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They Say McDonald’s Is Removing Artificial Ingredients – But The Menu is Still Full Of Them!

This story about McDonald’s was all over the news… Did you see it? Here are some headlines:

McDonald’s removing artificial additives from its burgersCNN Money

McDonald’s burgers: New recipes remove artificial ingredientsCBS News

McDonald’s Nixes Artificial Ingredients from Its Burgers” – Food & Wine

Sounds pretty good, right? At first, I was very intrigued.

But after doing a little digging, I got ticked off by these news stories. 

These types of headlines can lead people into believing that McDonald’s has made sweeping changes and that their food is no longer made with artificial ingredients but that is FAR from the case, as I’ll demonstrate below.

Here’s the truth about McDonald’s food.

High fructose corn syrup is still in ALL of the classic McDonald’s burgers.

McDonald’s didn’t remove high fructose corn syrup from the ketchup or Big Mac Sauce that they put on their classic burgers.

And that’s not all these news stories left out…

The “new” ingredient list at McDonald’s is a who’s who list of ingredients to avoid. Artificial dyes, artificial flavors, artificial emulsifiers, and artificial preservatives are still very DOMINANT on their menu.

For instance, McDonald’s buns contain two artificial (synthetic) emulsifiers…

I’ve written about the artificial emulsifiers DATEM and Mono-and-Diglycerides in the past. These two ingredients are not exactly safe because they can contain trans fats. Trans fats have been linked to heart disease and the CDC has attributed them to up to 7,000 coronary heart disease deaths each year in the U.S.

You’ll find these artificial emulsifiers in essentially all of the sandwiches at McDonald’s… the Quarter Pounder, Big Mac, Cheeseburger, Hamburger, McChicken, McMuffins – every McDonald’s sandwich made on with a sesame seed bun, regular bun, english muffin, or artisan roll.

The pickles on almost every McDonald’s burger contain the emulsifier Polysorbate 80. A 2015 study links Polysorbate 80 to significant weight gain and inflammatory bowel disease. This is NOT a necessary ingredient in pickles… the ones I buy sure don’t have it! And, they are artificially preserved with Potassium Sorbate, which some evidence finds to be genotoxic to white blood cells.

McDonald’s still adds caramel color to the famous Big Mac Sauce.

McDonald’s can get away with saying it contains no “artificial colors” because the industry considers caramel color “natural”… but I sure don’t! Caramel color is typically made in a laboratory by reacting corn sugar with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperature. When caramel color is made like this, it produces the byproduct 4-Mel. A U.S government funded study found that feeding mice caramel coloring IV (which contained 4-Mel) increased their risk of developing lung cancer and leukemia, at every dosage level. And the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies 4-Mel as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.

To be fair, there are safer forms of caramel color available for the industry to use. Which is why I gave McDonald’s the benefit of the doubt and asked them what type of caramel color they use. I was told that this information is “proprietary and not available”. (I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether you think they use a safer version after that response!)

The bottom line is that caramel color is totally UNNECESSARY and POTENTIALLY RISKY. It’s only used to add a brown color… and does McDonald’s really need to color their “special sauce” brown to make their customers happy? I doubt it. This is the same ingredient that we campaigned Starbucks to remove from their drinks – and they did! If Starbucks can do it, I know McDonald’s can too.

It’s true that McDonald’s has removed some nasty additives from their food in the last few years…

Back when I investigated McDonald’s in 2015, they used the artificial preservative BHA in 10 menu items. BHA has now been removed. Gone is also the propyl gallate and TBHQ. The artificial dough conditioner azodicarbonamide (yoga mat) was used in nearly all of their buns – and now it’s only in one (a “bakery style bun” that may be used in some locations, but is not a core item). These are big wins!

But, McDonald’s didn’t remove artificial colors from their burgers…

…and, that’s because they did not contain artificial colors to begin with! 

McDonald’s really only adds artificial dyes (like Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, Blue 1) to some shakes and the Frappe Mocha. And, they still do today…

You’ll find artificial dyes in McDonald’s EggNog Shake, Shamrock Shake, and Frappe Mochas. As I’ve written many times before, these dyes are derived from petroleum and linked to health issues ranging from cancer to behavioral issues in children. They have no business being in our food. 

