McDonald's Answers Questions About What's in Their Food and Where it Comes From

Posted on 22 May 2014 15:09

Or, at least, they claim to be doing so. There has been increasing consumer demand for more transparency in fast food and this demand has been especially focused on McDonald's. Some of this is because McDonald's represents more an image of pre-fabricated and highly processed food. Much of it is also simply due to the Goliath effect, which causes the biggest player on the field to get the most scrutiny or to become the symbol for their particular category. Documentaries such as Super Size Me and public controversies like the pink slime debacle have put the fast food giant under fire, to say the least. In response to this, McDonald's has launched web tools to answer consumer questions.

In Canada and Australia, McDonald's have launched sites that work like social media. Customers can use search to find the answers to questions, or ask their own question if they can't find an answer. In the U.S., there doesn't seem to be a similar offering but on the main website there is a Your Questions Answered section, which has links to the most frequently asked questions (FAQ):

We know many of our customers are curious about our food – what’s in it, how we make it and where it comes from. We believe it is important to provide you with honest, straightforward facts. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about our food here in the U.S.

Pink Slime in Burgers

On the pink slime question, which of course is one of the most frequently asked, McDonald's confirmed what I reported in my earlier article, linked above, that they began removing finely textured beef from their burgers before the pink slime hit the fan:

Q: Do you use so-called "pink slime" in your burgers?

A: Lean finely textured beef treated with ammonia, what some individuals call “pink slime" or select lean beef trimmings, is not used in our burgers. Any recent reports that it is are false.

McDonald’s USA had begun the process of removing it from our supply chain prior to widespread media coverage on its use and it was completely removed from our supply in 2011. While select lean beef trimmings are safe, we decided to stop using the product to align our global standards for beef around the world.

Mechanically Separated Chicken in Chicken McNuggets

They also answer a similar question about the alleged use of mechanically separated chicken, especially in light of a highly shared photo that depicts a pink foam that looks like strawberry soft serve ice cream, claimed to be the basis of McDonald's chicken nuggets. It's not.

Q: Do you use mechanically separated chicken in your chicken nuggets?

A: A lot of our customers ask us questions about a photo circulating online.

This does not depict how McDonald’s USA makes Chicken McNuggets or, frankly, any item on our menu. Our Chicken McNuggets are made with USDA inspected boneless white meat chicken. We do not use the process known as mechanically separated chicken, nor do our Chicken McNuggets ever at any point, look like this photo.

I really didn't need this answer as my own eyes tell me that McDonald's chicken nuggets in no way resemble the inside of a hot dog. But, I actually like the inside of hot dogs and I am not afraid of mechanically separated anything.

Anti-Foaming Agent

They also answer a question about an anti-foaming agent which is added to their cooking oil, which, since it is the same ingredient found in many non-food items like putty, caulks or cosmetics, make some people say that these items are found in our food. Which, frankly, is just stupid and you shouldn't need a FAQ to answer this for you.

The anti-foaming ingredient in question is dimethylpolysiloxane and it is often added to oils or fats to prevent spattering and foaming during heating. However, it also helps to prevent foams forming during the processing of other foods and beverages, such as wine, sugar, and some soft drinks. It is also called methyl polysilicone or methylsilicone. This chemical is actually not licensed for use in all of the EU.

McRib Contains Same Plastic as Rubber Yoga Matts

The food additive addressed here is azodicarbonamide. It is a dough conditioner which comes as a yellow or orange-red powder, and is used to age and bleach flours and to produce more manageable and lighter doughs so that it ends up more voluminous. In other words, it makes lighter, puffier bread. It is used in many bakery and bread items. Since a version of this substance is also found in things like yoga mats and other similar products, some people are afraid that McDonald's food "contains plastic." The question addressed on the site concerns the McRib, but, to be honest, I have no idea what it has to do with the McRib, specifically, nor have I bothered to investigate further.

As to where they get their beef, McDonald's says most of its beef used in U.S. restaurants comes from the U.S., with a small percentage of it coming from Australia and New Zealand. These suppliers, the FAQ says, must meet McDonald's quality and safety standards and USDA regulations. They have a policy against sourcing beef from de-forested rainforest areas, and this policy has been in effect since 1989. McDonald's sustainability policy, in addition to beef, also addresses coffee, palm oil, fish, poultry, and packaging.

We could only guess as to why McDonald's has launched these programs in Canada and Australia but not in the U.S. There is even a Youtube video from McDonald's Canada that lets us inside the Cargill's processing plant where tons of McDonald's beef patties are made with "100% pure Canadian beef."


McDonald's Fillet-O-Fish Ecolabel box bearing the
MSC's "Certified Sustainable Fish" logo.

Image by Foodista


McDonald's Fillet-O-Fish Ecolabel box bearing the MSC's "Certified Sustainable Fish" logo.
Image by Foodista

You may have heard about the fish used in McDonald's Filet-O-Fish, called hoki. It is a strange looking and not-so-pretty fish found in the Pacific waters around New Zealand. There are major concerns that this fish is being over-fished, and McDonald's was recently, around 2009, accused of single-handedly almost causing the fish to be brought to extinction, but this was typical sensationalistic media coverage. McDonalds did use quite a lot of the fish, from 11 to 15 million pounds a year, but its also used in fish sticks and many other fish products, including sushi. As well, hoki is not the only fish that is in danger of being overfished. This is an ongoing concern in many fisheries. McDonald's since started using 100% Alaskan pollock and initiated a sustainable fisheries program as well as using blue "ecolabel" fish packaging bearing the Marine Stewardship Council "MSC" Certified Sustainable Seafood logo. The question that is asked, of course, if whether this is greenwashing.

See also Do McDonald's Hamburger Really Never Rot?

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