When a consumer group recently threatened to sue McDonald’s over the toys used to promote Happy Meals, critics griped that the problem isn’t the toys, it’s the food.
They’ve got a point. According to CNN, McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets contain the chemical preservative tBHQ, tertiary butylhydroquinone, a petroleum-based product. They also contain dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foaming agent that’s also found in Silly Putty. Lost your appetite yet?
The strange thing is that McNuggets in the U.S. are actually worse for you than their British counterparts. The U.S. version contain more calories and fat as well as more chemicals.
Four pieces of American McNuggets have 190 calories, 12 grams of fat and 2 grams of saturated fat. The British version has 170 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 1 gram of saturated fat. Plus, they don’t contain the “Silly Putty” chemical.
Why the difference?
McDonald’s told CNN they develop different recipes based on local tastes. The McNuggets in the U.S. are coated before they are cooked, while the British ones are cooked before they are coated. The result is that the British McNuggets absorb less oil and have less fat.
In general, it’s best to avoid foods which contain ingredients that you can’t pronounce, said Marion Nestle, a New York University professor and author of “What to Eat.” But it’s unlikely that the tertiary butylhydroquinone and dimethylpolysiloxane in the McNuggets will cause any health problems. In fact, a review by The World Health Organization found “no adverse health effects” associated with dimethylpolysiloxane.
Thankfully, only a small percentage of oil in the nugget is comprised of TBHQ, a preservative for vegetable oils and animal fats. One gram (one-thirtieth of an ounce) of the stuff can cause “nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse,” according to “A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives.”
In 2003, after a federal judge dubbed the food “a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook,” McDonald’s launched smaller, all white meat McNuggets. The “new” McNuggets still contained tBHQ and dimethylpolysiloxane.
Food experts say that these chemicals are necessary for the nuggets to hold their shape and texture. In Europe, food regulations are generally must stricter than in the U.S.
I’m surprised that McNuggets weren’t listed on MSNBC’s list of “20 Worst Kids’ Foods.”
Keep in mind that the best way to avoid chemicals and preservatives is to cook at home with fresh (ideally, organic) ingredients. For easy recipes and tips on preparing healthy, delicious food for your family, check out Babble’s Family Kitchen.
Photo: wikimedia.org/Fritz Saalfeld