By the time the mix lands in treatment plants, it can teem with pharmaceuticals, hormones, pathogens, bacteria, viruses, protozoa and parasitic worms, as well as heavy metals like lead, cadmium, arsenic or mercury. It often includes PCBs, PFAS, dioxins, BPAs and dozens of other harmful substances ranging from flame retardants to hospital waste. And then it goes right on to the fields that grow your food.

Over the past 150 years, food companies and marketers in other parts of the world have taken eating in a more visually thrilling direction. They have used dyes to alter mass-produced foods—sometimes to make them less “natural” looking (cakes with bright-blue icing), sometimes to make them more “natural” looking (pickles made greener to fit with consumers’ expectations).

Both intentions are, upon further inspection, sort of strange.