It’s not difficult to make the case that fast food isn’t healthy. One can point out the ubiquity of partially hydrogenated oils (AKA trans fats; which appear on five separate occasions in the ingredient list for Burger King’s grilled chicken filet). Or the tablespoons upon tablespoons of added sugars. Or the outrageously high levels of sodium. Or the lack of fiber. Or the presence of food dyes (there are two food dyes in Subway’s pickles!). Pick your poison.
One also cannot gloss over the litany of chemicals — many of which are oddly found in cosmetics — present in these foods. Sure, water and aloe vera are found in mass-produced beauty products, but food in cosmetic products is very different from cosmetic chemicals in food.
While fast food defenders point out that all these chemicals are legally “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), that isn’t as reassuring as it sounds. Even if these additives posed no threat to health, their inclusion nevertheless makes it clear that as much as these companies like to “healthwash” and boast about “high-quality ingredients” and “freshness”, most of what they sell barely resembles real food.
Behold these fast-food and beauty product staples:
1) Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate: A common ‘dough conditioner’ used in many fast food chains’ “artisanal breads”, SSL is also found in shampoos and soaps. Fast food companies like to make SSL seem like a natural part of the breadmaking process, even though bread has been made for thousands of years — and still is — without it.
2) Benzoyl peroxide: Recently banned in China, benzoyl peroxide is the active ingredient in acne creams — and commonly used to bleach white flour in the United States (and therefore used to make almost all fast food breads). Neutrogena sandwich, anyone?
3) Disodium phosphate: A staple in mascara and mouthwash, you can find it in many fast food items. At Wendy’s, for example, it is present in their chili, cheddar cheese sauce, and Frosty desserts. Taco Bell includes it in their Southwest chicken.
4) Propylene Glycol: Commonly found in shampoo and mouthwash, as well as Burger King’s pickles, smoky cheese sauce, and BK stacker sauce.
5) Ammoniated glycyrrhizin: “Ammoniated glycyrrhizin is prepared from the water extract of licorice root by acid precipitation followed by neutralization with dilute ammonia.” It’s commonly used in facial mask products, and is also an ingredient in Burger King’s ‘breakfast syrup’.
6) Calcium Disodium EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetate): Used as a stabilizer in skin products and hair conditioner, you can also find this used as a “flavor protectant” in most fast food sauces, dips, and dressings, including Taco Bell’s bacon ranch sauce, Arby’s light Italian dressing, and Burger King’s tartar sauce.
As much as fast food companies like to distract consumers with reduced calorie, low-fat items in an attempt to lure the ‘health-conscious’, they continue to serve up chemical concoctions that barely resemble food. Leave the propylene glycol for those neon-colored mouthwashes and get yourself some real food.