Category Archives: controversial food additives

What happens to a 6-year-old McDonald’s Happy Meal left in its bag? Absolutely nothing.

Six year old happy came across this very frightening story that starts out with a question. What happens to a 6-year-old McDonald’s Happy Meal left in its bag? Absolutely nothing is the correct answer.

We shouldn’t be shocked. The movie “Supersize Me” put forth the concept that all those preservatives in McDonald’s food actually preserve the food. So we’re not shocked. We’re disgusted, turned off and horrified that food can be six years old and not turn. It means it isn’t food because real food goes bad.

A mum claims to have conducted an experiment where she kept a McDonald’s Happy Meal for SIX years – just to see if it would decompose.

Jennifer Lovdahl, from Alaska, in the U.S., posted a status on Facebook about a meal she bought from the fast food chain back in 2010.

She said: “It’s been 6 years since I bought this “Happy Meal” at McDonald’s. It’s been sitting at our office this whole time.”

Shockingly, the pictures – one of the box, with receipt, another of the meal itself – show that the food has hardly changed.

She wrote: “[It] has not rotted, molded, or decomposed at all!!! It smells only of cardboard. We did this experiment to show our patients how unhealthy this “food” is. Especially for our growing children!!

She added: “There are so many chemicals in this food! Choose real food! Apples, bananas, carrots, celery….those are real fast food.” has a pretty strong opinion about fast food. If it won’t decompose, it shouldn’t qualify as food to begin with. Just don’t eat this.

Is potassium bromate hiding in your bread? Possible cancer-causing additive still included in the ingredient lists of many bread products covers a wealth of controversial ingredients on our website. We highlight those items as they appear in the ingredient lists of over 100,000 products in our database. And we provide descriptions of why those ingredients are controversial. Let’s go a little bit further here, though, and put a spotlight on one specific ingredient. There may be potassium bromate hiding in your bread. It may cause cancer. And it’s lurking in a variety of bread products on our grocery shelves.

Potassium bromate is added to flour to strengthen the dough, allow it to rise higher and give the finished bread an appealing white color.

Potassium bromate is an ingredient in at least 86 baked goods and other food products found on supermarket shelves, including well-known brands and products such as Hormel Foods breakfast sandwiches, Weis Kaiser rolls and French toast, and Goya turnover pastry dough.

Regulators in the United States and abroad have reached troubling conclusions about the risks of potassium bromate that you probably don’t know about, but should. In 1999 the International Agency for Research on Cancer determined that potassium bromate is a possible human carcinogen. It is not allowed for use or is banned as a food additive in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil and the European Union. The state of California requires food with potassium bromate to carry a warning label.

In tests on lab animals, exposure to potassium bromate increased the incidence of both benign and malignant tumors in the thyroid and peritoneum – the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity. Later research confirmed and expanded these findings, concluding that ingesting potassium bromate resulted in significant increases in cancer of the animals’ kidneys, thyroid and other organs.

Potassium bromate also has the potential to disrupt the genetic material within cells. Upon entering the body, potassium bromate can be transformed into molecules called oxides and radicals. These highly reactive molecules can damage DNA and may play a role in the development of cancer. Scientists have observed such damage in human liver and intestine cells, where exposure to potassium bromate resulted in breaks in DNA strands and chromosomal damage.

Researchers also saw significant damage to the cell membranes of lysosomes – the small intracellular bodies responsible for important cell functions such as cellular digestion – ironically, the process by which food is broken down into components useful to our cells. Models of the relationship between DNA damage and potassium bromate show a consistent low-dose linear response, which means that the amount of DNA damage observed is proportional to the amount of potassium bromate consumed.

Despite the significant evidence of potassium bromate’s harmful health effects, the food industry has long argued that it is of no concern in baked products. The industry claims potassium bromate is theoretically fully converted into potassium bromide, a similar yet non-carcinogenic chemical, during baking. But testing in the United Kingdom revealed that potassium bromate remains detectable after baking, with six out of six unwrapped breads and seven out of 22 packaged breads containing measurable levels.

California is the only state to have taken any measures to warn residents of the dangers associated with this chemical, placing potassium bromate on its Proposition 65 list, which means that products that contain it must carry a cancer warning on their labels. However, no other regulatory agency has taken any action to regulate or remove this dangerous chemical from American grocery store shelves. Our nation’s food additive review system fails in its mandate to keep Americans safe. Congress must overhaul this broken process in order to truly protect us from potentially cancer-causing chemicals such as potassium bromate. is here to help you avoid potassium bromate. And our latest app won’t just tell you what products include potassium bromate, it will tell you how many times you’ve actually eaten the ingredient each day, week and month! Check out how easy it is to take control of your healthy lifestyle:

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The Burger King Halloween Whopper … the color of the bun isn’t the only thing that’s creepy follows along with the fast food world and reports on the nutrition facts and ingredient lists of all the new offerings. Those posts often tell you that we wouldn’t want to eat the item on which we’ve reported. We often cite specific ingredients that place those items on our avoid list.

