Ever wonder what’s really in your fast food meal? Here’s the ingredients list for a Happy Meal that contains nuggets, fries and a Hi-C beverage:
White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, chicken flavor (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, natural extractives of rosemary). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated corn oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to … Continue reading, salt. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated corn oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent).
Wow. Amidst the few recognizable food items and the really-bad-for-you hydrogentated oils, what is all that other stuff? Get the answer after the jump.
Those ingredients are food additives. Additives are chemical compounds that are used to enhance or preserve (enhance being a relative term) color, texture, flavor and shelf life of a manufactured food. Some additives are safe, at least as far as the FDA is concerned, in small quantities. However, there are many that just don’t belong in food despite what the FDA says.
In at least one case, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contradicts the FDA on the safety of an additive. BHA, BUTYLATED HYDROXYANISOLE, and BHT, or BUTYLATED HYDROXYTOLUENE, are both used to prevent oils from going rancid, oils such as those used in frying. BHA is considered to be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Testing of BHT is unclear whether or not it may be a carcinogen as well, and residues of this chemical have been found in human fat stores. Despite the Department of Health and Human Services findings, the FDA continues to allow BHA to be used. You can find both of these substances in the sausage patties of a fast food breakfast sandwich.
TBHQ, or TERT-BUTYLHYDROQUINONE is used as an antioxidant for unsaturated vegetable oils and animal fats. It can be used in combination with BHA. It is added to a wide range of foods, with highest limit permitted for frozen fish. It is used to enhance storage life. For industrial use, TBHQ is used as a stabilizer and is added to varnishes, lacquers, resins, and oil field additives.
In high doses, TBHQ led to stomach tumors and damage to DNA for lab animals. Prolonged exposure to TBHQ may cause cancer. While this is for high doses and lab rats, I have trouble with the idea that something you can only handle with protective clothing, per the Material Safety Data Sheet, is going in my food. You can find TBHQ in a wide variety of fast food menu items, especially anything fried or cooked in oil.
YELLOW 6 is the third most common food coloring. Industry-sponsored tests showed that this dye caused tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney in the lab animals. The dye is often contaminated by carcinogens. The FDA reviewed this information and concluded that there is no risk to humans.
PROPYL GALLATE has not been thoroughly tested. Initial studies suggest a linkage with cancer. It is used as a preservative in meats like sausage, vegetable oil, fried potatoes, chicken soup base and even chewing gum.
Here are a few more “ingredients” in your fast food, and other manufactured food products:
Sodium- and tetrasodium pyrophosphate, a “slightly toxic” food additive used as a thickening agent. You can find this in coffee creamer and other foods like marshmallows and some chicken nuggets. Define “slightly toxic?” Is it just slightly bad for you? Or just not even remotely good for you?
Polydimethylsiloxane is used as an “anti-foaming” agent in fried foods. It is thought to be relatively safe. It is also used in the manufacture of items like Silly Putty, silicone grease, breast implants. It can be used to treat head lice.
Sodium hexametaphosphate is used as an additive to promote stability. It is also used in the manufacture of water softening agents and detergents.
Would you like to learn more about food additives? The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a helpful list of the most concerning food additives. Once you’ve read the list, you can find those same ingredients in these fast food menus; menu, menu, menu (click nutrition guide, then ingredient statement).
[This post was written by Beth Bader.]
|↑1||may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated corn oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent). Water, high fructose corn syrup and/or sucrose, citric acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), potassium benzoate (to protect taste), modified food starch, natural flavors (vegetable source), glycerol ester of wood rosin, yellow 6, brominated vegetable oil, red 40. Potatoes, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor (wheat and milk derivatives)*, citric acid (preservative), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain color), dimethylpolysiloxane (antifoaming agent|
Years ago, I remember seeing a commercial (I forget what the product was) where kids were trying to pronounce the names of ingredients in their food. That really should be a pre-requisite to being allowed to eat them. The only thing on this list that might make it by is Yellow 6. 🙂
That’s why they taste so good!
