How weird stuff gets into your lunch

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More than 1,000 food ingredients from natural sources have been approved by the United States government. Some of them have been used for centuries. Most of them, by far, are not as bizarre as the ones we've chosen to tell you about.

By law, food ingredients must be listed on the package according to the amount used. The most-used ingredient is listed first, down to the least-used ingredient. (Look at some labels. How often is "sugar" or "water" listed first?)

Notice that not every ingredient is listed by name. Sometimes the label says "other natural flavorings" or "spices." There are several reasons for this. First of all, food manufacturers don't want to give away secret recipes. So they are allowed, in some cases, to be not too specific.

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Second, a particular ingredient may not be available, so a substitute is used. Rather than having to change the label, manufacturers can fudge things a bit.

Third, listing every single ingredient might make the label so long that it wouldn't fit on the package!

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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