Despite the headlines, McDonald’s food is full of artificial and risky additives.

  • You’ll still find Sodium Phosphate (a synthetic preservative) in all McDonald’s bacon burgers and McChicken sandwiches. Eating this preservative often can put you at a greater risk of kidney disorders and heart disease.
  • McDonald’s biscuits, ice cream, shakes, and iced coffee contains Carrageenan (a thickener and emulsifier linked to digestive issues and cancer).
  • McDonald’s sweetens many of their sauces and bagels with High Fructose Corn Syrup (a highly processed sweetener made from GMO corn). This sweetener has been shown to contribute more to obesity and type 2 diabetes than regular cane sugar (sucrose). 
  • Caramel color (an unnecessary color linked to cancer) can be found slathered on their famous Big Mac, and in McGriddles breakfast sandwiches, Vanilla Shakes, and Oatmeal. 
  • The shredded cheese in McDonald’s salads is coated in Cellulose, an additive derived from wood that is linked to intestinal inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease, and “significant” weight gain.
  • McDonald’s spikes their Chicken McNuggets and Bacon Smokehouse Burger with the hidden MSG additive Yeast Extract. You’ll find more hidden MSG in the form of hydrolyzed proteins in the Big Mac Sauce. These additives are used as a cleaner-sounding replacement for MSG – but are essentially the same thing.
  • Inexplicably, McDonald’s continues to use Dimethylpolysiloxane (a synthetic defoaming additive) in all of their fried foods in the U.S., even though they don’t use it in the U.K. Funny, they can make fries in the U.K. without it, huh?

I think McDonald’s can do better. And, they should!

McDonald’s is once-again ranked as the #1 most popular fast food chain in America, surpassing everyone else in sales. This means a lot of Americans are eating there – even if you don’t.

Please share this post and inform your friends who still eat at McDonald’s.

No one should be eating these risky ingredients at the most popular fast food restaurant in America. Don’t you agree?



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23 responses to “They Say McDonald’s Is Removing Artificial Ingredients – But The Menu is Still Full Of Them!

  1. An investigation needs to be done on the plethora of usage of Soy & Soy products with the epidemic of Breast Cancer and the warning from Oncologists to stay awy from Soy.

    1. Yeah, I just don’t believe that. It’s a myth in my opinion. Just buy organic soy products and avoid the soy isolates and processed soy foods. It’s actually dairy products I have heard cause breast cancer and all the studies that claim differently are supported by the dairy industry or some other big food company. They have the breast cancer society support dairy based products even though they know the risks of dairy products.

      Most people don’t want to believe it because they don’t want to give up the cheese, or the milk, or all the cakes, brownies, cookies and cupcakes or the dressings, dips, and other dairy based products. The medical field doesn’t want to let people know the truth about the most chronic diseases (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, metabolic syndrome, kidney disease, high blood pressure). “There’s no money to make in healthy people.” They don’t know much about nutrition or the ones that do aren’t truthful most of the time about what foods you should actually be consuming and what to truly avoid. The whole thing about soy is not true, or how bad all carbs are, or how fruits have too much sugar, etc.

      1. Whenever I eat soy, my period starts and refuses to stop for months (naturally, I’m now anemic). That leads me to believe that soy isn’t quite as ‘harmless’ as some would have us believe.

  2. We wouldn’t eat there even if the food was organic. My kids HATE McDonald’s. I guess when you feed them real food, they can tell the difference right away.

    1. Sorry not true, my mums a vegan dieitican – and raised me as such. I love Mcdonalds.

      How old are your kids? I used to hate chips because my mum told me how bad they were – up until about 14. I mean tbh chips aren’t still my favourite – but when you’re young you replicate/believe what your parents say. It doesn’t last.

  3. This makes me so mad. When I heard about McDonalds taking out artificial ingredients I was like this is so great! I don’t eat there, but as you said a lot of people do. So deceiving, thats what makes me so mad is that so many people just don’t understand what the ingredients are doing to their bodies. So sad.

