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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What Mcdonald's chicken nuggets really contain

"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them." - Galileo Galilei

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What Mcdonald's chicken nuggets really contain

"I am no fan of processed foods. The number of times I've eaten chicken nuggets can be counted on the toes of one chicken. But that's not because of any fear of multi-syllabic ingredients; it is the high fat and salt content that turns me off.

So what are Chicken Mc-Nuggets really made of ? Chicken! Pollan provocatively implies that the nuggets are 56 per cent corn. Where does that number come from? Well, chickens are reared on corn, and Pollan calculates the amount of corn that is converted into chicken flesh, and adds to this the weight of other ingredients that are made from corn, such as the dextrose used in the batter, and comes up with the meaningless but attention-grabbing 56 per cent. Using this logic, we could all be described as being made of plants, since every bit of our flesh can be traced back to some plant product.

"What do McDonald's Chicken McNuggets and Silly Putty have in common?" asks Mercola, who claims to have the most-visited health site on the Web. The answer is dimethyl polysiloxane, which is the major component of Silly Putty and is added as an anti-foaming agent to the oil used to fry the nuggets. Of course, Mercola's irrational implication is that you wouldn't want to eat something that is also found in Silly Putty. Ridiculous! Do we eschew salt because it is used to de-ice streets, or water because it is an essential ingredient of cement? Dimethyl polysiloxane is an approved additive for frying oils, at a level of roughly five parts per million. As with any chemical, there is a dose at which it becomes toxic. What is that dose? Well, you would have to eat about 10,000 nuggets at one sitting to approach any sort of toxic level. I suspect at that point you would have a few problems other than dimethyl polysiloxane toxicity. And just think: Have you seen any warnings about toxicity on Silly Putty? Although I wouldn't recommend it, you could probably eat the stuff...

British Mc-Nuggets are a better choice than American. Not because they don't contain dimethyl polysiloxane or TBHQ, which they don't, but because they contain 25 per cent less fat.

Marion Nestle, an accomplished nutrition professor and author, correctly dismisses the concerns about dimethyl polysiloxane and TBHQ, but she has advice about "not eating any food with ingredients you can't pronounce." Does that mean we shouldn't consume anything that contains 4-methylthiobutyl isothiocyanate or epigallocatechin gallate? We would have to give up cabbage and tea.

Conversely, are we to assume that if we can pronounce it, we can eat it? "Arsenic" and "cyanide" are pretty easy to pronounce"


Hurrah for academic outreach! (the writer Joe Schwarcz is "director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society")
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