Today though, we’re looking at the Burger King Halloween Whopper. We’re sure you’ve been hearing the stories connected to the burger. Without stating the very definite physical response that many people have had to this new creation, let’s just leave you with the idea that it appears to be particularly hard on the systems of those who consume it … leaving some colorful results in its aftermath and causing Burger King to note that the flavoring and food colorings used in the Halloween Whopper in the U.S. are common and within the safe and acceptable daily intake levels approved by the FDA. The problems appear to be linked to the black sesame seed bun.

Are you completely turned off yet? We are.

Let’s take a closer look at the Halloween Whopper and see if we can figure out the cause of its spooky and colorful after effects.

Creepy Nutrition Facts
Calories:              710
Fat:                      43 grams
Saturated Fat:    15 grams
Trans Fat:           1.5 grams
Sodium:              1530 mg
The Halloween Whopper is not a good food choice. Too many calories. Too much fat. Too much saturated fat. Trans fat. And far too much sodium.

Spooky ingredients?
Let’s see what’s going on in that black sesame seed bun:

“BLACK SESAME SEED BUN: Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron. Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Contains 2% or less of each of the following: Wheat Gluten, Soybean Oil, Salt, Maltodextrin, Defatted Wheat Germ, Fructose, Refiners Syrup Powder, Glycerine, Monoglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Powdered Flaxseed, Brown Sugar, Corn Syrup, Gum Arabic, FD&C Red #40, Molasses Powder, Modified Corn Starch, FD&C Blue #1, Calcium Sulfate, Raisin Juice Concentrate, Spice, Worcerstershire Sauce (Vinegar, Molasses, Corn Syrup, Water, Salt, Caramel Color, Dried Garlic, Sugar, Spice, Tamarind, Natural Flavor), Natural Flavor, FD&C Yellow #6, Sugar, Orange Juice Concentrate, Sunflower Oil, Ascorbic Acid, Corn Syrup Solids, Garlic Powder, Caramel Color, Enzymes, Onion Powder, Tannic Acid, Agar, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Calcium Propionate and Potassium Sorbate (to retard spoilage), Topped with Sesame Seeds. CONTAINS: WHEAT

The flavoring and food colorings used to color the HA.1.®LOWEEN WHOPPER® black bun in the US, are commonly used in the industry and within the safe and Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out that the food coloring included in this bun is creating the unusual physical effects linked to the Halloween Whopper.

But when the burger chain released the burger, a representative told ABC News that the black bun contains less than 1 percent food dye.

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency care physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told that many common synthetic dyes, including D&C Red #40 and FD&C Blue #1 “are generally not able to be broken down or absorbed by the body so they end up coming out …”

He said that burger lovers shouldn’t be alarmed and noted that the Food and Drug Administration considers these dyes safe for public consumption. Also, similar reactions occur when people eat natural foods like beets or consume of large amounts green vegetables.

O.k. it was nice to know that the side effects of eating this whopper aren’t going to hurt anyone. But, really, why would anyone want to eat this? And why would Burger King want to offer this? The Halloween Whopper has “NO” written all over it!

Taco Bell thinks we should be drinking Starburst candy.

TacoBellStarburstCherryFreeze-600x350For, a Starburst Cherry Freeze is a doubly appalling concept. Think about it for a minute – the nutrition website whose blog is full of damning information on sugary beverages cannot possibly like a sugary frozen beverage associated with candy (more sugar). We really can’t think of any reason why consumers would embrace this concept either.

Just in case the idea of that double shot of sugar isn’t enough to turn you off to it, we went to the Taco Bell website to find out the facts behind the Starburst Cherry Freeze.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories:                190
Fat:                         0 grams
Sugar:                    51 grams

These nutrition facts are applicable to the 16 ounce size. Almost 13 TEASPOONS of sugar in a cup. That certainly puts the Starburst Cherry Freeze squarely in the sugary beverage category.

Going further, though, the ingredient list could be very important here. Starburst candies are brightly colored and this is a Starburst Cherry Freeze, so we’re envisioning something with color going on behind the scenes.

Ingredients: High fructose corn syrup, water, natural and artificial flavor, citric acid, yucca extract, quillaia extract, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (P), red 40 (C), calcium disodium EDTA (PF).

That color we were suspicious of is definitely in there. But it’s really worse than that. There are only 11 ingredients in this beverage and 6 of them are controversial. The Taco Bell Starburst Cherry Freeze isn’t really a beverage. It’s a frozen chemical concoction.

Not touching this one.

Jett-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows attempt to sweeten up pumpkin season

pumpkin-spice-marshmallowsAt first blush, the idea of a Pumpkin Spice Marshmallow seemed pretty unappealing. We thought about it a little more though and figured out that we could make any cup of coffee pumpkin spice coffee or be really creative and innovative and enjoy a pumpkin spice hot chocolate. We could also make pumpkin spice Rice Krispy Treats. Of course, before got excited about any of this, you know we had to explore how the folks over at Kraft went about making Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows.

Nutrition Facts (about 5 regular-sized marshmallows):

Calories:                       100
Fat:                                0 grams
Sugar:                           17 grams

Honestly, the nutrition facts for marshmallows are really pretty good. They contain a reasonable amount of calories, no fat, and less than one teaspoon of sugar per regular size marshmallow. There are certainly worse sweet treats out there.

Now let’s find out about the ingredients:

Ingredients Corn Syrup, Sugar, Modified Cornstarch, Dextrose, Water, Gelatin, Contains Less Than 2% of Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (Whipping Aid), Natural And Artificial Flavor, Yellow 5, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1.

And here’s where our dreams of pumpkin spice coffee in an instant, pumpkin spice hot chocolate and pumpkin spice Rice Krispy Treats go flying out the window because we are not eating these.

Sorry, Kraft but we will be looking for our fall flavors elsewhere.

Pulled Pork Cheese Fries from Wendy’s … a new French fry vision knows that it’s important for companies of all kinds to continuously come up with new ideas and products that can help keep them relevant and important in a constantly-changing society. Fast food is certainly no exception to that and those of us who monitor the fast food chains can certainly recognize how new fast food offerings follow new trends … most of the time. There’s always an exception … today that exception comes from Wendy’s.

The new Pulled Pork Cheese Fries don’t seem to be picking up on anything that’s currently trending. Instead, while we’ll admit we haven’t tried these out, envisions a soggy plate of fries covered in an odd combination of cheese and barbecue sauce clumps of pork and onions. Actually, that’s what the image on the website resembles.

So if you were to eat these, what would you actually be eating?

Nutrition Facts:
Calories:                       490
Fat:                                23 grams
Saturated Fat:             7 grams
Sodium:                       1030 mg

We know these fries are a meal, so we need to approach the nutrition facts a bit differently. This whole meal-on-a-plate-of-fries totals 490 calories – somewhat better than you’d fare adding fries to a burger order at Wendy’s – same thing with the fat and sodium, though the sodium is still high.

What about the ingredients?

Natural-Cut Fries: Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (contains one or more of the following oils: canola, soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, corn), Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (to maintain natural color). Cooked in Vegetable Oil (soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural flavor [vegetable], citric acid [preservative], dimethylpolysiloxane [anti-foaming agent]). Cooked in the same oil as menu items that contain Wheat, Egg, and Fish (where available). Seasoned with Sea Salt. Pulled Pork: Rubbed with: salt, sugar, spices, paprika. Pork, water, modified food starch, salt, sodium phosphate. Smoky BBQ Sauce: Water, Tomato Paste, Sugar, Distilled Vinegar, Brown Sugar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Modified Cornstarch, Chili Peppers, Natural Flavor (including smoke flavor), Caramel Color, Onion (dehydrated), Garlic (dehydrated), Potassium Sorbate And Sodium Benzoate (preservatives), Chipotle Peppers, Molasses, Spices (including mustard seed), Jalapeno Pepper (dehydrated), Tamarind, Soybean Oil. Cheddar Cheese Sauce: Water, Cheddar Cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), Milk, Cream Cheese Spread (pasteurized milk and cream, cheese culture, salt, carob bean gum), Modified Cornstarch, Non Fat Dry Milk, Soybean Oil, Palm Oil, Whey, Sodium Phosphate, Cream, Cheese Culture, Milk Fat, Parmesan Cheese (pasteurized part-skim milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzyme), Butter, Salt And Sea Salt, Sodium Alginate, Carob Bean Gum, Mono & Diglycerides, Annatto And Apocarotenal (color), Lactic Acid. CONTAINS: MILK. Red Onion: Red Onion.

