Are you eating ingredients made from human hair?
I've found some articles on Muslim websites devoted to halal food warning about consuming bakery products because they may contain an extract from human hair - a protein called l-cysteine. Here is an excerpt from an article titled "Food for Thought" from Fortune magazine.
Bug parts, human hair, and skatole
They are official ingredients that the food industry rarely tells us about. Some yuck factors are fairly obvious, such as the blue mold spores in Stilton cheese. But most are hidden, since itís perfectly legal for manufacturers to lump additives such as insect extracts under the comforting term "natural" on food labels - or simply omit them (unlike artificial ingredients).
Yet if you scan the label on, say, a container of strawberry yogurt, you may spot "carmine" - a popular coloring concocted from insects. Used to give red, pink, and purple color to everything from ice cream to lipstick, carmine is made from a pigment called cochineal. Cochineal, in turn, is extracted from dried female insects that feed on a cactus found in Peru, the Canary Islands, and other places. The pigment builds up in the insectsí bodies; after the six-legged moms deposit their eggs on the cactus and die, their rotting carcasses, along with the eggs and hatched larvae, are brushed off the plants, crushed, and then baked, boiled, or steamed to produce cochineal.
Carmine may not be yummy, but it is GRAS. Thatís food-industry speak for Generally Recognized as Safe, a classification almost as all-embracing as "natural." But skeptics say carmine can cause severe allergic reactions, and hence should be classified as CRUD - Considered Really Unsafe to Devour. (I just made up that category.) Several years ago the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer watchdog in Washington, D.C., petitioned the FDA either to ban carmine or to require that manufacturers disclose its creepy-crawly source on labels. So far the agency hasnít responded.
If you want to rid your diet of bug extracts, youíll need to avoid not only reddish foods but also many shiny ones. Shellac, made from the excretions of insects, is used to glaze everything from apples to coffee beans. If you get really obsessed, you may starve; blended-in insect remnants are everywhere. The FDA permits a typical jar of peanut butter to contain over 100 bug parts. A can of tomatoes can include one maggot or up to nine fly eggs.
Perhaps the creepiest ingredient is l-cysteine. Sometimes derived from a human body part - to wit, hair...(It also can be extracted from feathers or produced synthetically.) An amino acid, l-cysteine is used to enhance the stretchiness of dough, which facilitates its rapid processing by machines into cookies, pizza crusts, bread, doughnuts, bagels, and other baked goods.
Discovering whether a product contains stuff extruded from human bodies isnít easy. When I put the question to a spokesman at Interstate Brands, which makes Wonderbread, Hostess, and other baked lines, he said, "Iíve no idea of the source. We donít use enough l-cysteine to be interested." A Sara Lee spokesman snapped that there was no hair extract in his companyís products but declined to say how he knew. A spokesman at Puratos Group, a Belgium-based supplier of bakery ingredients, was friendlier: "Very commonly l-cysteine is from human hair," he conceded, "but Iím 99% sure that ours comes from duck feathers."
Next question: Whose hair do we eat, anyway? Industry experts say most human-derived l-cysteine comes from Chinese women, who...help support their families by peddling their tresses to small chemical- processing plants scattered across the Peopleís Republic.