Y2K has come and gone, but there are always plenty of folks stocking up for the end of the world. Let's be honest, though: As much as they'd like to believe that their canned goods will still be around after a nuclear attack, all that will really be left is ... well, nothing.
That said, we're pretty sure that a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies isn't going to help anyone in a major disaster -- the key to any good apocalypse plan is a stash of foods that are loaded down with additives and preservatives. These five products probably won't survive an atomic blast, true, but you'll be much better off with them than with say a crate of broccoli (hey, and no offense there, broccoli).
Have you heard the one about how stores are still selling the original stock of Twinkies, made in 1930? Or how they're injected with embalming fluid? When the subject of "long shelf life" comes up, someone's sure to pipe up about how Twinkies and cockroaches would be the sole survivors of a nuclear attack. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on who you ask), it's all urban legend. It's true that Twinkies are pretty much jam-packed with totally unnatural ingredients (Polysorbate 60, anyone?), but only one of them is an actual preservative. Hostess says that the official shelf life of a Twinkie is 25 days. Not bad, but you'd probably want to stock up on something more hardy if you're preparing for the end of days.
The addition of the word "product" to any food name is a sure sign that you're going to be ingesting more than your fair share of chemical ingredients. Case in point: cheese product. Yeah, there's not too much actual cheese in those cellophane-wrapped slices. "Pasteurized process cheese food" has to contain at least 51 percent cheese [source: Ritter], but the rest can be a hodge-podge of additives -- and from there it's a downhill slide through "pasteurized process cheese product" to straight-up "imitation cheese," which is made from vegetable oil.
Spam is another food that's been the subject of many an urban legend -- there's just something about a gelatinous brick of pink meat that makes people recoil in horror. The Spam ingredient list actually isn't all that long or scary -- pork shoulder, ham, salt, sugar, sodium nitrite and water -- but that salt really packs a punch. You'll get 33 percent of your daily sodium allowance in one helping [source: Grabianowski]. There's just a small amount of sodium nitrite (a common preservative that kills bacteria and keeps the meat pink), but it's on the top of most experts' lists of food ingredients to stay far, far away from. So it's probably best if Spam sits on your shelf for a very long time -- that means you haven't eaten it yet.
Let's get it out of the way now -- no, Jell-O isn't made from horses' hooves. It's made from the hides and bones of cows and pigs. And that's oh so much better, right? Actually, lots of other pretty tasty foods contain gelatin (like cream cheese and marshmallows), but it is the main ingredient in Jell-O. So, along with some water, sugar and artificial colors and flavors, you're basically eating highly processed animal parts. Yum?
We guess we can understand using nondairy creamer if you're lactose-intolerant and you need a little sweetness in your morning coffee. Or if you're in a pinch and that's all they have in the office kitchen or the auto-body shop while you're waiting for an oil change. But why not just use a splash of regular old milk? It's not going to kill you, and it doesn't contain a known pesticide (dipotassium phosphate) or something that makes it highly flammable (sodium alumionosilicate). Yep, nondairy creamer will explode upon contact with a spark. You heard us right -- so don't store it near the matches in your blast-proof bunker.
For more information on not-so-natural foods, follow the links on the next page.
You probably ate a lot of from-scratch cooking over the holidays. HowStuffWorks Now looks at the problems of preparing food in the past.
More Great Links
- Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Two Thumbs Down for Movie Popcorn." Nov. 18, 2009. (Accessed June 30, 2010) http://www.cspinet.org/new/200911182.html
- Di Justo, Patrick. "What's Inside: Powdered Non-Dairy Creamer." Wired.com, January 2007. (Accessed June 30, 2010) http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/15.01/start.html?pg=5
- Foodreference.com. "Canned Food: Shelf Life." (Accessed June 30, 2010) http://www.foodreference.com/html/tcannedfoodshelflife.html
- Grabianowski, Ed. "How Spam Works." (Accessed June 30, 2010) https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/spam-food.htm
- Grabianowski, Ed. "How Twinkies Work." (Accessed June 28, 2010) https://www.howstuffworks.com/twinkie.htm
- Ritter, Steve. "What's That Stuff?" Chemical and Engineering News, Feb. 7, 2000. (Accessed June 30, 2010) http://pubs.acs.org/cen/whatstuff/stuff/7806sci2.html
- Snopes.com. "JELL-O and Horses' Hooves." (Accessed June 28, 2010) http://www.snopes.com/food/ingredient/jello.asp
- Weiss, Jean. "12 Food Additives to Avoid." MSNBC.com (Accessed June 30, 2010) http://health.msn.com/nutrition/slideshow.aspx?cp-documentid=100204508