Bright rainbow food was extremely popular for a while, but eventually, it faded from relevancy. For the next fad, trendsetters decided to go in the opposite direction: black food. To achieve that deep shade, people added activated charcoal to everything from bread to ice cream to water.
Image from Food Business News
Activated charcoal might sound familiar, and that's probably because it was recently a hot trend in the beauty community. Charcoal peel-off masks and facial scrubs became popular after videos of people using black masks to rip out blackheads went viral. This made people wonder if an ingredient used for clearing complexions is safe to eat.
Activated charcoal comes from burning organic materials and processing it at a high temperature to give it the qualities unique to this type of charcoal. Unlike the charcoal we use for our barbecue grills, activated charcoal comes in the form of a fine powder. Technically, it is edible, but eating it can cause some issues.
Image from Flare
Activated charcoal can be used to treat poisonings and overdoses, and these properties can make your prescriptions stop working. It can also prevent your body from absorbing certain over the counter pain medications. Consuming the small amount of activated charcoal used to dye your fun-looking black burger bun probably isn't enough to cause issues, but overcommitting to the trend would. If you're taking any prescription medications, I wouldn't recommend chugging charcoal water every day.
If eating activated charcoal can potentially have negative effect on most of the population, why would anyone want to eat it? Since activated charcoal isn't dangerous in and of itself, it's considered okay to consume. Similarly, grapefruit is known to negatively interact with many common medications, but patients are warned about this when they receive their new prescription. Activated charcoal is such a new trend that many people have not heard about the harm it could do.
Even without knowing about the potential negatives of eating activated charcoal, it still seems like a really weird to choose to eat. Black food looks cool, which is enough to attract people to it. Additionally, some people believe that activated charcoal has positive health benefits, but these claims are murky. Even with the uncertainty around activated charcoal, this trend doesn't look like it's going away any time soon.
One of the most divisive fall candies is candy corn. For some reason, a lot of people have very strong opinions on this sweet. What about candy corn makes so many people love it and so many others hate it?
Image from Vox
Candy corn was invented at the end of the 1800s. At this time, the US was largely agrarian, so it was popular to make candy shaped like agricultural products to appeal to farmers' children. Pieces of candy corn don't look very much like corn by themselves (until you bite down to the yellow part, of course), but when the pieces are stacked together they look like a corn cob.
Like most other candies, one of the main ingredients in candy corn is sugar. Candy corn is also made with fondant, corn syrup, marshmallow, vanilla flavoring and gelatin (among other things). Because candy corn contains gelatin, it isn't vegetarian/vegan friendly. Additionally, it contains a substance made from insects. While gross sounding, this substance is actually very common and FDA approved.
Most consumers are probably unaware of the insect product lurking in these candies, so that isn't the cause of the controversy. The main things that either makes or breaks candy corn is its taste.
Image from Southern Living
While vanilla is the only ingredient that is clearly meant for flavoring, candy corn also derives its flavor from marshmallow and fondant. Candy corn's unique texture can be attributed to the fondant and gelatin.
So really, a person's opinion of candy corn comes down to if that person is a fan of fondant and marshmallow. Fondant and marshmallows don't come up very often in day-to-day life, but around this time of year, candy corn magically appears all over stores. It's much easier for people to have strong takes on things that they see all over the place than things they don't encounter as much.
The great candy corn debate wouldn't exist if stores didn't hype it up in the fall or if companies refrained from making things like candy corn flavored cookies and cereal. Above all, candy corn is a trend that comes around every year, and people have hot takes on trends.
Bubble tea is one of the trendiest drinks right now. Within the past few years, bubble tea has increasingly been featured on Instagram feeds and Facebook videos, and specialty tea shops have popped up all over big cities and college towns, Sure, bubble tea looks cool, but what exactly is bubble tea?
Image from Secret NYC
Bubble tea (aka boba) is basically just tea with tapioca pearls at the bottom. Sometimes, fruit flavored pearls are used instead. A variety of teas can be used in bubble tea, but milk tea is the most common type. Milk tea is exactly what it sounds like: tea with milk in it. Milk tea is made differently depending on the country of origin and the maker's personal preferences. The milk tea used in boba is typically made with either black or green tea.
Bubble tea originated in Taiwan. Unfortunately for whoever created this tasty drink, the inventor has never been identified or been given credit. Boba exploded in popularity in its home country in the '80s and became big worldwide fairly recently.
