cornfieldI've been amusing myself today reading various writers' riffs on the National Corn Refiners Association's decision to rename high-fructose corn syrup, the ingredient everyone loves to hate, as "corn sugar." These are the same people who ran a series of ads last year attempting to convince us that HFCS is good for you because it's made from corn. I'm guessing that was a fail, so renaming it is their latest try to get back in consumers' good graces.

As thoroughly ridiculous as this is, just about any food or drink on our grocery store shelves is filled with perfectly pleasant-sounding ingredients that are actually kind of icky (although not dangerous). Think you've never consumed beetles, wood pulp, or mold? Think again.

Carmine, also known as cochineal extract, comes from the cochineal beetle. It gives pink or purple candy, yogurt, and drinks a red color. It's mostly safe, although some people have an allergic reaction to it.

Wood pulp (or even more gross, cotton lint) is reacted with acetic acid (which is in vinegar) to form carboxymethylcellulose, often abbreviated as CMC. It's also called cellulose gum, or just cellulose. It's a thickener and stabilizer used in cake icing, pie filling, and interestingly, to stabilize beer foam.

If you've had fake meat made from a substance called Quorn, you've had mold, or mycoprotein. The manufacturers say it's made from a mushroom fungus, but nope ... the fungus used to make Quorn is plain old mold. More gross? It's grown in large tanks at the processing facility. Quorn is safe for most people ... and of course, blue cheese and other yummies also rely on mold.

On the other hand, there are terrifying-sounding ingredients that are actually good for you. Pyridoxine? Vitamin B. The futuristic sounding alpha tocopherol? Vitamin A. Ferrous gluconate? Used to color black olives, but also as a source of iron in pills.

Of course, the best way to avoid all of this is to limit processed foods. Even the healthiest food-from-a-box in the supermarket is still, well, food from a box.

Do you avoid HFCS ... or corn sugar?


Image via antaean/Flickr