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When You See What’s In These Popular Fast Food Buns, You’ll Run!

Let’s discuss a basic concept about eating real food. 

Food has to rot! If it doesn’t, we’ve got a huge problem!

Real food naturally goes bad – that’s what it is supposed to do. So when I see bread that lasts over 10 days, I start to squirm thinking about all the additives it must contain to keep it looking “fresh.” Bread only has a few basic ingredients: flour, yeast, water, salt – and then maybe some fat (oil or butter) and sugar. However, the buns at popular fast food restaurants are designed to last much longer than fresh baked buns, sometimes longer than 2 weeks. In order to achieve this long shelf life that improves profitability they have to pump those buns up with artificial, man-made, chemical ingredients. 

The real question is, what are these chemicals doing to our bodies? How does our health react when we load them up day after day with diets full of GMO soybean oil, azodicarbonamide, calcium peroxide, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color made from ammonia, and other artificial ingredients? Could this be the real reason that so many people feel better after they stop eating bread?  


In this comparison you’ll see that popular fast food buns are nearly identical and carry many of the same toxic additives!


Azodicarbonamide – This is the “Yoga Mat” dough conditioner that we petitioned Subway to remove from their bread in 2014 (and succeeded!). This additive is banned in Europe and Australia, and The Center For Science In The Public Interest has called on the FDA to ban it in the U.S. as well. The World Health Organization has linked it to respiratory issues, allergies and asthma. When the azodicarbonamide in bread is baked, there is research that links it to tumor development and cancer. According to Dr. John Coupland“small amounts of semicarbazide and urethane have been shown to form from azodicarbonamide breakdown during baking and these compounds may pose a health risk.” GUILTY BUNS: Burger King, McDonald’s (McRib bun), Dairy Queen and Arby’s. (Chick-fil-A removed it after our petition to Subway).

CHICK-FIL-A BUNSMonoglycerides and Diglycerides –  This emulsifier is a byproduct of oil processing – including partially hydrogenated canola and soybean oils – which contain artificial trans fat that is detrimental to our health. The consumption of artificial trans fat is strongly correlated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The CDC has linked it to at least 20,000 heart attacks per year and the Institute of Medicine says trans fats have “no known health benefit” and there is no safe level to eat. GUILTY BUNS: Shake Shack, Dairy Queen, KFC, Burger King, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Jack In The Box and Arby’s.

WENDYS BUNSHigh Fructose Corn Syrup – The worst of refined sugars, this sweetener increases appetite, and the risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and dementia. Fast food companies use this man-made sugar because it has a longer shelf life and “inhibits microbial spoilage.” Almost 50% of high fructose corn syrup samples have been shown to be contaminated with toxic mercuryGUILTY BUNS: KFC, Burger King, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Jack In The Box, Dairy Queen and Arby’s. 


Soybean Oil – Almost every fast food bun on this list contains this cheap GMO oil that increases the risk of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseasesGUILTY BUNS: In-N-Out Burger, Dairy Queen, KFC, Burger King, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Jack In The Box, Arby’s, and Carl’s Jr.


Calcium Peroxide – This bleaching agent and dough conditioner is banned in foreign countries including China (and also from some natural food stores like Whole Foods). Its use is a sign that the bun is heavily processed and not something I want to put in my body. It’s also not a necessary ingredient. McDonald’s doesn’t use calcium peroxide in their buns in the U.K. so why do they use it here? GUILTY BUNS: Chick-Fil-A, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Jack In The Box, and Arby’s.


Sucralose – This artificial sweetener (a.k.a Splenda) is added to KFC’s buns even though they already add high fructose corn syrup. Research out of Europe showed rats developed leukemia after consuming sucralose. GUILTY BUNS: KFC. 


Caramel Color – There are 4 different types of caramel color used by the food industry. Class III and Class IV caramel color (commonly used in bread) are made from ammonia and contain the byproduct 4-MEI, a known cancer risk. We contacted Arby’s and asked them what class of caramel color they use and have not heard back from them yet, but will update here as needed.

