This story about McDonald’s was all over the news… Did you see it? Here are some headlines:
“McDonald’s removing artificial additives from its burgers” – CNN Money
“McDonald’s Nixes Artificial Ingredients from Its Burgers” – Food & Wine
Sounds pretty good, right? At first, I was very intrigued.
But after doing a little digging, I got ticked off by these news stories.
These types of headlines can lead people into believing that McDonald’s has made sweeping changes and that their food is no longer made with artificial ingredients but that is FAR from the case, as I’ll demonstrate below.
Here’s the truth about McDonald’s food.
High fructose corn syrup is still in ALL of the classic McDonald’s burgers.
McDonald’s didn’t remove high fructose corn syrup from the ketchup or Big Mac Sauce that they put on their classic burgers.
And that’s not all these news stories left out…
The “new” ingredient list at McDonald’s is a who’s who list of ingredients to avoid. Artificial dyes, artificial flavors, artificial emulsifiers, and artificial preservatives are still very DOMINANT on their menu.
For instance, McDonald’s buns contain two artificial (synthetic) emulsifiers…
I’ve written about the artificial emulsifiers DATEM and Mono-and-Diglycerides in the past. These two ingredients are not exactly safe because they can contain trans fats. Trans fats have been linked to heart disease and the CDC has attributed them to up to 7,000 coronary heart disease deaths each year in the U.S.
You’ll find these artificial emulsifiers in essentially all of the sandwiches at McDonald’s… the Quarter Pounder, Big Mac, Cheeseburger, Hamburger, McChicken, McMuffins – every McDonald’s sandwich made on with a sesame seed bun, regular bun, english muffin, or artisan roll.
The pickles on almost every McDonald’s burger contain the emulsifier Polysorbate 80. A 2015 study links Polysorbate 80 to significant weight gain and inflammatory bowel disease. This is NOT a necessary ingredient in pickles… the ones I buy sure don’t have it! And, they are artificially preserved with Potassium Sorbate, which some evidence finds to be genotoxic to white blood cells.
McDonald’s still adds caramel color to the famous Big Mac Sauce.
McDonald’s can get away with saying it contains no “artificial colors” because the industry considers caramel color “natural”… but I sure don’t! Caramel color is typically made in a laboratory by reacting corn sugar with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperature. When caramel color is made like this, it produces the byproduct 4-Mel. A U.S government funded study found that feeding mice caramel coloring IV (which contained 4-Mel) increased their risk of developing lung cancer and leukemia, at every dosage level. And the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies 4-Mel as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.
To be fair, there are safer forms of caramel color available for the industry to use. Which is why I gave McDonald’s the benefit of the doubt and asked them what type of caramel color they use. I was told that this information is “proprietary and not available”. (I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether you think they use a safer version after that response!)
The bottom line is that caramel color is totally UNNECESSARY and POTENTIALLY RISKY. It’s only used to add a brown color… and does McDonald’s really need to color their “special sauce” brown to make their customers happy? I doubt it. This is the same ingredient that we campaigned Starbucks to remove from their drinks – and they did! If Starbucks can do it, I know McDonald’s can too.
It’s true that McDonald’s has removed some nasty additives from their food in the last few years…
Back when I investigated McDonald’s in 2015, they used the artificial preservative BHA in 10 menu items. BHA has now been removed. Gone is also the propyl gallate and TBHQ. The artificial dough conditioner azodicarbonamide (yoga mat) was used in nearly all of their buns – and now it’s only in one (a “bakery style bun” that may be used in some locations, but is not a core item). These are big wins!
But, McDonald’s didn’t remove artificial colors from their burgers…
…and, that’s because they did not contain artificial colors to begin with!
McDonald’s really only adds artificial dyes (like Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, Blue 1) to some shakes and the Frappe Mocha. And, they still do today…
You’ll find artificial dyes in McDonald’s EggNog Shake, Shamrock Shake, and Frappe Mochas. As I’ve written many times before, these dyes are derived from petroleum and linked to health issues ranging from cancer to behavioral issues in children. They have no business being in our food.
Despite the headlines, McDonald’s food is full of artificial and risky additives.
- You’ll still find Sodium Phosphate (a synthetic preservative) in all McDonald’s bacon burgers and McChicken sandwiches. Eating this preservative often can put you at a greater risk of kidney disorders and heart disease.
- McDonald’s biscuits, ice cream, shakes, and iced coffee contains Carrageenan (a thickener and emulsifier linked to digestive issues and cancer).
- McDonald’s sweetens many of their sauces and bagels with High Fructose Corn Syrup (a highly processed sweetener made from GMO corn). This sweetener has been shown to contribute more to obesity and type 2 diabetes than regular cane sugar (sucrose).
- Caramel color (an unnecessary color linked to cancer) can be found slathered on their famous Big Mac, and in McGriddles breakfast sandwiches, Vanilla Shakes, and Oatmeal.
- The shredded cheese in McDonald’s salads is coated in Cellulose, an additive derived from wood that is linked to intestinal inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease, and “significant” weight gain.
- McDonald’s spikes their Chicken McNuggets and Bacon Smokehouse Burger with the hidden MSG additive Yeast Extract. You’ll find more hidden MSG in the form of hydrolyzed proteins in the Big Mac Sauce. These additives are used as a cleaner-sounding replacement for MSG – but are essentially the same thing.
- Inexplicably, McDonald’s continues to use Dimethylpolysiloxane (a synthetic defoaming additive) in all of their fried foods in the U.S., even though they don’t use it in the U.K. Funny, they can make fries in the U.K. without it, huh?
I think McDonald’s can do better. And, they should!
McDonald’s is once-again ranked as the #1 most popular fast food chain in America, surpassing everyone else in sales. This means a lot of Americans are eating there – even if you don’t.
Please share this post and inform your friends who still eat at McDonald’s.
No one should be eating these risky ingredients at the most popular fast food restaurant in America. Don’t you agree?
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