Best marketing technique, ever. Almost as good as the bible.
Your comment on something that “requires protective clothing” as per the MSDS does not impress me. EVERYTHING requires protective clothing according to the MSDS. Even plain distilled water.
That said, it’s shameful that people think that chicken nuggets and other fast food is acceptable to feed their children. For goodness’ sake, feed them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! It’s MUCH more nutritious, and CHEAPER, too!
To Sharon’s comment about the commercial where the kids were trying to pronounce the ingredients- I believe it was a commercial for Breyer’s ice cream, but I wouldn’t swear to it.
I decided to get healthy and lose weight and my whole family got carried along with me- we don’t do fast food anymore. (I’ve lost almost 50 pounds, and so far it’s staying off.) This just reinforces that I made the right choice!
Jane Hersey says
For more than 30 years the non-profit Feingold Association has been helping parents find food their children enjoy, but minus the nasty additives. See http://www.feingold.org
Back when I was a kid in the 1970s, I remember my sister telling me that my beloved McDonalds shake was made of plastic. I guess she wasn’t that far off.
I haven’t eaten at a McDonalds in over 20 years.
Beth Bader says
That’s funny. Katy, perhaps you should send your sister a “Thank you!” Around our house, the last bit of fast food we would eat was Taco Bell, no other ones ever. Then, I read Fast Food Nation, and all the fast food went for good.
Kendra Holliday says
OH. MY. GOD. That list is quite the mouthful.
Guess how many times my 7 yr old has had a Happy Meal? Zero.
Yes I’m bragging.
Lee Welles says
You can put that to music! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDfxHgwkRTE&feature=related (Ignore the transformers video)
If you want to see the original video with audio done by a fan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gT9VHA88Fcg&feature=related
Let me know if you end up humming this all day tomorrow!
Third Culture Mamma says
Great post. Fast Food Nation turned me of…fast food for good. And now with my baby daughter running around, I can’t imagine letting her eat any Happy Meals.
Thank you for sharing this post with the readers of this week’s Carnival of Family Life! This week the Spring is Just Around the Corner Edition is hosted at home at Colloquium! Hope you will drop by and read some of the many other wonderful entries received this week!
I have a one-word response: Gross. Thanks for the info.
Just 100 more reasons to add to my list of why I won’t let the kids eat this stuff. Thanks for sharing this information.
Small Cents says
Thanks- great post. I’ve read fast Food Nation, but this was a real eye opener. Good thing it’s been almost a month since I’ve eaten at McDo!
I used to work at KMart, and I know for a fact that the MSDS also advocates the use of motor oil as a laxative in emergencies!
Robin Rivers says
It’s not often we give in to fast food around here. But, that not often will now turn to never.
great article! just wondering where you got your information from. im doing a clss report on this and couldn’t find the ingedient list from mcdonald’s (no surprise). just wondering what your source was.
tahnks so much!! and again great article! 🙂
you people are crazy you need mc donalds for you almost daily routine if you are in a hurry you get to go to mc donalds plus they now have milk , apples ,and more so all that has fat is the hamburger and once more you are crazy
WOW….. i rarely eat fast food at Mdonalds, or any other joint …. but seriousley…. they at TBHQ …..Blooming heck!
what is today coming to; and by the way, to that person whose comment said that you need maccy Ds for nutritional value…. what a load of bullocks…..Yes they have added fruit and water …. but the same crap goes into their food…
I’m disgusted by this! , hopefully they will ban bad ingrediants in United Kingdom.
I’m screwed if i’m popping down to dear old Macky Ds…… eat an apple instead…. Urghh….fast food disgusts me !!
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Hal Fassett - Healthy Snacks for kids says
I wouldn’t feed my kids a not so happy meal too often. It’s like the girl who ate nothing but chicken mcnuggets for 15 years. You see what is in that stuff? Not something I would eat on a regular basis, let alone 15 years, but the girl wanted the toy, and McyD’s markets to kids who they know want the toy, so they tell their parents to go to their restaurant to get one – with the unhappy meal of course which is a secondary thought to a kid.