Do McDonalds chicken nuggets contain butane?

Someone mentioned to me that McDonald’s sprays their chicken nuggets with butane (lighter fluid). Not one to take everything for truth, I embarked on my own research to find out if this was true, and well, basically it is. I am VERY glad I do not eat McDonald’s and even more glad my daughter never has and now she certainly never will.

Here is what I found:
These two paragraphs are taken directly from The Omnivore’s Dilemma:

“The ingredients listed in the flyer suggest a lot of thought goes into a nugget, that and a lot of corn. Of the thirty-eight ingredients it takes to make a McNugget, I counted thirteen that can be derived from corn: the corn-fed chicken itself; modified cornstarch (to bind the pulverized chicken meat); mono-, tri-, and diglycerides (emulsifiers, which keep the fats and water from separating); dextrose; lecithin (another emulsifier); chicken broth (to restore some of the flavor that processing leeches out); yellow corn flour and more modified cornstarch (for the batter); cornstarch (a filler); vegetable shortening; partially hydrogenated corn oil; and citric acid as a preservative. A couple of other plants take part in the nugget: There’s some wheat in the batter, and on any given day the hydrogenated oil could come from soybeans, canola, or cotton rather than corn, depending on the market price and availability.

According to the handout, 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.”

Yum, sounds good doesn’t it? I have not seen anywhere that says whether or not Europe allows this junk in their food. I am guessing not because they are better at protecting their consumers than the FDA. I am pretty sure high fructose corn syrup is illegal in Europe, just for one thing.

Though Wikipedia does not mention a link TBHQ to butane, it still does not paint a very flattering picture. And yes I realize Wikipedia is not a great source.

Sources:

http://www.alnyethelawyerguy.com/al_nye_the_lawyer_guy/2007/03/so_what_really_.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TBHQ

http://beholdhealth.com/v2008/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=33&Itemid=57

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17 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jackie on August 12, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Maybe I’m not an expert on chemical derivatives, but can you please explain to me how TBHQ is a form of butane? The only similarity is that they are both organic compounds. Butane is a linear hydrocarbon, whereas TBHQ is more of a benzene derivative. It is true that there may be something I am not seeing in this situation, but as I see it, you would have to do a decent amount of work on a butane molecule to get it to look like TBHQ.

    Reply

    • Posted by phaven on February 26, 2010 at 4:24 pm

      You dont have to be an “expert” to know that if you cannot pronounce it you shouldnt be eating it. Funny about fast food, they do not, by law, have to list ingredients.

      Reply

      • Yeah, because other restaurants could steal the recipe. KFC’s special spices are ACTUALLY locked in a safe somewhere. I saw this on a documentary and know it to be true.

  2. Posted by Trisha on August 12, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Jackie, I really am not a chemical expert by any means. I just trust that those experts who have done the research know what they are talking about. The excerpt cites the “Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives,” which says TBHQ is a form of butane (i.e. lighter fluid).

    I leave the molecular work to the experts and just hope they are honest!

    Reply

  3. Posted by toohipmum on August 13, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks for listing all the ingredients that go into chicken McNuggets. It’s good to know exactly what’s in the food you get from a fast food restaurant.

    Reply

  4. Posted by joe on August 20, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    comment on TBHQ;
    while it is good to aviod any unnatural preservative such as TBHQ, the harmful effects of the huge amounts of trans-fatty oils in most Fast Foods such as McDonalds(virtually ALL major chain restaurants – including Dennys and Applebees) far outweighs the negative contribution of a preservative like TBHQ.

    McNuggets can contain up to a staggering 10 grams of transfat.

    trans fats are so unhealthy they have just been made ILLEGAL in California. they are also banned in New York City.

    While I am not a nutritionist, but i am a scientist, and have read tons of literature on such food additives.

    most of them are leagalized due to lobbying of FDA people by the food industry. $$$$ talks.
    the FDA gets around things due to the lack of studies for alot of the newer additives.

    just because it is legal, doesn’t make it ok.

    these chemicals are MAN MADE. does it follow then that the human body knows how to process them?
    NO.

    i encourage folks to do their OWN research. google these food additives. find out what various well known researchers have concluded.

    the more foreign chemicals one puts in their body, over time, the greater their chances for disease. its that simple.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Trisha on August 20, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Joe, thanks for your comments. I think you hit the nail on the head! :)

    Reply

  6. I stopped going into McDonald’s a long time ago and this just gave me a reason to truly convince other people to stop eating there to. Disgusting!

    Reply

  7. Fast food have never been healthy

    Reply

  8. Posted by Tuan on February 5, 2010 at 10:15 am

    TBHQ is NOT a “form” of butane. There is no chemistry behind the statement whatsoever.

    http://scienceblogs.com/moleculeoftheday/2007/03/tbhq_mixed_feelings.php

    Any chemist will agree with the chemistry stated at the website above. Please don’t let people scare you for no reason.

    Reply

  9. i have a very busy lifestyle too, and i would always frequently eat on Fastfoods ::-

    Reply

  10. Posted by Stephen on April 20, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    I’m an organic chemist…while chicken mcnuggets might not be healthy. Believe me, butane should be the least of ones concerns. It is a VERY unreactive compound with a VERY low boiling point. It will evaporate very fast….it mcnuggets are sprayed with butane it evaporates LONG before anyone would eat it with NO traces of the chemical left behind. None. I am sure there is NO chance you would actually be eating any butane…and its not going to react with anything either….it might serve a purpose similar to carbon dioxide being formed in yeast fermenting causing bread dough to rise….

    Furthermore, the amino acids leucine and isoleucine have isobutyl and sec-butyl side chains, which are derivitaives of butane. Now are you afraid of eating these amino acids in your diet? I should hope not as you need them to synthesize proteins.

    There are plenty of bad chemicals in the foods we eat. Every single thing in life is made out of chemicals! Everything is made out of atoms.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Paula Whitney on July 14, 2012 at 11:06 am

    I don’t know much about chemistry, I only know that I ate a McDonald’s cheeseburger last week, because I needed something quick to eat and thought it might do the trick.
    I am not sure what kind of chemicals are in that cheeseburger, but I was very ill from eating it. I assumed that it was a beef hamburger with cheese and a bun. How can that be harmful? Later, I read that it is the preservatives that are added to the food that can cause stomach upset and illness. Never again! I am reading all of the food labels now to find out about the preservatives that are added to all of the processed foods.
    Also, I am eating organic when ever possible. If I am starving and on the road, I am just going to have to find something healthy or not eat at all.

    Reply

  12. @Stephen I agree with your comments, except they are referring to TBHQ in this article and it has a boiling temperature of 523 degrees! What’s to be said about that?

    Reply

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