30 Strange Ingredients in Your Favorite Fast Food Dishes
In the wondrous age of convenience, fast food restaurants offer a way to enjoy a quick bite without having to prepare food yourself. Of course, everyone knows that fast food isn't the healthiest option due to the high levels of calories, sugars and fats, but the problem actually goes much deeper than that.
Some of the hidden ingredients in fast food are actually far more unsettling than the details of nutritional breakdown. If you eat a lot of fast food, the truth is you’re putting some really sketchy stuff in your mouth without even realizing it. Here are 30 strange ingredients found in your favorite fast food dishes.
Azodicarbonamide: Subway's "Better Bread" Chemical
Do you frequently chow down on a popular $5 footlong? Subway is one of the biggest sandwich chains nationwide, so you’re not alone. The company is known for its wide selection of toppings, meats and cheeses served on a variety of delicious breads. However, the company received criticism after consumers found out the bread includes one hard-to-pronounce ingredient: azodicarbonamide.
Roof Sealant for Breakfast
These days, grabbing breakfast from a fast food drive-thru adds convenience to the start of many people's workdays. One of the most popular items on fast food breakfast menus is the simple egg sandwich. Unfortunately, you aren't just getting bread, meat, cheese and eggs when you consume an egg sandwich.
Wendy's Secret Chili Ingredient
In 2015, satire news site News Buzz Daily reported that Wendy's was using rat and horse meat in its famous chili. Although this absurd claim was quickly proven to be false, one of Wendy's actual chili ingredients certainly might surprise you: silicon dioxide. Why does that sound familiar? If you had geology in school, you might remember it as a primary ingredient in sand and quartz.
Taco Bell's Funky Beef Mixture
If you swing by Taco Bell frequently, you already know most products on the menu contain the restaurant’s signature beef. However, after the company admitted to the public that their beef products only contain 88% beef, everyone began questioning the remaining 12% of ingredients. The extra ingredients have some funky names, but Taco Bell claims they're completely safe and you already eat them every day.
Antifreeze in Salad Leaves
Have you ever wondered how restaurants keep their salad lettuces so crisp and fresh when lettuce is so prone to quickly wilt? Fast food joints have found a unique way to keep their leaves crisp, fresh and ready for consumption. However, the lettuce's "freshness" is dependent on a fairly atypical added ingredient.
McDonald's Surprise Mass Menu Ingredient
Like McDonald’s? Get ready to consume a petroleum product that is impossible to pronounce with your meal. Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is an antioxidant found in a variety of products, many of which are hanging on pegs in the beauty aisle. TBHQ is frequently used as an ingredient in skin care products and cosmetics, yet it's also in many of the food products you consume.
Apple Pie with Duck Feathers
Feeling peckish for something sweet? You might want to think twice before ordering an apple pie from the McDonald's menu. The yummy dessert contains an ingredient called l-cysteine. Although the name of the additive may sound a bit like a weird vitamin or mineral, it’s actually synthesized from two unsettling natural sources: duck feathers and human hair.
Sawdust on the Side
You've likely heard the word before, but do you actually know what cellulose is? The ingredient comes from wood pulp, and (strangely) you can find it in a variety of dishes, including Wendy's Frosties. Although you may not ever understand how wood pulp could fit into food recipes, cellulose saves fast food giants a pretty penny every year.
Tomato Sauce with Fruit Flies and Maggots
You can find tomato-based products at a majority of fast food joints. From feasting on house-made ketchup to chowing down on pizza with tomato sauce, you frequently dig in to tomato products at almost any type of restaurant. Did you know that tomato products are a breeding ground for fruit flies and maggots? Yes, you read that right.
Antidepressants in Chicken Dishes
Back in 2012, John Hopkins University decided to test a number of factories’ chicken feathers to evaluate the ingredients that were going into their chicken feed. What they uncovered was the chickens were consuming a vast amount of unauthorized additives, antioxidants and other ingredients, some of which were banned.
Ammonium Sulfate for the Perfect Buns
What wouldn't a baker do to achieve a perfect, golden loaf of bread? Cutting out chemicals doesn't seem to be an option. Many restaurants use something called ammonium sulfate in their bread recipes. What is the most common purpose for ammonium sulfate? It’s typically used as a soil fertilizer — but that’s just the beginning.
Crushed Bugs to Make Carminic Acid
Cancer-Causing Sodium Nitrate
Sodium nitrate is found in many fast food meat products, including bacon. It preserves and cures deli meats, ensuring they remain fresh for longer periods to give restaurants (and you at home) more time to use them. The chemical is also used as a meat coloring agent and is what gives many deli meats their pretty pink color.
Cancerous Caramel Food Coloring
Do you know about the dangers of caramel coloring? It's hard to believe that one of the most popular food coloring products is so detrimental to your physical wellbeing, but it’s true. Caramel food coloring is utilized in thousands of fast food products, including popular soft drinks, fast food sauces and more. Unfortunately, the widespread use doesn't mean the ingredient is safe.
KFC’s 200-Ingredient Pot Pie
The surprise here isn't merely the content of the ingredients, but how many ingredients there are. KFC's chicken pot pie has far more components than just dough, chicken, vegetables and heavy cream. There are more than 200 ingredients in a single KFC chicken pot pie (most you probably can't pronounce). That would almost be impressive — if it wasn’t so horrifying.
Try Sounding This One Out
Try saying this five times fast: polydimethylsiloxane. This additive is found in a wide variety of fast foods and fountain drinks. What does it do? It’s added to drink machines as well as hot oil to prevent foaming in the fry bins, which, in turn, prevents splattering of the hot oil.
Titanium Dioxide in Ranch Dressing
Ordering a salad at a fast food restaurant can feel like a healthier choice than options like burgers, nuggets and fries. However, your choice of salad dressing can make a big difference in the healthiness of the meal, particularly when you consider the dressing's ingredients. What is so dangerous about salad dressing?
Shellac Shines Apples
Apples are another seemingly healthy choice found on many menus. Many fast food restaurants, including Panera, offer apples or tasty fruits in place of fries, bread or other less nutritious choices. Still, not even a simple apple can outrun the yucky ingredients list when it comes to the additives used in the various presentations.
Vegetable Oil in Cola
Are you the type of person who typically orders a fountain drink to go with your meal? You're certainly not alone. However, one of the ingredients found in many popular sodas may (finally) change your perspective on fountain drinks: brominated vegetable oil (BVO). Brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi have included BVO in various products at one point or another.
High Amounts of High Fructose Corn Syrup
There are plenty of reasons not to consume fountain drinks from fast food joints (or otherwise). Another dangerous ingredient in soda is also one of the most common ingredients in some of your favorite fatty and sugary foods: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Consumers tend to love the sickly sweet taste of soda, and restaurants make sure they have plenty of machines primed and ready to serve it.
Hundreds of Cows Worth of Beef
When ordering a hamburger or cheeseburger from McDonald's, you may not give a thought to the cow that went into the making of your burger. As it turns out, far more than one cow's meat goes into a single Big Mac. In fact, due to the nature of the meat-mixing process, approximately 100 cows can contribute to one patty. Crazy, right?
Bone, Fat and Tendon Nuggets
For ages, consumers have joked that the nuggets at popular chains probably include strange ingredients like ostrich, cat, dog or turkey rather than chicken. These urban legends, of course, are always proven false by researchers. However, research has uncovered a scary fact about the parts of the chicken that compose a typical chicken nugget.
Half-Real Slices of Cheese
Those who enjoy cheeseburgers know how appetizing a slice of cheddar, Swiss, pepper jack or American cheese can be when crowning a burger patty. You may be surprised to learn that the gooey, melt-in-your-mouth cheese you've been eating at fast food joints is only partially cheese. What else can be found in your favorite "dairy" slices?
Why wait to eat dessert when you can sip on chocolate, vanilla or strawberry milkshakes along with your meal? Most fast food restaurants offer a variety of shakes to enjoy alongside your burger and fries. Of course, you might feel inclined to hold off on indulging your sweet tooth when you find out one of the main flavoring ingredients for these delicious drinks.
Hair-Removing Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate
McDonald's is known for its fresh salty fries. Many people go there just for the savory side dish. What makes the fries so golden and crispy? A chemical called sodium acid pyrophosphate ensures your fries don't turn soggy and brown while sitting under the heating lights.
"Pink Slime" Meat Trimmings
This one might leave a nasty taste in your mouth. Often referred to as "pink slime," lean finely textured beef (LFTB) is meat trimmings. The trimmings are made up of connective tissue and added into packaged meat as a filler. In the past, pink slime has also been used in fast food meat dishes, such as beef burgers.
Flavor-Enhancing Monosodium Glutamate
Chick-fil-a specializes in one food: chicken. But what really makes their chicken stand out from the offerings at restaurants like McDonald's or Wendy's? It might be the use of flavor-boosting monosodium glutamate (MSG). Although you’ve probably heard of MSG before, you may not realize it’s found in some of your favorite Chick-fil-a dishes.
Phthalates in Fruits and Veggies
These days, you can find fruits and veggies on plenty of fast food menus. Everything from cucumbers to avocados are served on burgers, and fruit cups are becoming more popular as side dishes. No matter how healthy fruits and veggies start out, they often end up containing a concerning chemical found in pesticides.
Pancake Batter in an Omelet Recipe
Although many people love IHOP for their pancakes, the omelets are definitely a solid competing menu item. The fluffiness of the egg-based dish is what gives it such a positive reputation. Believe it or not, these omelets don't owe their texture to any heavy cream or egg-related ingredient. You might be surprised to learn the ingredient that results in the airiness.
The Squid Ink Kuro Burger
Across the globe, many popular fast food chains feature items that are only accessible in certain locations. Many U.S. citizens have felt pangs of jealousy over the menu choices available elsewhere, from the Netherlands' Nacho Whopper to Malaysia's Golden Fortune Pizza Hut pizza. Still, plenty of people were mostly confused over the black burger that hit Japanese Burger Kings in 2014.