6 Weird Food Myths That Just Won’t Die

I’ve noticed a theme on food TikTok lately. There are, of course, hundreds of myths and misconceptions about food that are perpetuated all over social media every day. It’s nothing new, but there are several that, despite being repeatedly debunked, just won’t die. They’ve practically become urban legends at this point.

No matter how many times these weird food myths have been proven to be false or at least a huge exaggeration of the truth, they still pop up every few years and tend to get a lot of attention every time they do. .

TikTok, in particular, is where these stories play out. Someone discovers one of these myths from a Food Babe blog from 2011, doesn’t check anything, makes a video and gets a lot of attention because of course learning that there are wood chips in cheese is something you have to go out and tell everyone . ! There’s just one small problem – these stories are no more true now than they were when the decade-old blog post hit the internet.

So let’s set the record straight about some of these culinary urban legends.

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Image by Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Myth: There are wood chips hidden in your shredded cheese!

I debunked this one more or now, and it keeps coming back. No, there are no wood chips/wood pulp/sawdust in your shredded cheese.

The myth is that cellulose, which can be used as an anti-caking agent in shredded and grated cheese, is the same as wood chips. Now, while cellulose may be derived from wood, that does not mean that cellulose is the same as wood chips. Is not. Cellulose is the main constituent of plant cell walls. Trees are large plants, so trees naturally contain cellulose, as do fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods. Therefore, cellulose can be extracted and isolated from wood as well as from many other plant sources.

Cellulose is the same chemical compound regardless of the source. It is simply insoluble fiber, which is an important part of a healthy diet. It can be added to shredded and grated cheeses to prevent clumping. Health-wise, there’s no reason to avoid cellulose, and if nothing else, it’s just adding some extra fiber to your cheese! The only problem is if you melt the cheese for a sauce, then the cellulose can prevent it from melting nicely. Otherwise, buy what you prefer.

What’s ironic is that the same people who warn to avoid “wood chips” in shredded cheese would no doubt tell you that cinnamon is great for you! I wonder if I know where the cinnamon comes from.

Image by Birch Photographer, Shutterstock

Myth: Subway bread is a cake in Ireland

In September 2020, the Supreme Court of Ireland ruled that Subway bread had too much sugar to qualify as bread for tax purposes. In Ireland, certain staple foods are not taxed, and bread is considered one of these staple foods. To meet the basic food requirements for bread, sugar cannot exceed 2% of the weight of flour in the dough. Subway bread contains 2 to 5 grams of sugar per 6-inch roll, depending on the type of bread. Whole wheat is the highest with 5 grams of sugar per 71 gram roll, and sugar makes up 10% of the flour weight in the dough.

Most of their other breads are 2 to 3 grams of sugar per roll. To meet the bread requirement in Ireland, their bread should have less than one gram of sugar per 6 inch roll. So we’re talking about a difference of 1 to 4 grams of sugar per 6-inch roll that separates Subway bread from bread that meets this tax requirement. This is still significantly less sugar than cake. Subway bread didn’t magically turn into cake overnight because of this decision. I also saw that the amount of sugar in Subway bread is “five times what they consider acceptable.” That’s true, but it still doesn’t tell you how much sugar is actually in the bread. Just reporting relative numbers can make the difference seem bigger than the absolute difference, which is 4g of sugar in this case.

Funny thing is, you could also say that a slice of cake has five times more sugar than Subway bread, but that absolute difference would be 20g of sugar. So is it really cake then? Hard. Anyway, try serving Subway instead of cake at your next birthday party and let me know how it goes!

Image by Plateresca, Shutterstock

Myth: Did you know I put antifreeze in pop tarts?

the old people”antifreeze in pop tarts” claim has been circulating the internet for several years. Sorry to disappoint everyone who lives in sub-freezing temperatures, but it’s not true.

This myth stems from the confusion between propylene glycol and ethylene glycol. While the former can be used safely in food, the latter is much more toxic and is not used in food. Both can be used as an ingredient in antifreeze, but that obviously doesn’t mean that if a food contains propylene glycol, that antifreeze is put in that food. The fact that it is used in antifreeze also tells you absolutely nothing about the safety or toxicity of propylene glycol in food. After all, water is also used in antifreeze. Propylene glycol is used to maintain moisture in prepared foods.

US Food and Drug Administration sets limits on uses and amounts of propylene glycol to ensure safety. Current consumption is well below levels that would raise any concern.

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Myth: Heinz ketchup was banned in Israel

In 2015, Osem, a competing brand that is owned by Nestle, claimed to have tested Heinz ketchup and claimed to contain only 20 percent tomato concentrate. However, they were never able to produce lab documents or test results and admitted that they were only estimating rather than directly testing the product.

The Israeli standard states that ketchup must be composed of at least 61% tomato concentrate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s fancy or Grade A standard states that it must contain no less than 33% total solids. According to the Heinz ketchup specification sheet, the total solids for Heinz ketchup is a minimum of 33 percent, which meets the USDA standard, or grade A. This is where the confusion comes in, because total solids and percentage of tomato concentrate are not the same thing. The US standard is based on the percentage of total solids, while the Israeli standard is based on the percentage of tomato concentrate.

Heinz ketchup has never been banned from Israel, far from it. The word “Ketchup” is indicated in English on the front of the bottle, while the back label in Hebrew states “spices for tomatoes”, which reflects the current local requirements for labeling ingredients and the Hebrew name for the product.

Image by Robin Keefe, Shutterstock

Myth: Waxed apples cause cancer!

Yes, it’s true that wax can be applied to the outside of the apples. When the apples are picked, they are washed and the natural wax is removed. Food-grade wax is then applied to the exterior to help prevent moisture loss, allowing for a longer shelf life and reduced food waste. The applied wax layer is very thin and does not harm human health, just as the natural wax on an apple does not harm human health.

Claims that it causes cancer are completely unfounded.

Image by Jose Gil, Shutterstock

Myth: There are aborted human fetuses in your food!

And the award for the most ridiculous food myth I’ve ever come across goes to: “I put human fetuses in my food!”

Yes, I finally gave in and reached out this myth, which appeared over 10 years ago in March 2011, by the pro-life group (cult) Children of God. The HEK293 cells were derived from the kidney cells of a human embryo aborted in 1972—a single elective abortion almost 50 years ago. This cell line is widely used in biology research as well as pharmaceutical development.

Although these cells can be used in research, this does not mean that they are introduced into food. Just to state the obvious – they are not put in food. There are no HEK293 cells in food. Senomyx, a biotech company, uses these cells in their research to test flavor enhancers. They use the taste receptors expressed in these cells. Not only are these copies of the 1972 cells not in any food, but no cell is the same as a whole human fetus.

It seems that this confusion could be easily cleared up if the people who perpetuate these claims would just take a basic biology course.

Food science, baby is the pen name of a lawyer and writer who focuses specifically on the science behind our food. She has a degree in chemical engineering and has worked in the food industry for more than ten years in both the conventional and natural/organic sectors.

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