Natural or Artificial Flavors – Any time you see flavors on an ingredient list be aware that you don’t really know what you are eating. According to the Environmental Working Group, every flavor has their own secret list of up to 100 ingredients, including “synthetic chemicals such as the solvent propylene glycol or the preservative BHA” as well as GMO-derived ingredients. Flavors can also include excitotoxins like MSG that cause your taste buds to experience irresistibility when it comes to food. GUILTY BUNS: Carl’s Jr., Dairy Queen, KFC, Wendy’s, and Arby’s. 


Acesulfame Potassium – According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) this artificial sweetener is anything but safe. CSPI reported the safety tests of acesulfame-K that were conducted in the 1970s were inadequate. Specifically, two rat studies suggest that the additive might cause cancer, but these studies were never properly addressed by the FDA before they approved the substance. GUILTY BUNS: Carl’s Jr. 

Neotame – This is a relatively new and rarely used artificial sweetener that can be found in Carl’s Jr.’s buns. Some health experts warn that this chemical sweetener is more harmful to our health than aspartame – a neurotoxin – but its safety is still up in the air. Just like experts believed that Sucralose was safe when it first came out, people trusted what they were told and consumed it for years before it was linked to leukemia. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see any reason to consume a risky chemical invention that is unnecessarily added to food, especially since it has zero health benefits! GUILTY BUNS: Carl’s Jr. 

Shake Shack Bun

DATEM – This acronym stands for “Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Monoglycerides”, and is a dough conditioner that is usually derived from soybean or canola oil (GMO crops). Just like mono and diglycerides, this ingredient can be a hidden form of deadly trans fat in our food that most people don’t know about. GUILTY BUNSShake Shack, Burger King, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Jack In The Box, Arby’s, and Carl’s Jr. 


Calcium Propionate – This mold-inhibitor was found in almost every fast food bun on our list – even at In-N-Out Burger! Calcium Propionate is considered a safer preservative, but beware that research published in the Journal of Paediatric Child Health links it to “irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance in some children” and long term consumption of calcium propionate has also been shown to damage the stomach lining and induce ulcersGUILTY BUNSIn-N-Out Burger, KFC, Dairy Queen, Burger King, Chick-Fil-A, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Jack In The Box, Arby’s, and Shake Shack.


All that – and I barely even mentioned the GMOs

You’ll almost always find at least one of these ingredients derived from GMO crops in a fast food bun:

  • Corn Syrup
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Sugar (from sugar beets)
  • Cottonseed Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Maltodextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Mono and Diglycerides

GMOs are concerning because they can contain glyphosate residues from the Roundup weed killer that is prevalently used on them. Glyphosate was deemed a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO), and is also linked to kidney diseasebirth defects, and autism

Thankfully, I can’t remember the last time I ate a burger from one of these fast food places, but I’d go back in time and knock it out of my hands now if I could!

If you or any of your loved ones are still hitting up the fast food drive thru, please share this post with them! 




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138 responses to “When You See What’s In These Popular Fast Food Buns, You’ll Run!

  1. Hey I was wondering about Bull Chicks hamburgers buns??? Maybe you’d want to look into them since they are popping up all around the south.

  2. Our favourite restaurant in Orangeville has a “low cal ” burger (or chicken) menu item without the bun and garden salad side instead of fries. My wife likes a steak on a bun that they serve but cuts it on half and puts all the meat on one half. Or she just orders something totally without the bun. There is always a way. A problem is just a place for a solution to be useful! !

    1. The bun itself has poisoned ingredients. Eating half won’t help. These items need removed from the food supply.

  3. What about Five Guys Burgers? They are just as popular as Shake Shack and In and Out, and they are expanding rapidly.

    1. Five Guys, who is the best burger in my view, will not commit on their web site. But you can order bun free and they’ll put it in a foil container.
      I cannot resist the temptation of the buns there though… Iove the way the buns are spread wide for piles of fresh veggies.

    2. In the past, I would get the veggie sandwich at Five Guys. I have not been there in about five years because the last time I tried to eat there, the bun tasted so much like chemicals that I could not tolerate it. Other than Chipotle and our locally owned organic grocery, I really can’t eat out anywhere as it makes me sick now.

    1. When I worked for fuddruckers back in 1997 we made all the bread fresh daily, with standard ingredients you would use from your kitchen. They had a lot of waste (bread that went unused for the day was thrown out – I approached my manager about it and would take the bread to the local soup kitchen for the homeless).

