Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: McDonald's beverages contain yucky non-food substances.
Origins: The world of rumor is rife with tales about noxious or out-of-place substances secreted in products to save a company a few pennies on each serving. All large corporations are by their very nature suspect simply due to their size, and this holds even more true in the fast food industry. The public harbors a deep mistrust of Big Business, seeing it as impersonal and profit-driven to the point of irresponsibility. Couple this with lurking fears about what might be hidden in food not personally prepared by the ingestee, and rumors about large corporations dumping anything they can get away with into their fast food offerings will surely result. Just as surely, because it is the largest of the large, McDonald's will star in most of them.
In addition to whispers about ground up worm meat and cow eyeballs being used in their burgers, McDonald's beverages and desserts are also suspect.
It's true McDonald's does not refer to its "shakes" as "milk shakes," preferring not to confuse consumers who might otherwise be expecting a beverage made with ice cream. But there is milk in McDonald's shakes, so it would be terribly unwise for a lactose-intolerant person to believe these drinks contain no dairy products.
In other words, McDonald's has very good reasons for foregoing ice cream in favor of "shake mix," most of them having to do with maintaining a high level of customer service.
Occasionally, one hears McDonald's shakes contain seaweed. That is very close to being true — they contain carrageenan, a substance which is derived from carrageen, a type of seaweed also known as "Irish moss." Carrageenan is commonly used as a suspending agent in foods, a clarifying agent in beverages, and for controlling crystal growth in frozen products. (That last part is vital — lacking carrageenan or a similar product in ice cream, the frozen treat would be a hard block.) Carrageenan turns up in any number of processed foods, not just McDonald's shakes.
As for what's actually in a McDonald's shake, here's the ingredient list:
Whole milk, sucrose, cream, nonfat milk solids, corn syrup solids, mono and diglycerides, guar gum, imitation vanilla flavor, carrageenan, cellulose gum,Notice that there are no cow eyeballs or styrofoam balls listed among the ingredients. 'Nuff said.
The notion that McFlurries (a concoction introduced in 1998 of whipped vanilla ice cream blended with branded candies such as Heath bars and M&Ms) contain feathers is wildly imaginative but wholly false. The product does have a feathery appearance, but that's the limit of its avian properties.
A more innocent McDonalds dessert rumor concerns their apple turnovers. Some have heard that McD's doesn't use real apples in them — the "fruit" filling is really potatoes, pears, or maybe even crackers.
Shockingly, the primary ingredient in McDonald's apple pies is apple. Rumors of this nature play on the idea that the big, bad corporation will happily attempt to slip a less expensive substitute past a consumer whenever it can. Belief in this particular whisper is bolstered by memories of oddball recipes for "mock apple pie" culled from old cooking books wherein the "mock apples" were Ritz crackers.
Because of the dangers presented by even innocuous foodstuffs to those allergic to them, restaurateurs will provide upon demand a complete ingredient list for every ingestible they sell. In dealing with product rumors of the "cheap or yucky ingredient substituted for something else" variety, this works mightily in favor of the befuddled consumer who's just heard something shiver-inducing about what's supposedly hidden in his favorite fast food. A quick phone call to that company's 800 number or a fast visit to their web site is usually all it takes to set the rumor back on its heels.
Barbara "check the in-greed-ients list" Mikkelson
Last updated: 26 January 2007
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