3 viral food myths that are just plain wrong
No, there aren't any wood shavings in your parmesan
Viral stories can become widely spread because they're true, but a lot of the times a viral story is a rumor or just completely false. Many headlines have come up warning of the effects and ingredients in different food products. However, not many of these are actually true. Here is a few food myths debunked.
1. No, wood shavings are not in your parmesan cheese
Early in 2016, a study of various parmesan cheese brands went viral with headlines reading, "The Parmesan Cheese You Sprinkle on your Penne Could Be Wood." The study did find that certain brands of grated parmesan cheese had a lot more additive than recommended by the Food and Drug Administration. However, this preservative is not wood shavings.
This study all started when the FDA was tipped off to a company, Castle Cheese Inc., that could have been completely doctoring their "100% parmesan cheese" product. Turns out, the parmesan cheese they were selling didn't actually contain any parmesan. Instead, it was a mixture of Swiss, mozzarella, white cheddar and cellulose.
What is cellulose? This is a completely safe additive approved by the FDA to be included in parmesan cheese brands as a preservative, which actually does come from trees. It is a byproduct of wood, but cellulose exists in all types of plants. The acceptable level of cellulose in parmesan products is between 2 and 4 percent. Wal-Mart's value parmesan tested at 7.8 percent cellulose. Whole Food's branded parmesan didn't list cellulose as an ingredient, but still tested at 0.3 percent. And Kraft parmesan contained 3.8 percent cellulose.
So there aren't actually any wood shavings in your parmesan. But if you don't really want to have cellulose in your cheese, then opt to grate your own fresh.
2. No, beaver secretions are not in your vanilla ice cream
Sometime in 2013, rumors spread with overblown headlines about beaver secretions being used as a vanilla substitute in perfumes and food products. The substance these articles are referring to is called castoreum. Yes, it is made in part with the secretions made by beavers when marking their territory. And it has been used in high-end perfumes. But castoreum is not a product used in mass-marketed goods.
Castoreum is a yellowish-brown substance with a strong odor that beavers secrete from canton seas located between the pelvis and the base of the tail. They spray it when scent-marking their territory. But unlike a lot of other animals' natural odors, castoreum doesn't really stink badly. Instead, it has a musky, vanilla scent. Because of this property, it has often been used in the perfume industry.
Additionally, processed forms of castoreum have been used as food additives, including as enhancers of vanilla, strawberry and raspberry flavors found in products like ice cream, iced tea, gelatin, candy, fruit-flavored drinks and yogurt. But the use of it in food products today is extremely rare. It takes a lot of effort and money to harvest castoreum from beavers, after all. Any mass-produced good will probably not contain this product.
So there aren't any beaver secretions in your ice cream or yogurt, but if you want to stay away from it altogether, then avoid high-end perfumes.
3. No, aluminum foil in cookware does not cause Alzheimer's
This myth has been around since the '60s. in 1965, a scientific study was published that found after injecting aluminum into the brains of rabbits caused them to develop the same twisted proteins found in brains of Alzheimer's patients. This disease is a degenerative brain disorder that destroys memory and cognition. However, the link between aluminum and Alzheimer's has been hotly debated within the scientific community.
In the scientific process, it is crucial that studies are repeated by other labs and scientists. This prevents fluke studies from being passed off as truth and verifies the results. Scientists always try to control every aspect of the experiment, but there are still many factors that are totally out of their control. While follow-up studies have found Alzheimer's patients had two to three times more aluminum in their brain as health patients, the link between aluminum in cookware and the disease has not been proven.
It is also difficult to discover what aluminum actually does to the brain or what role it plays in the progression of the disease. This is because aluminum is prevalent in the environment. In fact, it is the third most abundant element on Earth. But in reality, while aluminum can be liberated from the cookware with regular use, much less than 1 percent of it can stay in the body. It would take an incredibly large amount of buildup to expose you to any potential risk of Alzheimer's. However, researchers are still divided on the role the element plays in the disease.
Using aluminum cookware probably does not have any affect on your risk of Alzheimer's, but if you want to be safe, just avoid aluminum pots and pans.