  4. NOT only that but these burgers have gotten quite expensive lately. They are actually worth only 1/4 their price when not on sale or 2 for 1.

  5. Even if you took out all the artificial ingredients you still have the deadliest ingredient of all — that “enriched” white flour that should have never been approved. It contains alloxan which causes diabetes, and undoubtedly plays a role in colon cancer and general inflammation. The first FDA Commissioner Harvey Wiley warned that if it were approved (white flour) we would have an epidemic of health problems, and he was right. Paul Stitt railed against it in his ‘Fighting the Food Giants’ which schooled me years ago — and his wife Barbara proved that serving healthy whole organic foods to kids and adults would virtually eliminate behavior problems. The white flour also has opiate-like effects on the brain, so it is definitely a gateway to other addiction. Thanks for posting this!

    1. Where do you purchase flour that is not enriched? I have looked everywhere, including Whole Foods, and am not able to find any.

      Thank you!

      1. Bob’s Red Mill flours are good, and you should be able to buy them at Whole Foods, or you can order them online.

      2. Smith’s sells whole Rye flour which is used for Swedish limpa bread. Trader Joe’s has some good ingredients, too.

      3. It isn’t too complicated to buy the grains whole and blend them up when you want flour. Vitamix does a great job.

  6. Grrrrrrrrrrrr. In n’ Out Burger is the only fast food “treat” I less than occasionally eat. I have wondered but never saw any mention about their food. Oh WELL. Thank you for doing the research Vani. I also wish they would have been more forthcoming. Their hamburgers are the only ones I’ve ever eaten out. If only they would clean it up! I’m done with the less than occasional treats there. Grrrrrrr.

  7. I eat in Chik – Fil- a thinking its meat and buns are the safest compared to the other ones… reading this makes me re-think to eat chick fil a sandwiches. Thanks a lot for your research Vani. My resolution for this year 2016 is to eliminate as much as GMO’s from the daily food I eat , chemicals from the stuff I use inside and out from my body. Looking forward for more n more emails from you !!


    1. Chik-Fil-A is perfectly acceptable if you have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into your life. Chik-Fil-A is a good Christian business and follows the commandments of the Lord.

      1. No, Robert. They’re not following God’s commandments by serving harmful foods with artificial ingredients. Our family is also Christian. We’d patronize Chik-Fil-A and In-and-Out every now and again to support these Christian businesses but will no longer do so after learning this. There’s no excuse for using these horrible ingredients, especially for Christians. We’re to keep our bodies healthy and pure, and treat others like we do ourselves. We’re not to poison or harm others in any way. The Scriptures have dietary laws that gave amazing health and long lives to the children of Isreal. Check it out. God bless you, brother.

      2. If that’s the case why did some of the dietary restrictions get tossed but not others?
        If we follow the dietary restrictions of the old testament we’d be eating Kosher as well, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not necessarily a healthy thing either. There are plenty of Kosher certified food additives that are not purely natural. I mean Jelly Bellies are Kosher certified and many of them are not naturally flavored (I don’t think buttered popcorn occurs in nature).

      3. You are incorrect. There are plenty of Christian organizations not following biblical principals. Chick Fil a is in the business to profit. Period. And as a result they use ingredients that are contributory to cancer and other Heath problems. I gave up fast food more than 10 years ago when I found out how Inhumanely animals in confined spaces are treated. The cdc admits that the meat industry is going to cause a major catastrophe in America due to meat cunsumption from CAFO animals. I would worry less about the breads, etc but the meat between those buns are more toxic than the buns as its loading your body up with antibiotics and growth hormones. It irritates me that people think that you have good intentions just because you claim you are a Christian or support Christianity. The only fast food restaurants that are decent are the ones that are supporting the gmo labeling movement and use non-gmo/organic ingredients. If you find one, let me know. I would stick with making your own food and/or supporting local/independant restaurants using organic ingredients.

  8. This is so FRUSTRATING!!!!!!! What is there left to eat. Bread is my downfall, but I will not be buying anymore bread that has those chemicals in them. I heard buying sprouted bread from your Health Food Store is s good choice. I’ll have to look on the label when I’m there now that I’m educated! Thanks Vani for all your help! It’s truly appreciated!

