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If You’ve Ever Eaten Pizza Before, This Will Blow Your Mind (Maybe Literally)

I love pizza! It’s one of my top favorite foods next to kale and cake. And I know I’m not the only one that loves it, either. Recently, the USDA conducted a study which revealed the enormous amount of pizza we consume in the United States. American consumption of cheese increased by nearly 30% in 10 years because the dairy industry is spending big bucks to promote pizza and partner with big chains like Dominos. Congress even voted to declare pizza a vegetable in the school lunch program. The government wants us to eat pizza – a lot of it. But there’s a lot going on behind closed doors that nobody wants us to know or talk about, and it all starts with the ingredients. 

When I started researching pizza ingredients, one thing became abundantly clear. Pizza restaurants did not like the questions I was asking.

Pizza Vani Food Babe

The only way to find out what may be lurking in your pizza is to review its complete ingredient list, which is often concealed from the public. I began calling the top pizza chains and easily found a couple ingredient lists online. But, when I called most pizza restaurants and began asking questions, they blatantly refused to share ingredient lists and their customer service reps were oblivious to what their ingredients were – they had no clue.  

Little Caesars, California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) and Mellow Mushroom have all refused to answer my questions about their ingredients. I was told by Mellow Mushroom’s corporate offices that they will only comply with minimal government regulations, which require them to publish an allergen list.  

After sending me their dough ingredients, CPK suddenly claimed that due to “proprietary restrictions” they can’t disclose their full ingredient lists. They went on to tell me that they “don’t have an easy way to perform a search by individual ingredient” and would need to call each vendor first. While traveling, I stopped into a CPK in an airport to ask questions face to face. Both the manager and store clerk had zero access to ingredients. I even asked to look at the packages of their dough and other ingredients that got shipped to the store in and they said they did not have them. 

I called many local pizza restaurants and was informed that it’s their policy to NOT disclose ingredients to their customers. Little Caesars literally told me that if I was concerned about what was in it, I “just shouldn’t eat there…” Ha! Don’t worry, I won’t!

Papa John’s also has repeatedly refused to release their ingredient list, which really caused a stir last year with my friend Melanie Warner, author of the processed food exposing book “Pandora’s Lunchbox“. How can Papa John’s claim to have “Better Ingredients… Better Pizza” without telling us what’s really in it? While they say their lack of transparency is due to the proprietary nature of their recipes, they could be hiding some seriously harmful ingredients.  After repeated calls to corporate offices and some helpful photos sent to me by Melanie Warner, I was finally able to uncover some details about what is really in their pizzas.

Why are the ingredients so hard to find?  Why are they refusing to share their ingredients? What is it that these pizza restaurants don’t want us to know? 

Well, I’ll tell you what they’re hiding: Lots and lots of hidden MSG!

Restaurants don’t want to get a bad rap by putting monosodium glutamate (MSG) on their ingredient or allergen statements, so they have found another way to secretly add this potent flavor enhancer to your food, without the average customer realizing it. Instead of letting you know that they are putting MSG in your food, they are using an FDA loophole to sneak processed free glutamic acid into your food, which has the same effect as MSG – all without warning you. They simply use other forms of free glutamic acid (such as Hydrolyzed Soy Protein), which is the main component of MSG. This allows them to have “clean labels” and deceive us into believing their product contains no MSG – when it actually does!

While it’s true that tomatoes and cheese are naturally high in glutamates, they do not have the same effect on the brain as added manufactured free glutamic acid additives. When I talked to Papa John’s, they admitted that these additives are used as a replacement for MSG by the food industry.

It will blow your mind – literally

MSG tricks your brain into believing that what you are eating tastes so great that you want more of it. Your taste buds sense that there is more protein in the food than there really is – which is great for food manufacturers that want to save money by using less or lower quality meat. These ingredients also promote an addiction to pizza so that you keep coming back to order more. Repeat business keeps their pockets lined with lots of cash. Ever wonder why you can’t stop at one slice? This is why.

MSG and hidden MSG additives are known to commonly cause headaches, obesity and depression – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. As an excitotoxin, its effect on the brain is so toxic that it has been linked to learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Board certified neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock, M.D. warns that, “Excitotoxins have been found to dramatically promote cancer growth… It also causes a cancer cell to become more mobile, and that enhances metastasis, or spread… When you increase the glutamate level, cancer just grows like wildfire”. 

This is serious stuff. But the industry will tell you it’s harmless and that you are crazy for being concerned. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it is okay to eat this stuff occasionally, because these ingredients can stick around in your body for a long time, leach nutrients from your system, and can make you really sick.  As put by my pal Kristen Michaelis at FoodRenegade.com, “Not only is MSG not a traditional food, not only are many people immediately sensitive to it, but it can also interrupt the hormonal and biological development of children!  Lest you think this is all fanciful, it’s important to remember that a number of studies have found that the effects of MSG can occur cumulatively over time with subsequent exposure. 

Hidden MSG in Pizza

Toxic hidden MSG ingredients buried in popular pizza menu items:

  • Autolyzed Yeast Extract (Hidden MSG)
  • Textured or Hydrolyzed Proteins (Hidden MSG and GMO)
  • Hydrolyzed Corn (Hidden MSG and GMO)
  • Modified Starches (Hidden MSG or Possible GMO)
  • Natural Flavors (Possible Hidden MSG)
  • Disodium Inosinate or Disodium Guanylate (MSG enhancers)

The additives Disodium Guanylate and Disodium Inosinate are not added to a product that doesn’t contain MSG because they are considered expensive additives that are ineffective without MSG ingredients.  The presence of Disodium Guanylate or Disodium Inosinate in a product is a strong indication that a product contains hidden MSG.

I’m talking about more than MSG here

The ingredient lists that I could get my hands on are riddled with artificial colors, artificial and natural flavors, partially hydrogenated oils, cellulose (wood pulp) to keep the already shredded cheese from clumping, and GMO soybean oil.

Partially Hydrogenated Oils (Trans-fat) – There is absolutely no reason for anyone to still be using this. These oils are so bad that even our FDA has woken up and warns that it’s not safe to eat this in any food.  Partially hydrogenated oils block arteries and the CDC estimates that they could cause up to 20,000 heart attacks every year!  I found these dangerous oils in Pizza Hut’s hand-tossed crust, Round Table’s Creamy Garlic sauce, Papa John’s dipping sauces and Dominos Philly Steak pizza. Partially hydrogenated oils are found in 21 menu items at Cici’s Pizza – it’s even added to their cheese!

