October Surprise, Secret Ingredients Edition!

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A Brief History

On October 2, 1919, First Lady of the United States, Edith Wilson, the wife of President Woodrow Wilson, unofficially ran the U.S. government following her husband’s (then President Woodrow Wilson’s) life-changing stroke.  We detailed this story back in 2013, and we previously have discussed the concept of “October Surprise” in an article we ran on October 31, 2014.  Today we use the concept of “October Surprise” and secret goings on to tell you about some surprising secret ingredients of products you may not have suspected contain such things.

Digging Deeper

Whale Oil was in our automatic transmission fluid.

Yep, all the way until 1972 when the Endangered Species Act was passed, engineers used “Sperm Oil,” oil derived from Sperm Whales, to enhance the lubricity and stability of transmission fluid.  (While we like to think of ourselves as fairly well read and fairly well educated, this is a fact we just learned!)  Sperm oil, not to be confused with regular “whale oil” which is produced by boiling down whale blubber, is actually not an oil but a liquid wax like substance derived from Sperm Whales.  The hunting of Sperm Whales was prohibited in 1987.

Caesar Salad dressing contains fish.

You might be disgusted by the stinky Anchovies on pizza, and maybe you are a vegetarian and think a nice Caesar Salad is just the ticket for a light lunch, but did you know Caesar Salad dressing contains Anchovy Paste?  Seems like fish and fish products are showing up all over…

WD-40 household oil does not contain fish oil.

The WD stands for “water displacing” and the “40” represents the 40th formula concocted by the inventor.  This light oil typically found in aerosol cans is used to displace water, light lubrication, and rust prevention, although its original purpose was to protect the outer skin of Atlas missiles!  (Atlas missiles were the first ever ICBM’s, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, designed to deliver nuclear warheads around the world.)  The actual formula for WD-40 is secret (think Coca-Cola) and they never applied for a patent so as not to reveal the true ingredients.  Although a persistent rumor to the contrary, scientific analysis of this popular oil does not indicate there is any fish oil in the stuff at all.  We just have to wonder about what really goes into it…

Preparation H used to contain Shark Liver Oil and live yeast.

As far back as 1990, the FDA tried to eliminate Shark Oil from many products, although it was slow to get around to eliminating the stuff from hemorrhoid medicine.  While they were at it, our government watch dogs were also out to remove live yeast from butt medicine as well.  Does the current Prep H product work as well as the old product?  Let us know if you are privy to such things…

Coca-Cola originally contained extract of Coca leaves and maybe still does.

Sorry, conspiracy theorists, our national soft drink did not actually contain the drug cocaine, at least not in any appreciable quantity.  The coca leaf extract was not the same as highly refined cocaine as used by drug addicts, although some of the drug like properties did exist.  Coke was developed by a Civil War veteran that had become addicted to morphine when he was wounded in combat.  Confederate Colonel John Pemberton took his inspiration from a French wine that contained Coca extract and sold his new product in 1886 as a cure all for many maladies, including drug addiction, impotence, headache and indigestion.  In 1903, soda chefs allegedly removed the cocaine from the coca extract used in producing Coca-Cola.  Coke continued to use “spent” coca leaves in its signature beverage until 1929, when the trace amounts of cocaine were replaced by caffeine.  On the other hand, since Coke will not reveal its formula, there is still a serious possibility that they continue to use extract of Coca leaves in their product, though without the drug effects of cocaine!  Note: In 1935, Coca-Cola was certified Kosher.

Whale vomit used in production of perfume.

A substance upchucked by Sperm Whales called ambergris is sometimes found on beaches, stinking up the area with a fishy, fecal odor.  The waxy substance has long been used in the most expensive of perfumes, imparting a long lasting musky type odor.  While many countries have banned the possession and/or use of ambergris, in some places beachcombers can still hit the jackpot by finding a lump of this natural treasure.  How much is it worth?  A typical lump the size of a cantaloupe might fetch $50,000 to $100,000!  Just be sure you find it in a country where such a find is legal.  (Notable countries where ambergris is legal include France, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.  Sorry, the US has made it illegal since 1973.)  Note: Making the possession and trade in ambergris illegal is stupid!  The stuff is not harvested from living whales but is barfed up and found on beaches.  How the over active do-gooders have conflated that fact with protecting endangered species is just one more sad tale of incompetent regulation.

Castoreum used in perfume, cigarettes, schnapps, and artificial vanilla.

This disgusting stuff comes from a pair of glands located near the anal glands of Beavers.  It has been used for centuries to add some flavor/odor/pop to perfumes and foods, though in the US it is now seldom used in food anymore.  Cigarette manufacturers use it to “improve” the taste of their cigarettes, as if you needed any more reasons not to smoke!

Duck feathers in McDonald’s Food!

We cannot make this stuff up!  They really do use the feathers of ducks to produce an ingredient used to manufacture the buns, rolls and pies at Mickey D’s.  If it makes you feel better, the duck feathers are a replacement for a product made from human hair!

Human beings.

Do you remember hearing tales of “snips and snails and puppy-dog tails” as well as “sugar and spice and everything nice” going into the formula to make humans?  Well, hate to disappoint you, but it seems that was all just a child’s nursery rhyme!  The real ingredients of a human being include some normal things as water, making up about 65% of the human body mass.  What you might not know is that there are more bacteria cells in the human body than there are human cells!  Most of these bacteria live in our digestive tract and we could not survive without them.  This factoid is taken by comparing the numbers of cells (only 43% of our cells are human) and not by volume or weight.  As measured by mass, Oxygen is the most prolific element in our bodies (a major component of water), making up about 65% of our mass.  Carbon comes in second at only 18% and Hydrogen is the only other element in double digits at 10%.  Our bodies also contain trace elements of stuff we think of as poisons, such as Mercury, Selenium, Uranium and Arsenic.  We could not live without Iron in our bodies, and that element makes up a minuscule .006% of our body!  When you think of the trace chemicals in our food, such as plastic that leaches into our food from its containers and the like, we probably have some disgustingly inappropriate stuff inside us.  Oh, people of European and Asian heritage also have some Neanderthal DNA in their genome, although Africans generally do not.

Question for students (and subscribers): As always, feel free to tell us about other such ingredients you think are worthy of mention.  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Pizzorno, Joseph. The Toxin Solution: How Hidden Poisons in the Air, Water, Food, and Products We Use Are Destroying Our Health–AND WHAT WE CAN DO TO FIX IT.  HarperOne, 2018.

Thomson, Cyrus. There are Horrible Chemicals in Our Food! Amazon.com Services LLC, 2014.

The featured image in this article, a photograph of President Woodrow Wilson, seated at desk with his wife, Edith Bolling Galt, standing at his side, is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1925.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.