Chicken McNuggets are one of the most popular trademarked items on the McDonald’s menu. These tasty, bite-sized poultry pieces consist of an astounding 38 ingredients.
Tender, juicy Chicken McNuggets made with white meat, wrapped up in a crisp tempura batter. Made for sharing, or, if you want ‘em all to yourself, then that’s our little secret.3
The ingredients as listed on the McDonald’s website are as follows:3
White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, seasoning [autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid], sodium phosphates, natural flavor (botanical source). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, bleached wheat flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, dextrose, corn starch.3
A McNugget is comprised of about 56% processed corn products.7 Of the 38 ingredients most are chemicals and corn dervitives (And not actual chicken… isn’t that false advertising?), but 0.02% of a McNugget is tertiarybutylhydroquinone (TBHQ), a petroleum byproduct used as a preservative, also known as butane (lighter fluid).
TBHQ is a preservative for vegetable oils and animal fats, limited to 0.02% of the oil in the nugget. 5 grams of TBHQ can kill an adult human being, and according to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, one gram of TBHQ can cause:4
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Sense of suffocation
Based on animal studies, health hazards associated with TBHQ include:4
- liver effects at very low doses
- positive mutation results from in vitro tests on mammalian cells
- biochemical changes at very low doses
- reproductive effects at high doses
The only good news about the secret ingredient in your little breaded chicken bits: TBHQ is not suspected to be a persistent toxin. Your body should be able to eliminate it so it doesn’t bio-accumulate provided you don’t consume too many nuggets, too often.4
In 2003, McDonald’s launched smaller, all-white-meat McNuggets after a federal judge dubbed the food “a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook.” TBHQ and dimethylpolysiloxane (“an anti-foaming agent” also used in Silly Putty) remained in the new McNuggets’ ingredients.5
I’ve never been one for fast food. It’s uncanny ability to trick the mind and body scares me while simultaneously making me salivate.
Fast food conglomerates prey upon millions of years of evolution, exploiting our natural opportunistic impulses to eat as much as possible when food is available, packing on the pounds to prepare for leaner times. Our ancestors developed a taste for energy-dense fats and sugars, prized as insurance from starvation. Today, the market is flooded with an overabundance cheap energy-dense foods, while humanity embraces an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.
1. Wikipedia, Chicken McNuggets
2. Organic Authority, What’s in Fast Food Chicken? (Hint: It’s NOT Chicken)
3. McDonalds, Chicken McNuggets
4. Huffington Post, What’s in Fast Food? What’s in the Non-Chicken Half of the McNugget
5. CNN, All McNuggets not created equal
6. ABC, Fast food ‘feast’ a trick of the mind
7. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan.