Take the McRib sandwich from McDonald’s. Considering its ingredients, it’s a good thing that the fast food chain only offers it once in a while.
According to the restaurant’s website, here are just three of the 70 chemicals and ingredients the sandwich contains: azodicarbonamide, ammonium sulfate and polysorbate 80.
Chock full of…chemicals
“These components are in small enough quantities to be innocuous. But it’s still a little disconcerting to know that, for example, azodicarbonamide, a flour-bleaching agent that is most commonly used in the manufacture of foamed plastics like in gym mats and the soles of shoes, is found in the McRib bun,” Time magazine reported, noting that the compound is banned in Europe and Australia as an additive to foods (the U.S., meanwhile, limits it to 45 parts per million in commercial flour products, according to an analysis of laboratory testing).
In fact, the United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive has classified azodicarbonamide as a “respiratory sensitizer” that can potentially contribute to asthma via exposure on the job.
Why the attention? Because the sandwich has developed a sort of cult-like following since it was first introduced, writes Brad Tuttle at Time’s Moneyland.
“Few fast food menu items can say they have their own Facebook page. Then again, few fast food items have experienced the roller coaster-like ups and downs of the McRib,” he writes. “First introduced in 1982, the sandwich first disappeared in 1985, but then has periodically resurfaced in McDonald’s in the U.S. and abroad. The McRib’s cult-like following has generated not only Facebook pages, but McRib Locator websites and a Twitter account.”
Perhaps if more Americans actually knew what was in a McRib they would be far less eager to find one. Besides the presence of a plethora of questionable ingredients, the sandwich itself is just over the top in terms of sodium content (980 mg – more than half of the daily recommended allowance) and saturated fat (10 g – not exactly heart-healthy).
Even ‘healthy’ fast food…isn’t
The McRib revelations go hand in hand with earlier field research that has found fast food wanting in terms of providing consumers with a healthy choice – even when the same fast food restaurants are hawking supposedly “healthy” choices.
Again, consider McDonald’s. New York Times food writer Mark Bittman wrote that the chain’s Fruit & Maple Oatmeal, which was introduced in early 2011, isn’t even marginally better for you, in terms of caloric intake, saturated fats, etc., despite being sold as a “bowl full of wholesome.”
The oatmeal and McDonald’s story broke late last year, when Mickey D’s, in its ongoing effort to tell us that it’s offering “a selection of balanced choices” … began to sell the cereal. Yet in typical McDonald’s fashion, the company is doing everything it can to turn oatmeal into yet another bad choice. … A more accurate description than “100 percent natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples” would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”
Some people might even justify this by saying that buying the McDonald’s version of oatmeal is at least much more convenient than making it at home, but many of those people likely have never made oatmeal at home. Besides, what about the waiting in line and the additional cost?
Other so-called “healthy foods” that are being misrepresented by fast-food chains include:
– McDonald’s Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken (220 cal., 6 g of fat and 5 g of sugar per serving – without the dressing).
– Jamba Juice’s Mango Mantra Light Smoothie (Mango-a-go-go contains 85g of sugar – far above the daily limit of 34g of added sugar for women and 36g for men that is recommended by the American Heart Association).
– Subway’s Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich (contains 760 cal. and 2,020 mg of sodium – that’s 520 mg more salt than the USDA recommends that children, those with high blood pressure, the elderly and African Americans should consume in an entire day; it also contains 34 grams of sugar, all you should reasonably have in a single day).