5 Nastiest Things in Your Supermarket

Question: What do these things have in common?

  • Mold
  • Maggots
  • Animal excrement
  • Carcinogenic hormones

Answer: They can all be in your food. Legally.

Disturbing, right? The truth is, as we discovered while researching the all-new Eat This, Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide, the food you buy in grocery stores isn't nearly as safe or as healthy as you'd like it to be. Perhaps that's why 48,000 Americans develop food poisoning every year.

So what can you do about it? Protect yourself by asking questions. It’s your food; you have a right to know what’s inside. I’ll even give you a head start—with the help of Rodale.com writers Leah Zerbe and Emily Main, I'm exposing the 5 most gag-inducing foods in your supermarket.

#1: Pink Slime in Beef

The Gross Factor: The meat industry likes to call it "lean finely textured beef," but after ABC News ran a story on it, the public just called it what it looks like—pink slime, a mixture of waste meat and fatty parts from higher-quality cuts of beef that have had the fat mechanically removed. Afterward, it's treated with ammonia gas to kill salmonella and E. coli bacteria. Then it gets added to ground beef as a filler. Food microbiologists and meat producers insist that it's safe, but given the public's reaction to the ABC News report, there's an ick factor we just can't overcome. The primary producer of pink slime just announced that it's closing three of the plants where pink slime is produced, and Kroger, Safeway, Food Lion, McDonald's, and the National School Lunch Program (among others) have all pulled it from their product offerings.

Eat This Instead: Organic ground beef is prohibited from containing pink slime, per National Organic Program standards, so it's your safest bet. If you can't find organic, ask the butcher at your grocery store whether their products contain the gunk.

FIND YOUR ABS BY SUMMER! For the latest and greatest weight-loss tips, sign up for the FREE Eat This, Not That newsletter and be sure to follow me on Twitter. You’ll get slim in time for swimsuit season—without dieting!

#2: Mercury in Oatmeal

The Gross Factor: Sugary and calorie-laden, those convenient instant-oatmeal packets all have one thing in common. They're sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which, according to tests from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, may be contaminated with mercury. The group tested 55 samples of HFCS and found mercury in a third of them at levels three times higher than what the average person should consume in a day.

Eat This Instead: Buy yourself some instant oats, which cook in less time than it takes to microwave a packet of the sugary stuff, and add your own flavorings, like fresh fruit or maple syrup. And buy HFCS-free versions of other foods as well. The artificial sweetener lurks in seemingly all processed foods.

“CEREAL” OFFENDERS: Skip over these wholesome-sounding grains—the FDA doesn’t regulate many popular packaging claims, which is why you have to look out for these 9 “Natural” Cereals That Aren’t.

#3: MRSA in the Meat Aisle

The Gross Factor: Hard-to-treat, antibiotic-resistant infections are no joke. Superbug strains like MRSA are on the rise, infecting 185,000 people—and killing 17,000—people annually in the United States. Thought to proliferate on factory farms where antibiotics are overused to boost animal growth, a January 2012 study from Iowa State University found that the dangerous organisms wind up in supermarket meat, too. The dangerous MRSA strain lingered in 7 percent of supermarket pork samples tested. The bacteria die during proper cooking, but improper handling could leave you infected. The spike in superbug infections is largely blamed on antibiotic abuse in factory farms that supply most supermarkets.

Eat This Instead: The Iowa state researchers found MRSA in conventional meat and store-bought "antibiotic-free" meat likely contaminated at the processing plant. Search LocalHarvest.org to source meat from small-scale producers who don't use antibiotics or huge processing plants.

CHUCK BOMB: If the meds don't scare you, maybe this will: Applebee's Quesadilla Burger has more than 1,200 calories! And that's not even the worst we found! Check out our complete list of the 15 Worst Burgers in America!

#4: Rocket Fuel in Lettuce

The Gross Factor: Lettuce is a great source of antioxidants, and thanks to the great state of California, we can now eat it all year long. However, much of the lettuce grown in California is irrigated with water from the Colorado River. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado River water is contaminated with low levels of perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel known to harm thyroid function, and that perchlorate can be taken up inside lettuce plants. A separate study from the Environmental Working Group found perchlorate in 50 percent of store-bought winter lettuce samples.

Eat This Instead: Perchlorate is hard to avoid, but some of the highest levels in the country have been found in California's agricultural regions. If you eat locally and in season, you can ask your local farmers whether it’s a problem in their irrigation water supply.

GREEN GIANTS! Lettuce makes our list of 9 Spring Superfoods that fortify your immune system, strengthen your bones, ward off allergies, and more!

#5: Moldy Berries

The Gross Factor: The FDA legally allows up to 60 percent of canned or frozen blackberries and raspberries to contain mold. Canned fruit and vegetable juices are allowed to contain up to 15 percent mold.

Eat This Instead: Go for fresh! When berries are in season, stock up and freeze them yourself to eat throughout the winter. To freeze them, just spread fruits out on a cookie sheet, set the sheet in your freezer for a few hours, then transfer the berries to a glass jar or other airtight, freezer-safe container.

Mold isn't the worst of it. Find out what else is in your canned fruit by reading our full list of The Nastiest Things in Your Supermarket!


Fat Loss Secrets from the Weight Watchers CEO ... 15 Supermarket Foods You Should Never Buy ... Dr. Oz's Greatest Health Tips

IMPROVE YOUR LIFE—WITH YOUR iPAD! Check out the all-new interactive iPad edition of Men's Health!, now available by subscription. 

BUILD YOUR BEST BODY FAST! Find your plan here: The Men's Health Big Book of 15-Minute Workouts and The Women's Health Big Book of 15-Minute Workouts

Get more nutrition, health, and fitness secrets from Men's Health: Subscribe today with this special offer and save 50% off the cover price.

Get the New Book!ALL-NEW Supermarket Survival Guide!

Cook This, Not That! No-Diet Diet!


Follow Yahoo Health on and become a fan on

Follow @YahooHealth on