Soybean Oil (likely GMO) You’d hope to see just olive oil in there, but soybean oil is the oil of choice for most pizza restaurants.  It’s in the dough and pizza sauces, so it basically makes its way into every pizza. This genetically engineered inflammation causing oil is being used at these restaurants:

  • Papa John’s
  • Domino’s
  • Pizza Hut
  • Uno Pizzeria 
  • Papa Murphy’s
  • Little Caesars
  • Cici’s
  • Mellow Mushroom – “Soybean oil is a major ingredient in our pizzas
  • California Pizza Kitchen – “our Ciabatta Bread and our Wheat Dough do contain Soybean Oil”
  • Round Table Pizza – Creamy Garlic sauce

BHT/BHA (Butylated Hydroxytoluene.Butylated Hydroxyanisole) BHT is used in embalming fluid and to fuel jets.  BHA is toxic to your organs and linked to cancer. These were found in the pepperoni on every ingredient list I looked at from Uno’s to Dominos.

Sodium Nitrite – Whenever this is added to a meat, there is a really good chance that it contains cancer-causing Nitrosamines. Nitrites are often found in the pepperoni, ham, bacon and sausage toppings.

Enriched Flour This is a dead food that has had some vitamins and minerals artificially replaced. It’s absorbed by your body as a starch, rather than a whole grain. This flour is used in pizza dough, except the gluten-free versions.

Artificial Colors – These are petroleum-based colorings linked to asthma, allergies and hyperactivity. I found them in the banana pepper toppings, the cheese at Cici’s, and specifically in the garlic oil used by Domino’s.

Caramel Coloring – This is often made by heating ammonia and sulfites under high pressure which creates carcinogenic compounds. You’ll find this very controversial coloring in the bacon at Pizza Hut, the Italian sausage at Round Table, the beef at Little Caesars, the zesty pizza sauce at Cici’s and in the BBQ Chicken pizza at Uno’s.

BPA (Bisphenol A)You won’t find this on any ingredient label, but BPA leaches from the cans that hold pizza sauce in some restaurants. Many fast food pizza chains use canned tomato sauce that could have BPA. This substance exposure increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes and a slew of other medical problems. 

How these pizza restaurants stack up

Papa John’s – They add a lot to their “Better Ingredients”.  For instance, their “100% Beef” topping is a lot more than just beef! It contains corn syrup, maltodextrin, natural flavor, natural smoke grill flavor, beef flavor and seasonings. Also, so much for believing that there is 100% real cheese topping their pizzas, as they add modified food starch (hidden MSG), preservatives and powdered wood pulp (cellulose) to their cheese blend. They also add natural flavors to their thin crust, pepperoni, and chicken topping, as well as hidden MSG (autolyzed yeast extract) to their garlic ranch and spinach alfredo pizza sauces. Those little dipping sauces that come with your pizza are loaded with partially hydrogenated oil, GMOs and (you guessed it) more hidden MSG.

Update: In June 2015 Papa Johns announced they’re removing 14 ingredients by the end of 2016, including artificial colors, caramel color, the preservative sodium benzoate, and hidden MSG ingredients like autolyzed yeast extract and hydrolyzed proteins. They have also listed ingredients on their website (however this list is not entirely complete as they don’t publish the ingredients in some of their seasonings, such as in their beef topping). 

Papa Johns Ingredients

Domino’s – One of the few pizza restaurants that openly publishes their ingredients online – and their ingredient list has hidden MSG written all over it. It’s almost impossible to avoid at Dominos, as it’s in their cheese, marinara sauce, white sauces, BBQ sauce and a slew of toppings (chicken, beef, Italian sausage and Philly steak). They also add “flavors” to their pan crust, cheese, pepperoni and shake-on seasoning. The garlic oil used on nearly every pizza is NOT what you’d expect (garlic & oil).  It’s actually a toxic combo of over 20 ingredients including artificial colors, artificial flavors and TBHQ.

Pizza Hut – You get a lot more than “100% Real Beef” in this topping loaded natural and artificial flavors. Their sausage and bacon toppings have hidden MSG (autolyzed yeast or hydrolyzed proteins), and you are eating modified starches in their cheese, chicken and cream sauce (starches usually derived from GMO corn).  The garlic sauce and seasoning used on every hand-tossed pizza is loaded with natural flavors, artificial flavors and partially-hydrogenated GMO oils.  Pizza Hut recently reformulated their hand-tossed crust by replacing the high fructose corn syrup with sucralose (Splenda) – an artificial sweetener that has been shown to cause DNA damage to the gastrointestinal tract, reduces beneficial gut bacteria, and is linked to inflammatory bowel disease. Recent research indicates that sucralose is linked to leukemia

Round Table – “The Last Honest Pizza” honestly adds straight “Glutamic Acid” to their creamy garlic sauce. They add hidden MSG ingredients to their pizza sauces, chicken and sausage toppings. Their cheese is far from “100% real” with “Natural Smoke Flavoring” and cellulose.

Little Caesars – Although their corporate office told me that their ingredients are top secret, the first gal I talked with admitted that there is yeast extract in their beef topping. I also called a local store and found that their super-secret ingredients were listed right there on the package for anyone in the kitchen to read. According to my local restaurant, their sauce contains natural flavors and the cheese contains wood pulp (cellulose). They also rattled off the beef topping ingredients to confirm it contains yeast extract, beef flavorings and caramel coloring.

Mellow Mushroom – One of the most tight-lipped restaurants I talked to would only admit to the use of soybean oil, which is likely GMO – “Soybean oil is a major ingredient in our pizzas” they wrote to me in an email. Furthermore, when I asked about hidden MSG ingredients, they told me that they weren’t required to tell me since they are not one of the 7 major allergens designated by the FDA and don’t list them on their allergen list. So I decided to go use their allergen tool to see what they do list and found something shocking. The tool gives misleading, inaccurate and potentially dangerous information if you have a soy allergy. For example, I confirmed their crust uses soy, but when you use the tool, it says there are plenty of pizzas without soy. The information doesn’t add up and regardless of whether if you have an allergy, I would not trust Mellow Mushroom until they release the full ingredient lists for their menu. 

