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14 Unusual Hidden Food Label Ingredients

March 07, 2017

To meet FDA labeling guidelines, all food and beverage products must include detailed ingredient information on FDA labels. Each ingredient must be listed in order by predominance. However, consumers are starting to read food labels and product ingredients more closely and are beginning to refrain from purchasing products with ingredients they cannot pronounce are not familiar with. Consumers are no longer content purchasing food products with hidden food ingredients that could be potentially harmful. For example, many customers recently discovered that the food ingredient listed as propylene glycol is an ingredient commonly found in antifreeze products. Even though the ingredient has been recognized as safe for human consumption, it has turned many shoppers away.

To learn more about the types of ingredients customers are swearing off for good, take a look at the information provided below. After finding out what these hidden ingredients are and where they originate, you may choose to omit them from your products.   

Propylene Glycol

As mentioned, propylene glycol is a liquid substance used in antifreeze solutions. Propylene glycol is commonly used to thicken foods and cake icing, and in keeping pre-washed salads fresh.

Silicon Dioxide

Silicon dioxide is commonly found in seasonings and powdered foods, helping to keep food tasty and fresh. However, the anti-caking chemical is also found in sand.


Vegans and vegetarians don’t eat gelatin-containing foods such as Jello because gelatin is collagen taken from animal bones, skin, and connective tissues.


Certain energy drinks contain an ingredient called taurine, which helps to regulate heartbeat. However, taurine was originally taken from bull bile. Today, taurine is taken from fish, meat, or dairy products.

Rodent Hairs

You won’t find rodent hairs listed on FDA labels, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t present in the food item. For example, one rodent hair is acceptable in every 100 grams of peanut butter. However, the acceptable amount of rodent hairs per food product depends specifically on the type of food item or whether the product is mass-produced.


Small traces of arsenic can be found in products contain diatomaceous earth. This commonly food, wine, and beer additive contains metals, irons, and traces of arsenic.


You may have heard that microwave popcorn can be dangerous, but you may have assumed it was because of the microwave use, and not the ingredients found in the popcorn. As it turns out, microwave popcorn contains a chemical known as diacetyl. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diacetyl can be damaging to the lungs if inhaled.


Cellulose is commonly used as a de-clumping agent in many foods, vitamins and supplements. But interestingly, cellulose is actually processed wood pulp.


Foods that are artificially colored yellow, green, or orange often contain dyes. However, these dyes are often derived from tartrazine, a food additive that comes from coal tar.


To help remove solid particles and unwanted yeast from certain brands of beer or wine, isinglass is used. Isinglass comes from the bladder of fish.


Carmine is commonly used to color candies, ice creams, yogurt, and fruit drinks red. However, carmine comes from female cochineal insect shells.


Shellac is found in many candy products to give the product a smooth, melty texture. However, shellac is derived from Laccifer lacca bugs.


Castoreum is derived from the castor sacs of female and male beavers, and is commonly used to flavor certain types of ice cream.


Since human hair is the least expensive source of L-cysteine, it is commonly used in the baking industry to condition doughs.

Ready to Update Your Food Labels?

If you plan on changing your product ingredients anytime soon, you’ll need to update your FDA labels as well. Sheet-Labels.com can help. Contact us today to learn about our food product labels and nutrition labels, and be sure to follow our blog for the latest and greatest label industry news! 

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