people, just us as consumers. Darn shame. Gotta start taking back the food and begin to make everything from scratch.

Curlstar September 27, 2011 - 2:48 PM

The food manufacturers look at us and see only dollar signs $$$. SMH

I already knew how to make bread from scratch, but it looks like I will have to do this more often – and squeeze my own oranges (flavor pack? YUCK!)

Stefanie September 27, 2011 - 3:04 PM

I tell you, whether a person agrees with how you present a topic (I read the replies too), the fact that you are providing your readers with education is a blessing to all who embrace it. Your site may be a ‘guide to weight loss’; but what about for the person who doesn’t need to lose weight but needs to start treating their body with better foods or building a little muscle to move a little better? There are so many people from the obvious that can benefit from your site. I’ll admit, it is much easier for me to buy that boxed meal or processed food because, well, it’s much more convenient than cleaning/cutting up veggies and cleaning/preparing fresh meats that I buy. However, as time passes, I become more aware of the extra ‘non-food’ items in processed food, this makes me want to buy more fresh food, make a habit of cooking healthier foods, and live a healther life. Thanks for continue to educate us and you learn so much on your own journey 🙂

ACCT1908 September 27, 2011 - 3:38 PM

Dangit what can I eat? *re-evaluates my plate*. Thanks for the article!

elvira September 27, 2011 - 3:50 PM

Ok seriously. What can we eat?? I know there’s the farmer’s markets for good fruits and vegetables. But what else? Is there anything else that’s safe to eat?

Ije1978 September 27, 2011 - 5:03 PM

Wow! Very interesting article! I have decided that I am going to move to the middle of nowhere, start farming and won’t eat anything unless I grow it or raise it because everything we eat is a science experiment!

I have one concern/thought regarding cellulose. I don’t know where the cellulose used as a food additive comes from but cellulose does not equal wood pulp. Cellulose is found in the walls of cells of green plants (if I recall my high school biology correctly). It is indigestible but all fiber is indigestible. One of the major benefits of fiber is that it bulks up your waste products (i.e. feces) so that it comes out of you easily and regularly.

Northern Virginia Personal Trainer - John Casto September 27, 2011 - 9:01 PM


Thanks for giving us some truth on foods I’m sure most of us consume without giving two thoughts. Keep up the work, I’m really impressed with your weight loss. I train mostly women here in Northern Virginia, and find your progress EXTREMELY motivating!

Steven September 28, 2011 - 11:22 AM

Just because wood doesn’t have nutritional content doesn’t mean it’s bad. Our bodies also can’t break down the outside of corn (cellulose) either. In fact most people are probably be better off eating cellulose then “oil and flour”. My guinea pigs eat wood all the time and I’m happy to join them.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 28, 2011 - 11:48 AM

This is easily the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Who are you shilling for?

Neither cheetos, nor doritos, nor fritos have “nutritional content,” and that doesn’t mean they’re “bad,” either, does it?

This isn’t an issue of good vs bad here, today. It’s an issue of “did you think that your bread was strictly yeast, water, flour, salt and sugar? ohhhh, we got one over on you!” It’s a matter of “would you go outside and take a bite out of that tree bark out front? No? Ohhh, well that’s too bad ’cause you might still be eating that stuff anyway!” It’s a matter of knowing that your food isn’t what you thought it was, and maybe its in your best interest to make different choices.

We get it. Cellulose comes from a traceable source. But do you know how? Do you agree with why? Are you always made aware of the switcherroos being made in your food and given the opportunity to decide for yourself? And do you genuinely think we’re better off eating “wood” with no nutritional content than “flour” that can actually provide protein and a few vitamins (depending on the kind) or oil (which, depending on the kind, can be INVALUABLE?) I certainly don’t.

If you want to live like a real live human guinea pig – how apropos that you’d use THAT in your comment – then go for it. Don’t expect me to cheerlead your foolishness, here.

Eva September 29, 2011 - 8:30 AM

Years ago when I was growing up, companies had to put the word “imitation” on their products if they weren’t real. Today, as long as there is a percentage of a real ingredient in something, it can be marketed as the real thing. This site is about information, letting people know what’s going on. Sure, these chemicals may be fine for you, but don’t people have a right to know what they’re putting in their bodies?

Tia November 27, 2012 - 3:17 PM

WHAT!?! Steven, you must be high. The point is not whether or not its “bad”, its the fact that people are being fed this w/o their prior knowledge and our government, nor anyone else, is protecting people from ingesting something they have no desire to. Until someone starts putting pictures of trees on a box and selling “Woodi-O’s” you know good and well that this is a swindle. The food industry is entirely too large and influential in this country when they can get away with using mass amounts of non-poisonous additives in their products sold as FOOD.

Food: noun, – Any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.

Nicole September 28, 2011 - 11:37 AM

I am going to print this and keep it at my cube at work. Everytime I have a craving for junk food, this will serve as a reminder. No bueno!

seejanesweat September 28, 2011 - 2:38 PM

Great job Erika. I love this article. Every day it’s getting harder to eat a healthy diet.

Bannef October 3, 2011 - 4:18 PM

Hahahaha, I LOVE Cracked (guilty pleasure) and as soon as I saw that article I thought of you. The world is so strange…

Bannef October 3, 2011 - 4:20 PM

And it was really interesting (and depressing) reading the comments on their website, when I’m used to seeing the responses of your informed readers… Plenty of people said “but wood pulp has no calories, so who cares?” Ewwww…

rina October 6, 2011 - 7:01 AM

The more and more I read articles like this, it reaffirms my decision to eat a clean diet!! Thank you again for shedding light on subjects like this and for all that you do to educate us on healthy living!!

Curlsz May 16, 2012 - 10:46 PM

The free range was the only surprise, I guess the solution is to research the company before you buy

Tabitha February 21, 2015 - 4:42 PM

I am new to clean eating and reading this Site scares me but helps with my decision do better

Seamus O'Shea January 17, 2016 - 5:01 PM

God, I hate hearing about this stuff!! Thanks for publishing it! 🙂

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