First of all, there are too many ingredients. And secondly, there are more than a few bad ingredients.

These aren’t the most attractive meal option we’ve ever seen. These fries are fattening, salty and full of ingredients we’d rather not eat. In addition, we can’t get away from the idea that the fries themselves would be sopping wet and mushy underneath all that other stuff.

Where’s our big thumbs’ down button??? We think we need one.

Pushing the pumpkin envelope … Pumpkin Spice Bagels from Thomas’

As we gingerly step out of summer and into fall, we can take notice of a cooler breeze helping to push us along. Ready or not the cooler weather is coming. Some other, less gentle indicators of the new season have already hit our grocery store shelves. Like it or not, there’s pumpkin everything all around us, everywhere. is really not exaggerating. Just take a look at Pumpkin Spice Bagels from Thomas’.

Now instead of simply enjoying pumpkin in your coffee, you can have it in every part of your breakfast. Let’s take a look at what’s really going on with these pumpkin bagels.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories:                            270
Fat:                                     2 grams
Sodium:                             440 mg


We will definitely not be trying these bagels. It’s difficult to understand the necessity of three different, very controversial artificial colors in any one product – especially a bagel, which really has no need to be colorful at all.

We really don’t need to be pushing the pumpkin envelope, Thomas’. See you next fall.

Another valiant effort from McDonald’s … the Premium Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich doesn’t hesitate to point out horrible fast food options. In fact, we strongly feel that part of our mission of nutritional awareness and education is to let people know just how bad fast food items can be for our health. We’re very serious about our mission.

It is because we take that mission so seriously that we feel just as strongly about pointing out when one of those fast food chains puts something out there that’s not quite so terrible. We couldn’t justifiably call something healthy that comes out of the fast food world (unless they’re selling an apple, or a salad without dressing). But we can tell our community when the ingredients used to create a specific item are significantly “less bad” than usual.

It is in that spirit that we bring you McDonald’s new Premium Buttermilk Crisply Chicken Deluxe Sandwich. And we can tell you that this sandwich is actually not horrible. (That’s a big deal for when it comes to McDonald’s.)

Nutrition Facts:
Calories:                          580
Fat:                                   24 grams
Saturated Fat:                4.5 grams
Sodium:                          900 mg

The nutrition facts are fairly typical fast food sandwich nutrition facts. They’re pretty bad and we eagerly await the day that we look at fast food sandwich facts and see more reasonable amounts of fat and sodium. Today is not that day. It’s the ingredient list here we want to focus your attention on:

BUTTERMILK CRISPY CHICKEN FILET: Chicken Breast Fillets with Rib Meat, Wheat Flour, Water, Buttermilk, Salt, Corn Starch, Rice Flour, Yellow Corn Flour, Pea Starch, Garlic Powder, Spice, Baking Soda, Natural Flavors (Plant and Dairy Sources), Citric Acid, Vinegar, Chicken Broth Powder, Lemon Juice Solids, Onion Powder, Sugar, Cultured Cream, Maltodextrin, Skim Milk Powder, Whey Protein Concentrate, Xanthan Gum, Inactive Yeast, Sea Salt, Honey, Milkfat, Whey Powder, Carrot Juice Concentrate. Breading set in Vegetable Oil (Canola, Hydrogenated Soybean, Corn, Soybean). Prepared in Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil) with TBHQ and Citric Acid to preserve freshness of the oil and Dimethylpolysiloxane to reduce oil splatter when cooking. ARTISAN ROLL: Wheat Flour or Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour or Bleached Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Malted Barley Flour, Water, Sugar, Yeast, Palm Oil, Wheat Gluten, Dextrose, Salt, Contains 2% or less: Natural Flavors (Plant Source), Corn Flour, Soybean Oil, Calcium Sulfate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid, Enzymes, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Vegetable Proteins (Pea, Potato, Rice), Sunflower Oil, Turmeric, Paprika, Corn Starch, Wheat Starch, Acetic Acid. TOMATO SLICE, MAYONNAISE DRESSING: Water, Soybean Oil, Distilled Vinegar, Maltodextrin, Modified Food Starch, Enzyme Modified Egg Yolk, Salt, Sugar, Xanthan Gum, Mustard Flour, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Lemon Juice Concentrate, Polysorbate 80, Natural Flavor (Animal Source), Calcium Disodium EDTA to Protect Flavor, Beta Carotene (Color). LEAF LETTUCE

There are four controversial ingredients in here … as opposed to 20 in a Big Mac. While that still doesn’t give the Premium Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich a great Health Score on the website, it’s certainly deserving of some recognition.