  4. Just a comment about TRANS FAT. The FDA has required all sellers of products for cake decorating industry to remove the TRANS FAT from icing, shortenings, etc. But NOT FAST FOOD?????

      1. The unfortunate thing though is it still isn’t enough. There needs to be a full ban on all trans fat.

  5. Surprise ! Surprise ! Surprise ! The golden arches are still one of the leading food services given way to greed, corruption and deception with horrendous consequences to the American population. Here is some information about the safety of food dyes. Dr. Hulda Clark research/treatment rocked the medical-pharmo conglomeration; her research and practices. She performed biopsies on human tumor content(s). Artificial colors and dyes were quite commonly part of the contents found within these encapsulations. Food of this nature is clearly toxic to the entire human makeup; physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.The body is divinely capable to heal/protect itself in countless ways. Usually when the body is confronted with foreign substances that it can not by normal physiological means remove, it will encase these nefarious substances. Information has been out for over 40 plus years covering the toxicity(ies) of American fast food fiasco. Americans have and are still eating the American Standard Diet; ((SAD)). The CDC has stated for years that out of the top 10 killers of Americans annually, 7 to 8 are caused by chronic inflammation and that inflammation comes from diet. Now more than ever, Americans have to take responsibility for their own health and stop consuming these health condemning foods from the tree of knowledge. Start eating from the Tree of Life. Bottom line, if you give the body what it needs, it will heal itself innately.
    Most medical schools (( MD )) are still promoting pharmaceutical medicine. Most MDs did not// do not undergo a reliable nutritional focused education. Food Babe has and is promoting health awareness, life style changes and providing cost effective solutions. If you do not understand something ask someone for help. This website is a great place to start. Food Babe has valuable information to share. Great article. Keep up the good work.

    p.s. America, go find a medical provider-teacher that will show/support you how to help heal yourself.




  7. Please call out the Girl Scout cookies
    I’m sure they are just as bad as McDonald’s
    They need investigated
    Please do !!

    1. I whole-heartedly agree! The Girl Scout cookies are full it toxins and artificial ingredients. I hate buying those cookies after reading the ingredients label. It brought tears to my eyes because the girls work hard selling these cookies and not realizing they are unhealthy. I have a family member who sells these cookies for her troop. They are poison and yes Girl Scouts of America needs to be accountable!

  8. Thanks so much for keeping on top of this, Vani/Food Babe! A lot of people dismiss these things by saying, “Once in a while won’t hurt you.” NOT TRUE. I knew some foods were causing me a lot of pain, including serious and debilitating pain, and so I kept a food diary. Among the worst culprits I was able to isolate were some things that you pointed out in McDonalds foods- canola oil, artificial flavors, and enriched wheat flour. It takes just one serving of something with these to make me ill. No food is worth that.

  9. I think the fries in the US should be the SAME ingredients as the ones in the UK. There is no reason for “beef flavoring” in fries either. They also contain wheat and milk due to the beef flavoring. Also, look at the bunch of other junk in the US version compared to the UK version.

  10. McDonald’s really needs a major change to ingredients in all of the foods they offer. I would NEVER eat at McDonald’s but the truth is people are always going to keep going to this place and it will continue to get the “support” of the people that eat and buy things from McDonald’s. It’s time to at least get these changes made in ALL of the foods there. It’s been far too long.

  11. Why is dextrose not highlighted? It is an artificial sweetener and should be avoided. I am surprised this is not an issue with Food Babe.

    1. Hello, we should define “artificial.” Just throwing terms around doesn’t help anyone. Dextrose is not man-made. It is a fast burning sugar extracted commonly from corn. It should be avoided BECAUSE the body will convert this sugar to fat quickly if you’re not exercising at the time.

  12. Vani, it’s been a really long while since you have last done a petition. I think you should do a petition on removing HFCS on all foods, or carrageenen, or prpoplyne glycol in foods. Or petition to have all meat by products removed from pet foods. We really need a new change.

  13. one day in english class my english teacher said she loved mcdonald’s and I told her that the chicken nuggets are only 50% chicken and what the rest is and she was going no no and said i was being disrespectful. What then?

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