Can Hair In Food Make You Sick?

The horror and revolting disgust of having to pull a strand — or strands — of hair from a mouthful of food is enough to make some of us discard the remaining meal left on our plate. I shudder just thinking about it.

1x1.trans Can Hair In Food Make You Sick?But inadvertently eating a few strands of hair is not a health threat, explains Popsci’s Victor Zapana. In fact, the FDA doesn’t even place a limit on strands per plate in its Food Code guidelines, and the FDA has never received reports of people getting sick from ingesting hair found in food.

Maria Colavincenzo, a dermatologist at Northwestern University who specializes in hair, says hair is made of a densely packed protein called keratin, which is chemically inactive in hair and won’t cause any problems if digested.

“It’s possible that staph bacteria, which can upset the stomach and bring on a case of diarrhea, could hitch a ride on a strand. But it’s very unlikely that the tiny amount of staph that can hide on a hair or two is enough to lead to gastrointestinal problems.”

Colavincenzo claims the only real way hair would pose a threat is if you ate a whole head’s worth. That much hair could impair your digestion in a similar way to the way hair clogs your shower drain.

“Ingesting that much could make long clumps of hair, called trichobezoars, form in your stomach and cause abdominal pain and other symptoms.”

Besides, consumers already ingest plenty of hair in the form of L-cysteine, an amino acid in keratin which is used commercially in dough for products like bread, pizza dough, and pastries.

Although some factories derive their L-cysteine synthetically or from duck feathers, others get it from human hair. Manufacturers who use human hair boil it in hydrochloric acid to extract the L-cysteine from the keratin.

In the article “Eating Human Hair by Another Name”, the author claims L-Cysteine is used in bagels, croissants, hard rolls, cake donuts, pita bread, and some crackers and Melba Toast. It is also used as a nutrient in baby milk formula and dietary supplements.

In 2007, Jeanne Yacoubou, Research Editor with The Vegetarian Resource Group, wrote that ten years ago the most common source of L-Cysteine was human hair found on the floors of Chinese barbershops.

L-Cysteine is considered generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. It must be labeled by its “L-Cysteine” on food packages, but in other cases, such as when it is used to make flavors that are in foods, it does not have to be labeled.

1x1.trans Can Hair In Food Make You Sick?
Inquisitive foodie with a professional investigative background and strong belief in the organic farm to table movement. Author of Bad Seeds: A FriendsEAT Guide to GMO's. Buy Now!
1x1.trans Can Hair In Food Make You Sick?
1x1.trans Can Hair In Food Make You Sick?

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