5 nastiest things in your supermarket

We unveil the most gag-inducing foods in your local market
© Men's Health // © Men's Health
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.
The 7 Biggest Food Label Lies
1 of 7 Man shopping for groceries (© Katrina Wittkamp/Getty Images)

#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.
GRILL YOURSELF THIN: Chances are you already own a grill, which means you have unrestricted access to one of the world’s best fat-fighting weapons. Here’s how to melt away body fat all summer: 20 Fat-Burning Secrets of the Grill.
2 of 7 Raw beef (© Maren Caruso/Getty Images)

#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.
HEALTH FOODS THAT AREN’T: Oatmeal is hardly the only health food with a dark side. From a 1,100-calorie smoothie to a turkey burger with more than a day’s worth of fat, The10 Worst “Health” Foods in America will make you rethink what you know about food.
3 of 7 Cheryl Zibisky/Getty Images (© Oatmeal with blueberries , plums & almonds)

#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 it gets worse—check out our complete list of the 15 Worst Burgers in America!
4 of 7 Butcher arranging meat in display case (© Echo/Getty Images)

#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.
LIVING SOCIAL: Don’t bail on dinner with friends just because you’re watching your weight. The 12 Best Restaurant Weight Loss Tips allow you to slim down while eating out.
5 of 7 Lettuce in Produce section (© Stella/Getty Images)

#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.
6 of 7 Frozen Berries (© Photolibrary/Getty Images)