Human Jell-O. No, Really: Human Jell-O

There is very little in the food world that can really upset my delicate constitution–not much in the way of news or new food developments that will immediately send me into convulsions of disgust or give me the freaked-out heebie-jeebies. Eating field mice and drinking snake wine was all in a day’s work back when I was still a critic. I believe that the Flying Spaghetti Monster gave us opposable thumbs in order that we could better hold a steak knife and that the finest thing a goose can aspire to is having its liver turned into yummy, yummy foie gras.

But then I read this on the Atlantic Wire

A study out of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found a non-animal substitute for the gelatinous substance: “the scientists developed and demonstrated a method where human gelatin genes are inserted into a strain of yeast, which can produce gelatin with controllable features.” That’s right, instead of eating animal bits, scientists propose creating eating human bits…or yeast bits. Something like that. To be clear: it’s not as if they’re grinding up fingers to make pudding snacks.

Okay, so first off, people have gelatin genes? That’s weird enough. I guess it makes sense when you think about it–there are plenty of gross things inside the human body (eyeballs, various mucuses, boogers) that have a kind of gelatinous quality, and those myriad goos need to come from somewhere. And the genes that the mad scientists are using in this case are those that produce collagen in humans–the protein in skin and bones which can create gelatin, normally gotten by boiling and rendering the bones, skin and hooves of cows and pigs.

But the idea of snipping out the gelatin-creating genes from a human DNA ladder, jamming ’em into yeast, and then using the resultant hybrid to make the strawberry Jell-O I eat when I’m hungover? That is still just super-duper Soylent Green freaky and treads dangerously close to the almost instinctual taboo humans have against cannibalism.

PETA, on the other hand, appears to be thrilled. Why? Because this gelatin won’t have any animal products in it. Having a little human is just fine, I guess. Just no cows. In a statement to Atlantic Wire, the PETAns (PETAoids? PETArds?) said:

Scientists moving away from testing on animals and from using animal products is always a good thing. As long as human-derived gelatin will not include animal products and won’t be tested on animals, it sounds like a good development.

The new product (which, yes, is already in development) will be more stable, more consistent batch-to-batch (which normal, non-human-derived gelatin has never been) and will alleviate any risk of animal-borne disease transmission (mad cow/Creutzfeldt-Jakob most notably). The only downside?


Tiny little bits of people, anyhow.

Which is still just creepy.

Atlantic Wire [The Atlantic]