The “ICK” Factor

Written by Jaya Bhumitra

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While Anthony Bourdain may trump all with his penchant for gross-out food, there are several items considered staples in the average American diet that you might surprisingly find just as disgusting.

We’re not talking about pink slime and meat glue. We’re not even talking about food contaminated with pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics, though that’s not a delicious thought either. We’re talking BUGS and BODILY FLUIDS. You heard us. Need to know more? Just keep a paper bag handy!

Feces in Chicken

Think arsenic in chicken is bad? This is worse: The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) recently released a study that found that nearly HALF of supermarket chicken (both conventional and organic) is contaminated with feces. The independent lab conducting testing at PCRM’s request reviewed chicken samples from 22 popular brands (including Perdue, Pilgrim’s, and Sanderson Farms) from 15 grocery store chains in 10 major U.S. cities. How does this happen? When chickens are defeathered in scalding tanks, fecal waste transfers through the water from one dead bird to the rest. When the birds’ intestines are mechanically removed, they might spill onto machinery and contaminate the muscles and organs of that bird and all that follow. When 140 birds are processed per minute, food safety inspectors can’t thoroughly examine for fecal matter (possibly containing worms, insects, larvae, and chemicals), which is then transferred into the home, and onto countertops, cutting boards, and utensils. Every year, contaminated poultry products cause 1.5 million illnesses, 12,000 hospitalizations, and 180 deaths.

Pus and Blood in Milk

Sadly, dairy cows on factory farms are treated as little more than milk-producing machines, suffering through annual cycles of artificial insemination, pregnancy, birth, and mechanized milking. This excessive rate of production, including heavy metal machinery incessantly tugging at a cow’s most sensitive areas, often causes cows to develop sores that bleed and ooze pus—symptoms of mastitis (udder infection) that kills 1/6 of dairy cows on U.S. farms each year. These liquids drip from the open wounds into the milk supply that ultimately ends up on store shelves and in fridges across the country.

Maggots in Cheese

Since cheese is made from milk, pus and blood might wind up here, too. But did you know that mites and maggots might be intentionally added to various cheeses to increase flavor?


Are you sufficiently grossed out? Visit TryVeg.com for information on eating pus-, blood-, maggot-, and feces-free foods!