Friday, March 23, 2007

A little nugget chemistry

I found this interesting, entertaining, and frightening. Enjoy.

"McNuggets also contain several completely synthetic ingredients, quasiedible substances that ultimately come not from a corn or soybean field but form a petroleum refinery or chemical plant. These chemicals are what make modern processed food possible, by keeping the organic materials in them from going bad or looking strange after months in the freezer or on the road. Listed first are the "leavening agents": sodium aluminum phosphate, mono-calcium phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and calcium lactate. These are antioxidants added to keep the various animal and vegetable fats involved in a nugget from turning rancid. Then there are "anti-foaming agents" like dimethylpolysiloxene, added to the cooking oil to keep the starches from binding to air molecules, so as to produce foam during the fry. The problem is evidently grave enough to warrant adding a toxic chemical to the food: According to the Handbook of Food Additives, dimethylpolysiloxene is a suspected carcinogen and an established mutagen, tumorigen, and reproductive effector; it's also flammable. But perhaps the most alarming ingredient in a Chicken McNugget is tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is either sprayed directly on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to "help preserve freshness." According to A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (i.e. lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food: It can comprise no more than 0.02 percent of the oil in a nugget. Which is probably just as well, considering that ingesting a single gram of TBHQ can cause "nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse." Ingesting five grams of TBHQ can kill.”

This is an excerpt from the book The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

2 comments:

Thiago said...

How else can I get that wholesome goodness in me? Thank you nugget makers, preservers, and anti-foam-erer’s for adding substances that may otherwise be lacking in the general populations diet. Erin, don’t be cross because you didn’t think of adding those materials to food first. Also, I have video of you eating three 20 piece nugget boxes and licking them, the boxes and the nuggets (by-the-by, fabulous eating habits), to the point of disintegration.

When will people stand up for big business?

Dave said...

Erin licking boxes? Sign me up.