Here at Cracked, we regularly show you the dark secrets hiding in history, art, geography, sports, and even freaking theme parks. But there's one place we fear to visit too often: your pantry. We've already burdened you with the knowledge that every hamburger contains shit and your chewing gum is made of sheep sweat, but there are even more surprising (and disgusting) things we must tell you. Sorry, we don't make the rules.
Every time you decide to treat your body right and buy some produce, you're also buying something extra: pesticides. Lots and lots of pesticides. Why bother with ranch dressing when your veggies already come seasoned with delicious insect-killing juice?
Over 98 percent of peaches, potatoes, nectarines, cherries, and apples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture had traces of at least one pesticide. Strawberries, the chemical dumpsters of the fruit world, tested positive for ten or more pesticides in over a third of the samples. Spinach is the "winner" on the vegetable side, with almost twice as much pesticide residue (by weight) than any other crop. Hot peppers, meanwhile, may not have the most insecticides, but they had the most dangerous ones. You know, as compared to the totally safe insecticides we eat on other veggies.
Environmental Working Group
Getting rid of these nasty chemicals isn't as simple as half-assedly washing your fruit under a tap for two seconds, as we've all been doing. Experts recommend soaking fruit in a mixture of water and baking soda. But so what if you swallow a little bit of poison every day? Well, aside from these substances being carcinogenic, they're making you infertile. A new study from Harvard showed that women who ate more pesticide-ridden produce were 26 percent less likely to have a successful pregnancy, while men in the same situation had lower sperm counts and poorer sperm quality. So remember, please wash your cucumbers before you toss a salad.
Quick, how much corn have you eaten or touched today? If you didn't say "a shitload," you're probably way off. Corn is in absolutely everything, from household objects to medicine to hygiene products to all kinds of not-obviously-corn-related foods. Everything is corn-taminated.
If you happen to be allergic, this sucks. You can't use salt, because salt contains dextrose, which is made from corn. You can't drink bottled water, because most have added minerals derived from corn. You can't eat most beef or chicken or any animal that was fed corn. You can't watch the classic Charlie's Angels movie from 2000, because it has music by Korn.
Sabestien Paquet/Wikimedia Commons
It's in salads, sprayed on fruits, and all over processed foods. It's in some plastic bags and cutlery. We make corn carpets and wooden floors. Chips. Tacos. Fish. Milk. Toothpaste. Crayons. Dish soap. We are oozing corn from every pore, and being allergic to it forces you to avoid many modern conveniences and rely on local farms. It's like your body is forcing you to turn Amish.
Before you completely shrug off corn allergies as a "sucks for them" kinda situation, remember that worldwide, allergies are on the rise. In the U.S., one in every 13 kids has some type of food allergy, a more than 50 percent increase in the last 20 years. Corn allergies are sure to go up, but hey, at least there isn't a massive industry making lots of money from jamming corn everywhere and aggressively lobbying to keep it that way!
"Fresh produce" is for the most part a big fat lie. We assume that "fresh" means the earth practically spit it out right into your shopping cart, but the sad truth is that most produce you encounter at a supermarket is more artificially preserved than a TV show host, and just as chemically treated.
Take apples. By the time you buy an apple at a grocery store, it's probably been off the tree for like ten months. In order to provide consumers with fresh (well, fresh-passing) apples year-round, they're harvested when they're mature but not fully ripe, then stored in a cold low-oxygen environment and treated with 1-methylcyclopropene to stall the ripening process. When they're needed, they're awakened from their Captain-America-esque slumber and sent to stores, where they trick people into eating them with their deceptive youthful looks -- also like Captain America, probably.
And apples aren't the only ones lying about their age. Your carrot could easily be nine months old, and potatoes can hit the stores 12 months after being picked. Tomatoes can be stored for over two months, and if they're not perfectly red and ripe-looking when they arrive at the supermarket, a quick blast of ethylene "will turn even the greenest tomato red." Lettuce and broccoli are often treated with 1-methylcyclopropene to keep them looking green and freshly picked. At least when you buy an instantly stale Filet-O-Fish, you know what you're getting yourself into.
When you have a steak or a roast or tenderloin for dinner, you're eating parts from exactly one cow. You're in a monogamous relationship with that slab of meat, at least for the length of the meal. But when it comes to ground beef -- or hamburger patties made from ground beef -- it's a different story altogether. Instead of monogamy, you get meat love menage a herd style.
You see, inside those little plastic-covered Styrofoam trays of supermarket ground beef are the corporeal remains of hundreds (maybe several hundreds) of cows. Ground beef contains bits of mixed-together muscle tissue from an entire herd. Or multiple herds. What if some of the cows in that burger you ate really hated each other? That's like having part of your body buried with part of the weird guy next door who parks on your lawn. And the crazy cat lady down the road. Your whole neighborhood, actually.
McDonald's has confirmed that a single burger patty can contain tissue from over 100 cows, which sounds like some Doctor Who fuckery. Costco grinds their own beef in-house, but even their packages contain meat from "more than a few" cows. So why does it matter? As a writer for The Washington Post put it, "the number is a vivid and maybe even repulsive reminder that eating meat exposes us to a process where animals are slaughtered and mixed together for our eating pleasure."
In other words, abandon any romanticized notions about a farmer periodically heading to the cow shed, where he mournfully kills a member of his herd like some bovine version of Old Yeller. It's brutal, cruel, and ... you're still salivating from that patty above, aren't you? Yeah, same here.
Hey, ever wondered what supermarkets and grocery stores do with all that expired food? Truckloads and truckloads of products go past their expiration dates every day, and it's gotta be expensive to get rid of all that. Unrelated: Have you ever wondered where these stores get the prepared food they sell on their delis? OK, that wasn't really unrelated.
On the surface, recycling food that's about to expire (or simply looks ugly) sounds like a great idea. Wasting food is a bad thing, and besides, "sell-by" or "best when used by" dates can be complete bullshit. Who hasn't eaten an expired package of something out of their own cabinet at home, late at night, possibly weeping a little? Fun times.
The difference is that at home, the consumer decides what's safe, with their health (and hunger) as primary concerns. In a grocery store, some employee gets to make the call on whether or not an expired item is safe for you or your family to eat. And according to CDC data, they kinda suck at it.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Outbreaks of E. coli, salmonella, and hepatitis A have all been linked to grocery store delis, as even the largest and best-established grocery chains struggle to keep up with the increasing demand for "Grocerant" meals. (That's a portmanteau of "grocery store" and "restaurant," not some sort of Marvel Comics cosmic villain.) It's tough to say where in the process foods go bad -- they could be spoiled foods that went to the deli instead of the dumpster, or perfectly edible foods that were just improperly stored. Either way, we find it pretty doubtful that the wage slaves toiling in supermarket delis have the time or the inclination to meticulously wash all that insecticide off the produce in a baking soda and water bath. So keep that in mind. Bon appetit!
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