Uno Pizzeria – They are not much better than the rest with hidden MSG in their BBQ Chicken pizza, Harvest Vegetable pizza, sausage topping and gluten-free crust. I was a bit surprised to see that they also add caramel color, artificial flavors, and a large amount of natural flavors to their BBQ Chicken pizza – it’s totally unnecessary.

California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) – As they were being very difficult in sharing ingredients, I was only able to confirm that the Thai sauce, tomato pizza sauce, pepperoni, salami, bacon, romano cheese, and chipotle sauce do not contain any of the hidden MSG ingredients that I listed. Because they refuse to share an ingredient list, I have no way of knowing whether they contain other additives or hidden MSG that I didn’t ask about – so don’t be convinced that these menu items are clean! I also inquired about hidden MSG ingredients in their other cheeses, BBQ sauce, chicken, sausage and ham toppings – and they have not responded at all regarding those items. Again, I will take their lack of a response as an indication that they do contain hidden MSG until they inform us otherwise.

Papa Murphy’s – It’s all about the sauces at Papa Murphy’s, where there’s yeast extract in their basil pesto sauce and modified food starch in their BBQ sauce, buffalo sauce, creamy garlic sauce and sweet chili sauce. They also add “flavors” to nearly every meat topping available and to their cheese. 

Cici’s – They don’t really hide it by adding straight MSG to 10 menu items including their “Zesty” pizza sauce. Cici’s further adds hidden MSG to their buffalo sauce, ranch dressing, bacon cheddar sauce, sausage topping and beef topping. Quite frankly, I can’t believe how bad their “cheese” is – modified food starch, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, (added) casein, aluminum, natural flavors and artificial color! I was also astounded to find high fructose corn syrup in their BBQ sauce and dessert pizzas, as well as carrageenan and propylene glycol in several of their sauces, including the Alfredo.

Cicis

Are you wondering about your favorite pizza place?

The good news is that you can do the exact same thing I did at your favorite pizza place, and please share the outcome with me!

To get the best results, plan to visit your pizza place during a slow time and not during their dinner rush.  This way their employees won’t be rushed and will have time to answer your questions.  Right off the bat, ask them if they have an ingredient list to share with you.  Most likely they won’t, but it’s worth a try.  If their ingredients are not readily available, here’s my game plan for navigating the menu and asking the right questions:

  • Typically the safest bet is to stick with a veggie pizza without cheese. This is dependent on what they have lurking in their sauce and crust, so it’s really important to find out what is in those items!  Ask them to read you the complete ingredients in the sauce and dough.
  • Hidden MSG is most often found in meat toppings, seasoning mixes and creamy sauces – so if you plan to order those things I would ask specifically about hidden MSG ingredients.  Ask them if monosodium glutamate, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed proteins, modified starches, or natural flavors are in any of those menu items. Which ones?
  • GMO soybean oil is usually found in the crust and the sauces.  Ask them if they use soybean oil – and in what menu items.  Is soybean oil used in their pans?  Can they make you a pizza without it?
  • Ask them directly if any of their ingredients are GMO. You may be surprised as they may have no clue what you are talking about.  Use this as an opportunity to briefly share with them what a GMO is and why you don’t eat GMOs. Let them know that most soy is GMO so if they use soy in any products, it is probably GMO. Their allergen statement should also be able to tell you if soy is used in any product.
  • Remember that “garlic oils” and “shake-on seasonings” may contain a bunch of questionable ingredients and MSG. Ask them if there are any specialty oils, butter sauces, or seasoning mixes used on their pizzas. If they can’t tell you the ingredients in those, ask them not to use it on yours.
  • Do they use high fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners in their sauces or dough? These sweeteners are probably derived from GMO sources – including “sugar”.
  • Most vegetables will not be GMO, unless they have corn, tofu, zucchini or yellow squash toppings. I would avoid those.
  • What about cellulose in their cheese? Are flavorings and preservatives added to the cheese as well?

Beware that often times the restaurant employees truly do not know the answers to your questions, and will give you incorrect answers.  For instance, they may tell you that their cheese is “100% real cheese”, without realizing that the pre-shredded bag of cheese in the back contains an ingredient list.  On that ingredient list, they will likely find cellulose, some preservatives, and possibly some flavors and colors.  It’s good to remember that it’s not all that it seems on the surface, and in order to find out what is really in their food they will need to read the ingredient list on the box, bag or can that the menu item comes in. The bottom line – If they won’t tell you what is in their food, don’t eat there.

They don’t expect the average customer to demand answers about their food!

Only four of the restaurants I investigated publish their current ingredient lists online – Dominos, Uno’s, Papa Murphy’s, Cici’s. (Pizza Hut publishes them online, but they admitted to me they aren’t current in an email). As in my Chipotle investigation, I had to be extremely persistent over several months to get the limited information that I did from the other restaurants. This took multiple phone calls, voicemails, emails, and website contact forms – which often went unanswered. I had to ask specific questions about obscure ingredients. They are counting on the average customer to not do this! 

On Papa John’s website, they say that their cheese is “crafted from 100% mozzarella and high-quality milk by one of America’s finest cheese producers” – But the ingredients tell the real story. Now we know their cheese also contains wood pulp and modified food starch… and that IT’S NOT 100% CHEESE. When Papa John’s claims in all of their advertising that they have “Better Ingredients”, yet they won’t openly tell us what they are, it’s a safe bet they’re hiding something.

I wonder if any of these restaurants will have the courage to discuss this issue. Will they do the right thing now that we are calling them out, like Chipotle did when they finally released their full ingredient list online for everyone to see? These companies do not deserve our business, until they publish their ingredients online and make them easily accessible to the average customer.

What to eat instead:

Okay, this is the good part! I’m thrilled to say that I’ve found some pizza places that are doing it right! 

Pizza Fusion – I called up a Pizza Fusion restaurant and they freely answered every question I had about their ingredients – a big WIN in my book!  Their sauce is super simple: organic tomatoes, olive oil, water – and no nasty additives or hidden MSG. They only use olive oil in the restaurant, so you won’t find any GMO soybean or canola oil here. They confirmed with me that their gluten-free crust no longer contains canola oil and that they are diligent about preventing cross-contamination with gluten. I was really happy to find out that all of their meat toppings are antibiotic-free! Their chickens are also fed a non-GMO diet. Many of their veggie toppings are organic and local, and all are non-GMO. This varies and depends on what is seasonally available, so simply ask them which veggies are organic when you order. They have about 12 locations right now, and I really hope they grow into a larger chain so that more of us have access to pizza places like this!

