Wanted: Biochemistry Degree

As has been mentioned in previous posts, the McDonald’s nutritional information page [http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/usnutritionexchange/ingredientslist.pdf] isn’t particularly informative at first glance. I mean, anyone could tell you that the ingredient in Chicken McNuggets is in fact, Chicken McNuggets. If you scroll down further on the page (something, that the fleetingly curious consumer may not do having established that they are indeed consuming 100% Chicken McNugget) you will find a more detailed list of ingredients in individual items. Not surprisingly, most McDonald’s products share a guesstimated 70% of their ingredients. While we don’t expect a hamburger patty no contain chicken, anymore than the McNuggets to contain beef, a great deal of McDonald’s meat products contain sodium phosphate, a chemical compound often used for food preservation. Since this is a type of salt, I briefly hoped that the reason for the food’s seming inability to perish could be as old as Prosciutto.

Unfortunately, a conversation my biochemistry-student-roomate quickly debased my thesis. While salt is traditionally used for food preservation, it has less of the anti-microbe formation characteristics of sodium phosphate preservatives. That is, McDonald’s chemists are faced with a difficult dilemma: reduce the sodium (which makes them look so bad), and risk that the food items become infested with things like C. botulinum spores, Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, Yersinia enterocolitica, Aeromonas hydrophila, Clostridium perfringens, and Arcobacter. While newer technologies, which read like a list of cold war scare tactics (electron beam irradiation, for example), exist for food preservation without the use of sodium. I doubt McDonalds will want to switch over anytime soon, and leave that good ol’ Sodium Phosphate we all know and love.

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1 Comment

  1. angelaallmendinger

     /  June 17, 2012

    Well, having just finished reading Schlosser’s ‘Why the Fries Tase so Good’, I guess we can expect beef in or chicken: ” Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich, for example, contains beef extracts.”

    Reply

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