    1. We quite buying bread and I seriously don’t notice. Actually I like it better. Anytime I would have a sandwich I just put the good on the plate with the same condiments on the side. There is more flavor this way.

      Also you can make good bread yourself. Decent bread without gluten by using psyllium seed husks that give it the glue. You get a ton of fiber from this type of bread.

  9. This was just in time for me. I almost went to one of them for a fish sandwich. Thanks Vani Great work! Beverly

  10. Thank you Vani,
    I’m like others and started making my own bread, and have gotten my dad to do the same, I’m thinking had you been on watch in 2008 my mom would still be alive. She died of pancreatic cancer and I can’t help but think that it was brought about from the chemicals in our food and plus the dangerous side effects from the pharmaceutical companies. I myself try to stick to mother nature for most things that I consume or put on my body. Thank GOD for you! Because we wouldn’t know anything about what we’re eating or using on our bodies if it weren’t for you. Thank you very much Vani.
    Very sincerely Lee

  11. I probably already know the answer to this, but are there any of the larger mainstream fast food restaurants that purchase or bake their own bread without all these chemical ingredients? That would be really good to know!

  12. I don’t eat fast food period! I know what’s in their buns and there poisonous food. People need to be their own advocate and research these things. My intuition tells me that I will continue to pick my food and cook at home.
    Shelley Jo Graham

  13. Any news on Five Guys and Fries hamburger buns? It’s one of the very few places I eat for fast food anymore because it seemed pretty safe for a once a month splurge…

    1. I think Subway was outed a while ago with the yoga mat ingredients . I have stopped eating there as well and continue to drive by ALL the drive thru and fast food joints no matter what their called !

    1. Many homemade bread recipes online. Just roll the dough into flattened roll shapes with extra flour and bake in oven on cookie sheet. Cut in half for meat and veggie fillings when done using a serrated bread knife. Practice will determine how big you want it.

  14. Here in New Mexico, we have a very popular fast food restaurant known as BLAKE’S LOTA BURGER. Do you have any information on this place?

    1. Yea, Cory! Yes that’s what it’s all about. Each one person making a difference to fight against the poinsoning of two of our basic needs, water and food. God bless you and your family and health to you all!

  15. Thanks you so much Food Babe! I’ve been Following you for 2 years now and I’ve been following your advice, which has made me feel better than ever!

  16. Honey doesn’t go bad. But that’s not a huge problem for your because it’s in several of your recipes.

  17. Are there any decent buns out there as fast food or fast casual options that do not have all these ingredients ?

  18. Hi Food Babe . I just want to say your doing a Great job educating so many sleeping Americans to the fax that the foods we eat are slowly killing us and making us sick , geez I wonder why they would want to do that lol. but anyway I was just drinking a ice tea and the can says Arizona 100% natural Green Tea , but on the label it has as its third ingredient high fructose corn syrup. How can this be 100 % natural ?

  19. Rice has a lot of Arsenic in it — except for Basmati Rice from India per this article. See this troubling article about the high amount of Arsenic in rice cereals that Kids eat a lot of. Organic cereals too! Here is the article from the Health Ranger “Natural News (2/18/16) website:

    NaturalNews) The European Union (EU) is making great strides to clean up the food supply. One of the toxic elements they are now seeking to limit is arsenic. The most infamous place to find arsenic is in rice products, since rice readily takes up arsenic from the soil and water that its grown in. When EU regulators tested brand-name rice cereals, the results were telling. The general population has been consuming excessive amounts of arsenic in basic brand-name cereals, many of which are adored by kids.

    Products like Kellogg’s Rice Krispies and Heinz Smooth Baby Rice far exceeded the new EU arsenic limits. In fact, 58 percent of cereals tested exceeded the new arsenic limit for babies and children.

    Over half of rice-based cereal for children exceed new EU arsenic limits

    Arsenic’s toxicity is linked to heart disease, skin, bladder and lung cancers. It doesn’t matter if people eat organic rice products or non-organic; either kind could contain high levels of arsenic. It comes down to the quality of water and soil the rice is grown in. Government bodies generally have limited resources to check food products for toxic elements like arsenic, but that is all changing, especially in the European Union. Channel 4 Dispatches tested a slew of rice cereals in Great Britain and found that over half of them contained unhealthy levels of arsenic. The new regulations are set to take hold in summer 2015 as part of a new Food Standards Agency initiative. If products don’t meet the new standards, they are to be removed from stores until they test in compliance.