Pure Pizza – I simply love this place. If you are ever in Charlotte, this is the place to go. They have an amazing organic sprouted grain crust, and source their toppings locally.

Truly Organic Pizza – This pizza chain in Florida is USDA certified organic. Because of this, none of their ingredients can be GMO, and all of their meats are antibiotic-free and not injected with hormones. I called them up and asked specifically about hidden MSG ingredients. They told me that they do not use any flavor enhancers such as autolyzed yeast extract or hydrolyzed proteins to season their food. They cook their meatballs and chicken from scratch and only season them with basic seasonings like what we would use at home! This is another great option if you are in Florida.

My Favorite Homemade Pizza Recipe – If you don’t have pizza restaurants like these in your neck of the woods, my homemade pizza recipe is super simple and will be ready in less time than it would take you to order and have it delivered – I promise! This recipe cures my pizza craving in no time! 

If you know someone who is ordering or eating pizza with these terrible ingredients, help them make the switch by sharing this very important information with them!

Together we are changing the world, one company at a time, by sharing the truth. 

Xo,

Vani 

 

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1,131 responses to “If You’ve Ever Eaten Pizza Before, This Will Blow Your Mind (Maybe Literally)

  1. I have questions about cheese……. what do you think about manchego (sheep)? Is Tillamook cheddar ok and what is annatto they use for color? I bought Kirkland brand (Costco) manchego and thought ingred looked ok thanks. I don’t know what to put in website box

    1. I live in Tillamook Country where the cheese comes from. Their cheese is as close to natural as you will be getting. If you look at the cheese you will notice it doesn’t have that shine or plastic feel to it. Read the actual label for ingrediance next to another cheese. short list less crap.

    2. Annatto is a natural food coloring. The only real concern for annatto is an allergic reaction. It is derived from a plant by natural means and has been eaten for thousands of years plain or as an additive for color and sometimes flavor.

      Some people will scare monger you with it being used in cosmetics or body paints, but you could use any coloring agent(like beet juice) in body paint or cosmetics safely. That doesn’t make it less food safe.

      1. Annatto is a colour pigment from a plant so its natural. If there are questions, maybe chemists have synthesized the chemical in the lab (I do not know)

      2. Anthony and Esther,

        It appears you have both fallen into the “natural food” trap………just because something is “natural” or “natural derived” it is fine for everyone to consume.
        Carrageenan and MSG are naturally derived also.

        Google: Beware Annatto and Food Intolerance Network.

        Do your research, just because something is natural does not mean it is fine for human consumption…….I don’t care how long it has been used in certain cultures.

      3. John, I’m pretty sure I mentioned allergic reactions. Extremely mild allergic reactions are called intolerance. So I’m pretty sure my post indicated what you said. As for the so called “natural food trap.” I’d have to argue that both Carrageenan and MSG are, in fact, safe. The key to any food is moderation. Most studies that observe negative effects revolve around force feeding a rat or other lab animal for an extended period of time nothing but the chemical in question and other basic dietary needs.

        Lastly, to say the length of time a food or substance is used is not relevant is rather ignorant of how science works. Laboratory science is great for understanding the inner workings of our world. But observed science is better for applying to your everyday life.

        Bottom line John…eat a variety of foods and you’ll be healthier than anyone that follows some new fad, scaremonger diet that proclaims something forbidden. For example, there is a story I heard about a guy who went on an orange diet. He ate only oranges. He ended up getting deathly ill and nearly dying because of various vitamin deficiencies and overdoses combined. And by the end he’d gained thirty pounds.

    3. If it has a face or a mother (or comes from one of those), don’t eat it. If it comes out of a box, or is otherwise made by man, don’t eat it. Go for a whole food, plant based diet; your body will loved you for it.

  2. You might be interested to hear this about Little Ceasars… I am gluten-intolerant – I am not celiac, but I do get really sick when I have gluten. However, Little Ceasars is the only pizza I can eat that is not advertised as “gluten free”. My body does not have its negative gluten reactions to their pizza, which clearly means they aren’t using real wheat in their dough (since gluten is a wheat protein). So then, what ARE they using?? It’s kind of scary to me. I would be extremely interested in more research into them.

      1. My gluten intolerant “babble”…I’m going to assume you don’t have a “gluten” problem. And since you referred to this article I’m assuming you’d rather I call it a FODMAPS intolerance, and then subsequently explain to people what that is? I am also not self-diagnosed, as the subjects in the study were. I was having GI troubles and was recommended to a GI specialist. I kept food logs and did elimination diets, and it was my specialist who told me I have gluten sensitivities, and if I wasn’t careful that could turn into celiac disease (a disease based on gluten intolerance). So while some people who have diagnosed themselves as gluten intolerant may just be incorrect in their diagnosis, there are some who have a serious problem with gluten and don’t appreciate it when people scoff at something that severely impacts their every day lives.

      2. Wow, let’s all just gang up on everyone who has medical conditions because it’s all in their heads anyway. Speaking does not suit you. Celiac’s Disease is nothing to joke about. I met a family who had two children with it. All their cookware had to be pre-sanitized, food and cooked separately from everything else, gluten wasn’t even in their home. They were so allergic that if the mother used a spoon from cooking the rest of the family’s meal, and accidentally used it to stir the certified gluten-free meal, both her children would end up in the hospital. Everything has gluten or it was made in a facility were wheat/gluten products are made. Shannon is being very wise because once it gets bad enough, you are no longer able to enjoy food because cross-contamination is hard to avoid. No more restaurant food, NONE. gluten-free in the fast food/restaurant world is more for the health conscious and not meant for the severely allergic/Celiac. I still can’t believe how you were able to post your comment. You are so cruel, I am embarrassed for you. We will be nice and give you the benefit of the doubt because you don’t have it and probably have never met anyone with a severe food allergy. Yes, there are plenty of people who overstate an illness, but to accuse a stranger of doing so is out of line. Do you also accuse people with Leukemia as faking it? Anyway, I volunteered at a summer camp and helped the head cook with the meals. The cook made everyone leave the kitchen while she prepared these two children’s meals. She was so freaked out that she had the number to nearest hospital written and posted in the kitchen. The week went great, and I came out learning a lot. First, certified gluten-free food is super expensive. It’s also not the tastiest, and it showed in the children. They were very thin, and we had to make meals that were similar to the other kids’ or they could have been teased. I already mentioned the cross-contamination, but the worst was when we took all the girls for ice cream…and guess who couldn’t have any? Of course they were used to it because they had been to the hospital so many times, but I wasn’t used to it. They even had to use special sunscreens. It’s real easy to judge diseases when you don’t have to live with them, but try to imagine never being able to eat out with friends, or eat junk food, or try the new beauty products that all the other girls are using. Their mom even had to call factories and double check if it could be in anyway cross-contaminated because she didn’t want to poison her children. Obviously not everyone is this allergic, but don’t EVER assume an allergy isn’t something to note. Why else would labels say, this product was made in a facility that uses peanuts, wheat, and soy. I also saw a label that said something like, this product was made in a nut-free area, but not suitable for allergies due to nut manufacturing elsewhere in the facility. Please don’t take allergies lightly, that’s how you accidentally commit man-slaughter or more likely child-slaughter.