Image from Twinings
Tapioca pearls are made from the same substance as your grandmother's famous pudding. Tapioca is a starchy substance made from cassava root, which is a plant native to Brazil. Tapioca has little nutritional value but is popular because of its texture.
Unless you order bubble tea with fruit flavored pearls, the "bubbles" don't add any additional flavor to the drink. The real appeal of bubble tea is the fun of slurping up the pearls through a big straw.
Image from Boba Life
While bubble tea seems like it's everywhere, it's not for everyone. Tapioca doesn't contain gluten, but people can still be intolerant to it. People with tapioca intolerances get upset stomachs after eating tapioca.
If you're like me and can't drink bubble tea without getting a stomach ache, you can still enjoy milk tea without the tapioca pearls or try out the fruit pearls.
No matter how you order your boba, it's still a fun and delicious drink and worth a try. Based on all of the new tea shops around, you have plenty of time to try it for yourself.
Pumpkins are, without a doubt, the biggest symbol of fall. It's hard to leave the house in October without seeing a pumpkin. People love pumpkins and use them in so many ways. People pick them, carve them and even eat them...or at least they think they do.
Image from Food Network
All of those tasty pumpkin-flavored treats actually have little to no pumpkin in them. The canned pumpkin puree that we use to make pies, breads and more say "100% Pumpkin" on them, but they actually contain a blend of other squashes. Sometimes this blend includes actual pumpkins, but there's no guarantee.
Food manufacturers have to list all ingredients, so it probably seems wrong for foods to be labeled as just pumpkin when there are other squashes involved. Despite this, it is perfectly legal for manufacturers to omit the other squashes from the list.
Image from Mother Nature Network
The FDA does require food packaging to list all of the ingredients the food contains, and it also has the power to define what ingredients are. With the case of pumpkins, the FDA is pretty loose with the term. While we think of pumpkins as those big orange squashes, the FDA defines pumpkin as "golden-fleshed, sweet squash or mixtures of such squash and field pumpkin."
The FDA acknowledges that field pumpkins are different from other squashes, but allows producers to label them all as "pumpkin" when pureed because the organization doesn't think this labeling is intended to deceive consumers.
However, people do feel pretty deceived when they find out about this. Even though we love pumpkins and want to eat them, according to Mental Floss, pumpkins don't taste good and are hard to puree. So, it's probably best that we stick to pretending.
Ever since the rise of Instagram, food bloggers and restaurants alike have been trying to come up with the next viral food sensation. One of the most recent trendy foods to hit our feeds is glitter food.
This past spring, Dagwood Pizza in Santa Monica California gained national attention for its "Magical AF" glitter pizza.
Image from Nerdist
People aren't just eating glitter; they're also drinking it. About one year before glitter pizza became a thing, Coffee By Di Bella made headlines for selling glittery coffee at its Mumbai, India locations. The "Diamond" and "Gold" cappuccinos come topped with silver and gold holographic glitter, respectively.
Image from Today
If you think that the glitter you see on food pictures looks like crafting glitter, that's probably because it basically is. While sugar can be used to make colorful and shiny sprinkles, it doesn't give the same effect as actual glitter, holographic or otherwise. Real glitter is made from small pieces of plastic.
According to the Food Network, some glitter products that are marketed for food use are considered nontoxic, but the FDA does not classify them as edible. Nontoxic glitter entered the food scene for cake decorating purposes, but was not intended to actually be consumed. Despite this, nontoxic glitter use on food gained popularity.
Image from Pink the Town
Even though viral foods tend to contain nontoxic glitter rather than the edible kind, the companies call the glitter edible on their menus and on social media. Because of this, it can be hard to distinguish what you're supposed to eat from what you can, but probably shouldn't.
Nontoxic substances aren't harmful, but they still aren't edible. For context, crafting products commonly used by children, like paint, glue and markers, are also nontoxic. Making materials nontoxic is more of a safety precaution than anything else. Unfortunately, real edible glitter doesn't usually go viral like the fake stuff does.
Sugar sprinkles do add a nice pop of color and shine to food, but they certainly don't pack the same punch as real glitter, especially the holographic kind. Would you ever consider eating pizza covered with glitter? I think I'd rather stick with plain cheese.