McDonald’s is trying. They’ve got a long way to go, but they are trying.

Kellogg’s Pumpkin Spice Mini-Wheats … Welcome to pumpkin season!

prod_img-3799532.png.thumb.319.319Well, we’ve arrived. It’s that time of year where everywhere you turn whether it’s through the door of your favorite coffee retailer or around the next aisle in your neighborhood grocery store, you will be bombarded with anything and everything pumpkin. likes to keep our community informed of the latest and greatest (or not so great) pumpkin possibilities. Today we give you Kellogg’s Pumpkin Spice Mini-Wheats.

Let’s see if we want to try this special tribute to fall in your breakfast bowl.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories:                 190
Fat:                          1 gram
Sugar:                      12 grams

These are relatively reasonable nutrition facts for cereal … fairly standard and nothing shocking. Let’s move on to the ingredients:

Whole grain wheat, sugar, contains 2% or less of brown rice syrup, cinnamon, ginger, gelatin, nutmeg, allspice, annatto extract color, natural flavor, BHT for freshness.Vitamins and Minerals: Reduced iron, niacinamide, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), folic acid, vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), zinc oxide, vitamin B12.

While there’s nothing shocking going on here either, we can find the standard cereal-esque controversial ingredients in this list – natural flavor and BHT. These are ingredients that remain on our avoid list. There are no pumpkin spice exceptions to our rules.

Sorry Kellogg’s, this pumpkin possibility doesn’t make our approved list.

The new Tailgater Breakfast Sandwich from Dunkin

1439797627427What exactly is the taste of tailgating? Dunkin Donuts seems to think so and hence has created the Tailgater Breakfast Sandwich. The Dunkin website encourages us to “Enjoy the flavors of tailgating with juicy Smoked Sausage, Peppers and Onions, and Ancho Chipotle Sauce.” will admit that we had no idea that tailgating involved Ancho Chipotle Sauce.  Or breakfast sandwiches.


Let’s take a closer look and see what we can find out about this new breakfast sandwich.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories:                   610
Fat:                            29 grams
Saturated Fat:         10 grams
Sodium:                   1620 grams

That’s more than we really wanted to know. Too many calories. Too much fat. Too much saturated fat. Too much sodium. This particular breakfast sandwich is worse than most fast food breakfast sandwiches we’ve seen … which doesn’t bode well for the ingredient list.

INGREDIENTS: French Roll: Enriched Unbleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Enzyme, Folic Acid, Ascorbic Acid added as Dough Conditioner), Water, Contains less than 2% of the following: Yeast, Salt, Vegetable Oil (Soy or Canola), Dextrose, Concentrate Mix [Whole Bean Flour, Rye Sour (Wheat Flour, Rye Flour, Lactic Acid, Potato Starch, Acetic Acid), Rye Flour, Soy Lecithin, Ascorbic Acid, Enzyme], DATEM, Calcium Sulfate, Malted Barley Flour, Guar Gum; Split Smoked Sausage: Meat Ingredients (Pork, Beef), Water, Contains 2% or less of: Salt, Corn Syrup, Potassium Lactate, Natural Flavors, Dextrose, Sodium Phosphates, Monosodium Glutamate, Sodium Diacetate, Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), Sodium Nitrite; Fried Egg: Egg Whites, Water, Egg Yolks, Modified Corn Starch, Natural Sauteed Flavor (Soybean Oil, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Natural Flavor), Salt, Artificial Butter Flavor (Propylene Glycol, Artificial Flavor), Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Coarse Ground Black Pepper; Fire Roasted Vegetables: Yellow Onion, Green Bell Peppers, Red Bell Peppers; Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese: Pasteurized Part-Skim Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto (Color); Ancho Chipotle Sauce: Water, Vegetable Oil (Soybean and/or Canola), Vinegar, Sugar, Tomato Paste, Egg Yolk, Salt, Contains less than 2% of: Chipotle Sauce (Water, Sugar, Chipotle Peppers, Vinegar, Salt, Modified Food Starch), Molasses, Spice, Garlic, Ancho Chili Pepper, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Modified Food Starch, Xanthan Gum, Lactic Acid, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Benzoate and Calcium Disodium EDTA (Preservatives), Lemon Juice Concentrate, Onion, Caramel Color, Buttermilk Solids, Citric Acid, Sour Cream Solids, Yellow 6, Yellow 5.

There are over a dozen controversial ingredients in this sandwich. This newest breakfast effort from Dunkin is one of the worst breakfast options we can remember seeing in a very long time. We won’t be tailgating any time soon.