      3. Babble? Are you serious? I’m not celiac, but if I eat gluten I will fall asleep for up to 10 days (the amount of time it takes the body to clear gluten). I’m a serious danger driving because I fall asleep at the wheel. I’m asleep at my desk at work. It’s absolutely miserable and the reason I would never consciously cheat.

        Do you call it “peanut allergy babble” or “bee sting allergy babble”? I’m not sure why we’re the ones who get all the crap, but think about this: I didn’t have this problem until my late 50s. I’m also one of the 3% who can’t eat oats, either. You have a good chance of being one of us!

      4. Did anyone happen to notice the link at the bottom of that supposedly “scientific” article Diane posted to insult Shannon and the MILLIONS of others, myself and my girlfriend included, who aren’t Celiac but have a medically diagnosed sensitivity to gluten?
        The next “myth” up for that website to bust was the supposed myth that MSG IS BAD FOR YOU! That’s right– the lovely, wholly truthful and scientific source that is Business Insider states that MSG is not harmful AT ALL to humans. What a complete joke and sham. Fantastic “debunking” job there, Diane; you seem to really know your stuff….

      5. Diane, thank you for showing us your ignorance and your intolerance toward anyone who isn’t you.

      1. It’s true, guest45, I have family members with Celiac so there are no traces of gluten anywhere at our family parties. Gluten reactions are extremely serious for celiacs.

        Andre, that’s really scary stuff! I’ve read that article before, and it really scares me how low America’s standards are for food. I mean, on a bottle of Roundup it says to call poison control if ingested…! Unfortunately it seems to be all wheat that affects me personally, and since I have family members with celiac, gluten issues seem to run in the family. However, who knows! There is so much more research being done into all this gluten stuff that maybe they will find a different root cause (such as poison). Glad to see others are aware of the fact that a lot of wheat is essentially toxic because of what is done to it.

    1. Just a FYI… THE flour the Little Ceaser’s uses has on the outside of it’s bag ” HIGH GLUTEN “. In very big letters.

      1. HG flour does not have more gluten, high gluten refers to the gluten strength, also, gluten does not actually exist until the gliadin and glutenin are combined with water and agitated.

        On another note, one of the major reasons one place may have a better result than another place when it comes to pizza crust and someones body is the preservatives introduced into the dough for frozen dough balls in restauraunts like that use premixed doughs, and those preservatives compounding the effects of the gluten reaction to your body. A place that uses actual ingredients and a simple but elegant pizza dough made that day has no need for additives and will result in a more stomach friendly pizza.

        (I cite myself on this as I am a professional pastry chef specializing in breads and I hold a degree in baking and pastry)

  3. This is real pizza. Brought up in his fathers bakery in Italy, where he met his love at age 15. They have a small pizzeria in Ann Arbor mi. And you’ve never NEVER. Tasted Italian dishes or pizza like this.
    Grape pizza with fontina, feta, goat cheese, with grapes, blueberries or cherries!
    The awesome truffle pizza with smoked mozzarella, shiitake mushrooms and white truffle oil. This doesn’t even give him & his family, who have all worked there & know most customers by name! On holidays him & his wife, catia cook up a storm for his family and many friends that he knows from Italy, from Ann Arbor, and many other “foodies”. He uses organic ingredients as much as possible, also using local farmers and brewer’s from kombucha to many local brews. From vegan to carnivore, whole wheat pizza & pasta to gluten free handmade crusts, (yes, we were up til all hours perfecting his own recipe, & he still finds ways to improve it!) This is an amazing experience for anyone.
    If you’ve never seen someone create theses magnificent edible pieces of art with all of their heart laid on the pizza peel…you need to do this. If you’ve never seen heart-shaped pizzas handmade at valentines, with swan pastries from scratch for dessert…it’s worth more the time and travel costs, it invites you into the family and sets a”reserved” table for hope to see you again.

    1. To JesRose, I would like name and location of this pizzeria in Ann Arbor. I am going to the ARK next week and would like to try this restaurant.

  4. I own a Mellow Mushroom and it is kinda crazy to put Mellow Mushroom Pizza in the same category as papa johns and dominos. Really? MM dough is made fresh every day and all ingredients are prepared each morning. Nothing on your pizza is frozen. The cheese comes fresh as well and never frozen. I am very aware of food additives and would never feed to my kids nor eat myself if there was a concern. Mellow is as mellow does. Keep on shroomin!

    1. She didn’t say anything about frozen ingredients. What she said was MM wouldn’t disclose info, which is basically what you just did. What ingredients are you using? If your using soybean oil then you are not being accurate in your statement.

      1. Many chains don’t wish to reveal their ingredients to maintain a level of proprietary protections. Further, in the case of some…the employees sign a non-disclosure agreement. Even the information you received would be enough to get people fired in some cases.

        However, did you ask more generic questions: Does your company mention GMOs or MSG in any documentation? Do you serve organic meat? It doesn’t SOUND like you did based off what I’m reading and the response of the Mellow Mushroom owner above.

        Also, thinking that a chain is going to be able to compete with a mom and pop place for the ability to put out the type of food you are looking for? Not even a likely chance of that in most situations and it seems more like a witch hunt than a blog to discuss the dangers/worries of eating pizza outside of your four suggestions. Of course they aren’t perfect, of course some are worse than others, but it doesn’t have to be a complete witch hunt.