    Basmati rice from India was the cleanest in terms of arsenic content

    While short-term, low-dose exposure to arsenic is not immediately detrimental, it’s the long-term exposure that should have people concerned. To top it off, people in Britain consume on average five times more rice today than they did 40 years ago. In some places in the world, rice is a staple crop, eaten daily.

    The new EU arsenic standards promise to keep arsenic levels below 200 parts per billion for adult rice products. When different types of rice were tested from around the world, the results varied, with red rice from France containing the highest levels of arsenic — 310 ppb. Italian brown rice contained 160 ppb on average, but basmati rice from India was the cleanest, measuring only 40 ppb arsenic.

    Organic baby cereals contaminated with high levels of inorganic arsenic, the most dangerous form

    The limit for children’s rice products is stricter — not to exceed 100 parts per billion. According to the US FDA, the form of arsenic most detrimental to one’s health in the long run is inorganic arsenic. The EU arsenic tests found that Kellogg’s Rice Krispies and Kallo Organic Puffed Rice Cereal contain a high concentration of the more dangerous inorganic arsenic. These products were tested several times; each test showed inorganic arsenic exceeding limits by far.

    Kallo Foods’ Organic Puffed Rice Cereal contained 323 parts of arsenic per billion! Another baby rice product called organic wholegrain baby rice by Organix exceeded standards, reaching levels as high as 268 ppb.

    Kellogg’s Rice Krispies measured well over the limits set for children too, clocking in at 188 ppb. Baby Organic Rice Cakes by Boots hit 162 ppb while Organic Wholegrain Banana Porridge by Organix peaked at 142 ppb arsenic.

    Cleaning up arsenic in the food supply is more important than economics

    Some think that the arsenic limits are too strict and could hurt businesses and the economy, but Andrew Meharg, professor of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, thinks the limits are actually lenient. He said, “The European Union is going to set standards for arsenic levels in baby rice at 100 parts per billion. To my estimation that is far too high. It should be at least half that.”

    The bottom line should always be about preserving human health and increasing food safety — not putting extra pennies in the pockets of business owners and their shareholders. Thankfully, groups like the Rice Association in the UK “welcome” the initiative to establish new arsenic limits in rice. The three companies with the highest arsenic levels, Boots, Organix and Kellogg’s, also want to take the safety of their products seriously. The balance between preserving big business and protecting consumer health teeters, but looking around today, with cancer rates spiking, it’s never been more important to protect consumer health.

    Learn more:

  20. So I realize I am a little late coming to the article and also realizing that it’s mostly about the buns and the chemicals added to them to keep them fresh but I kinda have a small twist to this and here it goes …..
    Back in November , the date being 11/17/15. I purchased tomatoes at Walmart , (and yes I have the receipt) the large round verity , something that I normally wouldn’t do. I have had this tomato on my counter every since I bought it and it is not spoiling like a regular tomato. I myself am a avid gardener in the summer months and grow my own tomatoes so I am pretty aware of how fast real fresh veggies spoil and this tomato should of (and excuse my terminology) icked out quite awhile ago . So this makes me question exactly what is being done to, or put on our produce to allow this tomato to still be on my counter and not be spoiled to the point of total decay and yes normally I buy organic but I had a moment of stupidity and just grabbed the first thing I seen. Are they gene splicing to create super foods ( so some where done the line we can have super side effects) or is there more then just wax being sprayed on them to help hold moisture ????? I took a couple of pictures today of the tomato and if I could figure out how to attach them to this , you all could see exactly what this tomato looks like.
    just thinking out loud…..
    thanks to all that read and comment

  21. I am thankful for your posts Food Babe but PLEASE help a girl out and post more of WHAT TO BUY when you post what not to buy! I dont have time to bake my own buns but need them from time to time. I have meat eaters that I have agreed to feed meat to once per week (organic antibiotic free turkey burgers) but I need to know of a safe bun to feed them please? I dont think they are going to like me serving Ezekial bread turkey burgers and I dont have time to bake my own bread just yet in my life. Please HELP! Thanks in advance. 🙂

  22. I worked for in n out for 16 years and know their buns are delivered to their stores 3 times weekly.

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