If you're ever tempted to fall off the horse of good health and treat yourself to a crispy batch of McDonald's French fries, a recent PR campaign by the behemoth fast food chain may give you pause for thought. In the video, a perky McDonald's rep assures us that, yes, their fries are actually made with potatoes. He adds with a smile that an impressive 19 ingredients are used -- one of which is also found in Silly Putty. Although the rep fails to make a connection with the anti-foaming agent dimethylpolysiloxane and the beloved childhood clay, he does make a point to list it twice as an ingredient.
Apparently, it's used several times during the process of frying up those real potatoes. If dimethylpolysiloxane features prominently in frankenfries, you're probably wondering what else is lurking in the engineered food. Here you go:
hydrogenated soybean oil
natural beef flavor
sodium acid pyrophosphate
hydrogenated soybean oil
tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ)
Creating 'magic' through chemistry
Beyond the GMO- and Roundup Ready-laden soy, canola and corn ingredients, you might be curious about such exotic elements like sodium acid pyrophosphate and tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ). The first is used as a leavening agent in bakery products, seafood canning and potato treatment, according to Aditya Birla Chemicals, otherwise known as the corporation that's "creating magic through chemistry." Sodium acid pyrophosphate is an edible phosphoric salt. If consumed in excess, it can lead to heart, bone and kidney problems.
TBHQ is far more interesting. A form of butane (think lighter fluid), it's used as a chemical preservative. Organic Authority reports that, according to A Consumers Dictionary of Food Additives, one gram can cause "nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation and collapse." Five grams of the substance can lead to death.
Now we come full circle to the shining star found in Mickey D's French fries. If you don't have a problem with consuming the same ingredient used in inedible, rubberized clay, here's some food for thought: dimethypolysiloxane is a silicon based polymer that is found in breast implants, contact lenses, medical devices, cosmetics, lubricant oils, caulk, polishes, adhesives and heat resistant tiles.
The real issue is when the polymer is heated above 300 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point formaldehyde forms. Keep in mind French fries are cooked at temperatures ranging from 325-375 degrees Fahrenheit.
A known carcinogen, formaldehyde can also cause allergic reactions and asthma-like respiratory problems when inhaled. Ingestion can be deadly. Here's the kicker: since formaldehyde is a byproduct of the cooking process, it doesn't have to be listed as an ingredient (which, of course, it isn't).
In the end, when we consider the menagerie of bizarre ingredients found in a single McDonald's French fry, the question begs to be asked: why would we eat it?
Sources for this article include:
"A Consumer's Dictionary of Good Additives, 7th Edition: Descriptions in Plain English of More Than 12,000 Ingredients Both Harmful and Desirable Found in Foods" By Ruth Winter, Crown Publishing Group, April 2009.