    2. What you just said is exactly what most of the companies in this article say about their food. Trust me, i worked at a pizza place, we said the same thing.

      Though it may be delicious, its not exactly good for you. Most people know this and blatantly ignore it. If you are REALLY serious about whats in your food, you’re going to have to make it yourself most of the time. If this list of “hidden” ingredients surprised you, i got some bad news for you: Just about every food chain has “hidden” ingredients. “NO MSG” usually means “ya, we substituted other equally bad things for it just so it sounds better”.

      Do your own research people. If you were shocked at this, look at all the food you’ve eaten today. I’m sure that some of it has “hidden” ingredients.

      Reactions to articles like this piss me off.

  5. I was recently at a Restaurant show and heard a former Little Ceasars executive telling someone else that Little Ceasars sells the protein out of their cheese to keep their costs low. Do you know if their is any truth to this?

      1. I believe what the employee was referring to was actually removing the Whey protein which is sellable and has a huge market on the dietary market. And, I looked up that process and it seems like it is a fairly simple drying process. Again, I don’ t know if this is true or not but I do know that their cheese does not melt when you heat it in the microwave…it has a strange texture and seems to be different than other pizza cheese. This would explain a lot!

      2. Tanya,
        I don’t know for sure, but from your description of this “cheese”, I would guess it is not cheese at all but imitation cheese which is made from hydrogenated vegetable oil instead of milk. It is cheap junk………I spent 25 years in the wholesale food industry.

        How do you think they sell pizza for $5.00.

    1. Exactly. That’s why I really don’t care about any of it. I eat what I want (within limits) and only eat unhealthy stuff like pizza occasionally. As long as it’s not part of your daily diet, I don’t see what harm 2 slices a month is going to do. Or as Dave Barry says, “Stay fit and healthy until you’re dead”!

      1. As Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. says in his book ‘Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease’ says, “moderation kills”.

  6. I am glad that some one take,s the time to search and show us what co,s put in our food chain thank,s

      1. Maybe I should explain. We are big on celebrating birthdays in our family. The birthday person gets to choose what kind of birthday dinner they want. So my son chose pizza. He just turned 21 yesterday. I’m sure you’ll say inform him of the harm pizza does to the body. He has Asperger’s and it will take a bit to explain this and he’ll research it too, making his own choice. So I’ll point him to your info and see what happens. Thank you.

      2. I doubt it’s going to be that bad to eat this pizza once a year. Make up for it the rest of the year, and enjoy the birthday party.

  7. cellulose isn’t really that dangerous… its tree… tree is a giant vegetable. Beavers eat trees… its perfectly safe for humans to consume. I would say that Little Caesars is probably the safest fast food pizza place to eat at.

    1. It’s also completely indigestible to humans, so it just sorta comes right back out. It’s used to keep the cheese from caking.

      1. ScienceBae, Not to defend using tree based cellulose in food, but labeling it bad because it is indigestible is incorrect. The cellulose fiber in all your veggies and fruits are the same. That’s why fiber is sold as a bulking agent (metamucil, psyllium husk, etc.) to keep you regular. Just because you eliminate it doesn’t mean it’s bad. No one would recommend a fiber-free diet. It’s the source that is questionable. What trees? How was the pulp processed? What chemicals did they treat it with and are they fit for human consumption? Why not use food plant derived cellulose instead? THESE are the questions that need asking.

  8. Great article, and I thought I would chip in my “two cents”. I have eaten Papa John’s Pizza twice. Both times I ending up vomiting within a couple of hours. The last time I ate pizza from Pizza Hut, which was in the fall of 2007, I was not halfway through my second slice, when I felt a huge pimple coming on the side of my cheek. It grew to the size of a dime. I was horrified! Needless to say, I did not finish eating the second slice.

    The pimple became a “crater” by the next day, and when it erupted, it was nasty. That was 7 and a half years ago, and I still bear the scar from it. I have no idea what precipitated that, but I will never eat pizza from Pizza Hut again.

    By the way, I was I was 57 years old at the time – a little late in life to get a large pimple on my face.

    1. I think it’s pretty safe to say whatever caused that eruption on your face, it wasn’t the pizza (unless you slapped a red-hot slice against your cheek, and I’d call that a burn!). There’s nothing in a slice of pizza that’s going to make a boil suddenly show up on you. Did you see a doctor about it?

      1. SKR, I stopped eating onion rings from restaurants, years ago, because I got eruptions on my face within an hour after ingesting them. I am really tiny, and react to certain foods quickly.

        Only once in my entire life, have I had such a severe reaction to food, and it was when I ate the pizza from Pizza Hut.

        Some people’s bodies respond rapidly to what they eat.

        No, I did not see a doctor about it, as I have not been to a doctor for over 25 years. That was when my last child was born. Thank God, I tend to be healthy.

  9. To the arguing boys..take your testosterone laden pants off and quit using this forum to bash your needless displays of using your Thesaurus to compete. Crap in food exists. Someone has dedicated her life for the public good and protection. Can you say the same thing? You seem to spend your time editing someone else’s free speech. What are you doing? You’re both a bore.

  10. Thanks food babe for doing all of that research. Darn, and I like pizza a lot. I like a healthy body even more.

    Also, thanks for the Subway report. It was worse than I imagined, and I only ate the veggie subs.

  11. That is why most get so thirsty after eating pizza, you can feel it as soon as you eat it! I use to drink like a horse after eating pizza and it still didn’t cure my thirst.

  12. This is why it’s better to eat pizza from your local pizzeria’s or make your own crust with organic sauce/cheese so u know exactly what’s in it! I’ve gotten pizza from the same pizzeria for over 20 years, and have never once gotten sick. I can see them adding ingredients and hand tossing the dough and making the sauce themselves!

  13. I think you guys should all never eat there again. They will offer more deals to gain more business and I’ll get cheaper pizza :). Everyone wins!

  14. Years ago, when you could ask for “nutrition” lists at restaurants, I discovered that these pizza chains even put msg in their tomato sauce. Just like the other restaurantd that add msg to the butter for those delicious rolls they serve before dinner.

    That’s when I quit eating out ( and turned into a good cook).

    Funny, you can’t even get those pamphlets anymore…….

  15. So I might be late to the party… but we’re all adults here and we’re all aware that “MSG” is monosodium glutamate, right? The first ingredient in table salt? MSG is an acronym for something that is a synonym for Sodium. We all know that right?

    1. Salt is sodium chloride, naturally. Monosodium glutamate isn’t salt. Nor is it an acronym for salt. Sure, it contains sodium, but it also contains glutamate, an amino acid, to make our body think we’re eating something high in protein. Just because it is in our table salt these days doesn’t mean it should be, and doesn’t make it a synonym for salt.

  16. Would really like to know about “Spin Neopolitan Pizza”, we have many of them in Kansas City. Not sure unfortunately if any fusion pizzas made it here. We had one I knew of, and it closed. With KC getting on lots of lists as one of the top restaurant cities, I would love for you to do some of your magic here! I feel Like we do have a fair amount a good choices here! And gaining! The organic, local food movement is growing here. I can not eat MSG , if I accidently get a little it’s not the end of the world, but I do have, at a least minor reactions .I seem to be ok eating at Spin Pizza. And i really like there gluten free crust. Though it may have soy i haven’t asked as i was just relieved to be able to get a pizza i like w/out msg! However ive had 2 friends who have tried to ask them about ingredients. And both feel they got pretty limited answers. One of them wasn’t even asking about toxins, but just food allergies such as garlic or soy. They say they have no msg. They are fair size chain though, so it would be great to see what you find with them!
    Love what your doing! Thank you!

  17. Let’s have a reality check here. None of the items you pointed out as hidden MSG, are actually MSG. They are components used to create it, but do not actually have it’s properties. That would be like saying that Iron is Steel, since it is used to make it.
    BHA is not actually in any of the lists.
    None of the items you list as causing cancer have actually been linked with cancer. They are thought to cause it, but there is no evidence.
    There is also no evidence that GMO food have any negative effects. There is a lot of ignorant people that fear science, and therefor claim it is bad.

    Let’s not jump into a tirade, just so you can promote some places that are willing to pay you for the advertising.

    When you have real evidence, let’s talk again.

    1. I was going to add this but with a bit more data. Just a disclaimer before I start – I do think eating fast food pizza is horrible for you but if you’re going to lead a crusade at least start by telling the truth.

      Glutamic Acid is NOT bad for you nor is it MSG! It’s a natural ingredient found in virtually every food. We have serveral pounds of it in our bodies all the time. It’s actually something you need.

      http://www.edenfoods.com/articles/view.php?articles_id=207

      For this site to go on a tirade of “hidden MSG” to prove fast food pizza is bad lessens their credibility. The saddest part is fast food pizza IS bad and but there’s no reason to lie to prove that – just use real data otherwise you sound like another crackpot standing on a soapbox.

    1. CONTACT ME AT EMAIL. For real and not a joke. Have masters in micro biology and type 2 diabetic. Conduct seminars about the subject that public need to understand about eating.
      jim

      1. well I have tried to send you my email so I have contacted my cpmpany to find that ans to the non MSG question. I can tell you that the one i have been taking for decades is both HALAL and KOSHER certified if the makes any difference. reply if you want more info. not sure we can promote products here because I do own a potion of the company. Not a joke.

  18. So I have noticed you have some quite controversial stances on some food safety issues. For example your stances against artificial flavoring and colors and GMO’s (which are largely considered to be safe as there is no substantial data that the end products of any of these have toxic effects). However your claim that glutamic acid is the same as MSG is a little alarming to me. While individuals may have sensitivities to glutamic acid and MSG, they are both largely considered safe, particularly since glutamic acid by itself is an amino acid, one of the building blocks of all proteins. You literally cannot get away from glutamic acid even if you tried. As for MSG, MSG is simply the basic form of glutamic acid ionicly bonded with sodium. So the sodium content might be bad for you, but if you remember basic chemistry, once in water MSG will ionize to form glutamate (the basic form of glutamic acid) and sodium. Fun fact, it will actually predominantly be found in the dibasic form at physilogical pH, and at your stomach’s pH it will not be ionized at all, and will simply be glutamic acid. These are all different forms of glutamic acid, an amino acid. How can you believe that an amino acid is bad for every human being on this planet?

    That being said, your coments about BPA and trans fats are valid.

  19. Wow. This is a loaded article. If I did not know better, I would think I was out to poison society and give them cancer just to pad my bottom line, not make them super fresh, healthy mouthwatering food. We run a model that is very transparent and solicit your questions. We do serve Hormel Pepperoni and I am sure it has the above offending ingredients. We do use soybean oil in our dough only. I have been doing so for 30 years with no malicious intent. We also sport the most mouthwatering VEGAN pizza pie in the land. Personally, I choose to be very careful, so I do not eat much meat (and I can source the meat I do eat), I eat thin crust, light or no cheese and lots of yummy vegetables (never Hormel or anyone else pepperoni). Frankly, the resource and pollution stream behind cheese is insane. Most people do not know or want to know. Cheese is possibly more resource consuming than just eating the flesh of the cow. I am a veteran in the pizza industry and hope somebody will come ask me questions. Pizza Pete
    Infinitus Pie, Denver Colorado

  20. To Robert
    I just received this notice which is why its so far away from your reply to my first comment, but you have an amazing ability to change the point in order to further your agenda. You should run for president.

  21. Great article! I have an allergy to soybean oil. It surfaced about 2 years ago. I have spent a lot of time doing my due diligence in finding out what is in my restaurant food. Restaurants are deceiving at times. I was told that our 100% Virgin Olive oil at Buca de Beppo has a 50% Olive Oil content and 50% Vegetable oil content. I haven’t gone back. I could not confirm that the vegetable oil was soybean oil. Some high end pizza restaurants say they use 100% Olive oil but use a blend. A good pizza joint in Dallas in Grimaldi’s. I have had no reaction while eating pizza at their restaurants. If you have problems and the restaurant will not be forthcoming with the information…stay out of them. I have my favorites and do not hesitate to tell my friends which ones are good.

  22. Seriously- who cares?! If it bothers you so much then just don’t eat it. End of story. Sure, it’s great to know what in your food but in today’s culinary industry, are you truly surprised by the fact that there are ‘bad for you’ ingredients in your food?! Let’s take a lesson for the Common Sense Handbook- if it’s an unhealthy meal/snack option, then eat it in moderation. Don’t be gluttonous about it. Even ‘good for you’ options are bad in large/mass quantity! This article does nothing but promote an unnecessary fear. The public is well aware that pizza, especially restaurant/chain brand pizza is not a healthy meal choice. So, thanks for nothing. Go take a chill pill.

