Foods Contaminating Other Foods

by Penny Hammond on September 12, 2009

in Food choice reasons

For someone with an allergy, avoiding a tiny piece of food may be a matter of life or death. If your cookie has a small piece of peanut in it from the previous batch, and you’re allergic to peanuts, it could cause anaphylactic shock and potentially death. It’s really obvious why some people should avoid foods “contaminated” with certain ingredients for health reasons. But there are also other reasons for avoiding food contaminants.

Would you mind eating just a little bit of human flesh in your food? You probably wouldn’t feel comfortable with that. How about food from a pan that had recently been used to cook human flesh, and not cleaned out afterwards? Probably a problem for you as well. Ethical vegetarians who don’t want to harm animals may have the same reaction to meat dishes. The same goes for people who have who follow non-violent religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, or Jainism – they don’t want to be party to a process that harms any animals.

If you sneak some alcohol into the food of an observant Muslim following Halal laws, or put bacon into a dish for an observant Jew following the Kosher food laws, you’re contaminating their food. They don’t want to eat those foods, and even if they eat banned foods by mistake they may consider that they’re breaking an important law and would feel terrible about it.

Many foods have hidden or semi-hidden ingredients. Most Worcestershire sauce has a small amount of anchovies (fish) in it, so adding it to a vegetarian dish stops the dish from being truly vegetarian. Many noodles contain eggs, and so they aren’t suitable for lacto-vegetarians, who will eat milk products but not eggs.

Occasionally, manufactured foods don’t contain exactly what they say on the ingredients list or nutrition panel. This may happen with small, local companies without the resources to properly track this, or who may be willing to bend the rules to get sales because they’re too small to get found out. For example, there may be some fat in fat-free products. This is pretty rare, but it can happen.

Are there any ingredients that you have to look out for, that sometimes get sneaked into foods you want to eat?

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