Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review: This Is What You Just Put in Your Mouth? From Eggnog to Beef Jerky, the Surprising SecretsIn by Patrick Di Justo

What do a cup of coffee and cockroach pheromone have in common? How is Fix-A-Flat like sugarless gum? Is a Slim Jim meat stick really alive? If I Can't Believe It's Not Butter isn't butter, what is it?
All of these pressing questions and more are answered in This Is What You Just Put In Your Mouth? Based on his popular Wired magazine column What's Inside, Patrick Di Justo takes a cold, hard, and incredibly funny look at the shocking, disgusting, and often dumbfounding ingredients found in everyday products, from Cool Whip and Tide Pods to Spam and Play-Doh. He also shares the madcap stories of his extensive research, including tracking down a reclusive condiment heir, partnering with a cop to get his hands on heroin, and getting tight-lipped snack-food execs to talk. Along the way, he schools us on product histories, label decoding, and the highfalutin chemistry concepts behind everything from Midol to Hostess fruit pies.
Packed with facts you're going to want to share immediately, this is infotainment at its best—and most fun!—which will have you giving your shampoo the side-eye and Doritos a double take, and make you the know-it-all in line at the grocery store.

I've always been a science nerd, but it was really only after I became a mom that glancing at ingredients became almost second nature to me.

In This Is What You Just Put in Your Mouth? From Eggnog to Beef Jerky, the Surprising Secrets, readers learn more about the ingredients of some popular food and non-food items and what they actually do or contribute to the item being discussed. Majority of the items also include a back story that shares anecdotes about things like how the PR staff of the company responded.

To be honest, I thought that I would end up being paranoid after reading this book. As it turned out, I was more fascinated than scared. While there were some ingredients in food that are also present in non-food and toxic items, their purpose is different. The short sentence at the top of the page for each new product tends to make it seem like some of the stuff contains harmful or gross things. If you read the explanations for each ingredient, though, you'll realize that it's not necessarily as terrible as it seems. I mean, most of it isn't really healthy and I'm definitely not going to be feeding my toddler anything that contains too many weird ingredients. However, of the products included, the ones that looked the most terrible to me were those that either aren't available where I live or stuff that no one in my family really uses, so it's all good for me.

Each product ingredient breakdown description isn't something that was just taken from some random source or Wikipedia. The author actually went out of his way to interview scientists, etc., who could give him informed answers about how the ingredients interacted with each other. I'm a foodie, so I was most impressed, of course, by the entry about A.1. Steak Sauce, wherein the resource person was Alton Brown. His contribution was very helpful and insightful, and I felt like I learned a lot.

The back stories, as you can imagine, where more entertaining that just the ingredient lists. I loved reading about the companies' reactions to the author's questions. It makes you wonder why they're not answering questions that wouldn't endanger their secret formula at all. My favorite back story, though, is the one about eggnog. As a former (school newspaper and broadsheet, very briefly) journalist, I understand the thrill of the possibility of breaking a very big story. The story didn't end the way I wanted it to, but I can't say I'm surprised because that's really how big companies operate.

Thanks to NetGalley and Three Rivers Press for the e-ARC.


  1. You'll learn a lot.
  2. The back stories are interesting.
  3. The conversational tone used keeps things from becoming boring. 


  1. You may find that your favorite food or products contain ingredients that you are not okay with ingesting or using. 


  1. You want to know more about the ingredients in the products you are using.
  2. You've wondered what certain ingredients actually contribute.
  3. You want to check if some of the products or food you are using or eating contain harmful ingredients.




Note: This post contains Amazon and Book Depository affiliate links.

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