    1. ‘Who Cares’… Obviously ‘You Care’. So take your juvenile comments and write them in crayon in your own cry baby journal instead of stalking sites with your pathetic prophesies. Now that’s some ‘Common Sense’. Fact: there is is massive plethora of followers on this site for a reason. That being ‘We Care’. About this site that is. Regarding your half cent sentiments the answer is a loud & resounding ‘NO ONE’.

      1. There was nothing juvenile about what he said, nor did he or she imply that they aren’t a fan of the sight in general. Actually, and i don’t mean to be insulting, you made yourself sound pretty immature. I happen to agree with them simply because the article seems uninspired. That’s understandable from a journalistic point of view, sometimes you just need to submit a few inches of writing. A vague headline and some frightening facts about something common is a formula you’ll find almost everywhere. P.S. Try to read comments in a neutral tone.

  23. I’m 44yrs young.
    I’ve had maybe 5 headaches my whole life. I do not take medicine.
    I’ve had one 24hr migraine (I was informed) during 9/11 when I lived a few blocks from Ground Zero.

    I used to “grab a slice” of plain pizza when I lived in NYC. Maybe two a month. No reaction.

    I just moved to Asheville. Slices are hard to come by so I bought a frozen DiGiorno’s 4 Meat Pizza Thin Crust – because it was on sale.

    I just ate half of it and ten minutes later my hands reached to massage my temples. It’s an uncomfortable pressure with a slight pinch. It’s very obvious it’s from the pizza but to make sure I Googled “does pizza cause headaches” and found this blog.

      1. Sarah….I’m ordering pizza from them right now!
        I Googled it’s location and noticed – could this be the place I was just looking at the other day while eating an ice cream cone at the soft serve shack? I think so.
        Thank you kindly!

      2. Hope you love it! I had a great slice of creamed spinach with sesame seed crust for lunch today. It’s pizza that you wake up craving for!

  24. Hi we are a new company. Our website isn’t up yet but real soon. I read your article on pizza. My company, Genuine Organics, makes an organic sprouted spelt pizza dough and sauce. It’s amazing. Even kids love it. My sister, Tami, and I started the business in OKC and brought our friend, Derek, in from Boulder. We are currently selling in OKC and working on a big deal in Boulder. We would love to send you some pizza dough and sauce and get your opinion. We only use the purest, organic ingredients with nothing fake. My phone number is 405-823-1029. Or I am under sheli reynolds on Facebook. Genuine Organics has a Facebook Page also. We hope to hear from you! Thanks! Sheli

  25. Wow this is very Good info. Thanks go much for sharing this article with us; Jesus Christ Bless you! 🙂

  26. Simply wish to say your article is as astounding.
    The clarity for your put up is simply great and that i can suppose
    you are an expert in this subject. Fine with your permission allow me to grab your feed to stay updated with coming near near post.
    Thanks a million and please continue the gratifying work.

  27. I make my own pizza and sauce. That way I avoid dough that tastes like cardboard and I avoid all the store bought sauces that are loaded with sugar.

    My pizza is just as good if not better than anything you can get from your local pizzeria. Just like all the chain restaurants use pre-made soups, sauces and desserts, your local pizza guy is likely using lots of stuff that was pre-made off site.

  28. I am just wondering, I have eaten MSG, carrageen (seaweed), soy products all my life and have developed lactose intolerance. Does anyone feel that my lactose intolerance developed from my ‘unhealthy’ diet?

  29. You should worry more about phytic acid than msg, but if you live in the us your gonna be screwed either way, the government only wants to fill their pockets. No matter how many people die and get sick. Without illness and crime our country would collapse, they are what keep our wheels turning because the people are so stupid and brainwashed. Explaining corruption is like arguing with a christian. No matter how many facts you can provide, you’re never gonna be right.

  30. Since my wife is gluten and nightshade free we make our own pizza and use homemade pesto sauce. Our crust is tapioca flour. That’s it.

  31. So pizza is going to kill me.
    News flash: I don”t eat pizza because I think it’s good for me. I eat it because is tastes good.
    I don’t eat it every day. And I don’t gorge myself on it.
    So piss off with the “sky is falling” BS.

  32. Awareness is a good thing. Getting information to make educated decisions is a good thing. Finding objective sources of info is a good thing, but getting harder in this internet age. I read food labels, and stay away from most processed foods. But eating Pizza Hut occasionally is not something I worry about. The amounts of these additives if consumed in moderation are harmless TO MOST PEOPLE. But sure, there are folks that are more sensitive to certain ingredients. That does not make them BAD FOR EVERYONE. If you have a bad reaction to something, don’t eat it. But don’t make it the villain it isn’t.

  33. MSG has never been once proven to cause any illness in a double blind study. MSG is not some dangerous chemical, and is found naturally in plenty of vegetables and meats (tomatoes for instance). Most people who “avoid” MSG are likely eating multiple grams of it per day unknowingly.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16957679

  34. First off no one in the whole damn world eats Pizza to be Healthy so just stop with that B.S. Secondly the reason they do not tell you there ingredient list is because they do not want other restraints to use there recipe. Seriously are you stupid? It has nothing to do with what it is actually made of or what is in it.

  35. To Diane. If you are so worried about gf environments why would you allow a “chef” to remove everyone from the kitchen when you are so worried about children’s meals being cross contaminated. Further more to be gluten free as you stated correctly food must be prepared in a seperate facility that has the absence of all gluten products as flour even in the air can cross contaminate food. Yet these children’s meals were prepared within the same kitchen as all other meals. Please don’t point the finger at people that have to live with this. My two children are gf and many other allergies. You have experienced it but apparently do not have to live with it. Do more research before posting anything else that is innacurate and partial to your own opinions.
    Concerned father

  36. I just wasted 6 min of my life I will never get back as you all did… Who cares? Seriously out parents/parent ate the stuff too… I am so sick of hearing DRINK MILK… WAIT MILK CAUSES CANCER…NO MILK IS OK… etc etc… Live your life people and stop stressing about every little thing. Make your own choices and move on with life

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