What do Silly Putty and Chicken McNuggets Have in Common?

How could we have missed this one from CNN Health?

Q: What’s the difference between McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets in the US vs. the UK?

A: Silly Putty!

It appears that for some reason, McDonald’s USA is employing certain ingredients that are not used in the UK version of the chicken masterpiece.  Yankee nuggets  contain the chemical preservative TBHQ, tertiary butylhydroquinone, a petroleum-based product. They also contain dimethylpolysiloxane, “an anti-foaming agent”. Dimethylpolysiloxane is also used in Silly Putty.

McDonald’s attributes the difference to regional taste preferences and the way the product is prepared in each country. Skeptics will say that this is a good excuse for choosing the lowest cost ingredients you can get away with without poisoning your customer. The food regulation bodies in the UK, and Europe in general, tend to be more strict in this respect compared to their American counterparts.

What you need to know:

TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone) is an antioxidant used to keep oils from going rancid. It is a petroleum derivative. Yummy. The food industry pushed the FDA for years to get it approved as a preservative despite the fact that ingestion of large doses (a thirtieth of an ounce) can cause nausea, delirium, and ringing of the ears. (Anyone remember what Jack Nicholson had for lunch in “The Shining”?) TBHQ cannot exceed 0.02% of the oil and fat content in a food.

Dimethylpolysiloxane, also called dimethicone or Antifoam A, is an antifoaming additive used in a variety of processed food products and drinks. Its’ a type of silicone and not considered toxic, according to the World Health Organization.

But despite it’s safety, it appears the Brits do not want silly putty in their nuggets, nor do they want potentially harmful additives.

Not that the McNugget is such a health food to begin with. Here’s the full ingredient list:

White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, seasoning (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, extractives of rosemary). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

Are you Lovin’ it? We’re NOT.

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  • Gina

    No wonder my daughter can eat the Chicken McNuggets in Germany as a “Sometimes food”. She had the ones in America once and she threw it up with in minutes. She said they made her feel gross inside.

    • Jaelynn_90

      I totally understand your point of view and believe we should take a stand !!  

  • http://localnourishment.com Peggy

    TBHQ is a very common additive in processed food. Look for it in saltine crackers and other single-use packaged crispy items in fast food places.

  • Mendy Heaps

    “Regional taste preferences” What’s happening to us Yankees?

  • Brooke

    Umm, both of these additives are allowed in food by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) – this article is misleading in that it makes the reader assume that the EU does not allow the use of these additives.

  • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Editorial Staff

    @Brooke – you are right, both are allowed http://www.food.gov.uk/safereating/chemsafe/additivesbranch/enumberlist.
    And so are artificial colors. But there is a strong movement to remove them. For example by placing warning labels on products with artificial colors. See yesterday’s post.

  • http://www.livingitupcornfree.com kc

    I wonder how long it will take Americans to notice when the chicken moves down to second or third on the ingredient list. I understand the average American doesn’t realize that McDonalds McNuggets contain at least 16 ingredients made from genetically modified crops, but you would think they would be alarmed by the sheer number of total ingredients. Since American chicken is mostly GMO corn anyway, I don’t think it would taste that much different if the chicken was replaced with a GMO corn- or soy-derived chicken substitute – they could just add a few more tasty chemicals and unsuspecting children across the country would never know the difference. Luckily for the food manufacturers, the ill effects of food additives don’t show up for years and are hard to connect with eating too much processed food.

  • http://landanimal.wordpress.com Jo

    Lol and ew. I blogged a link to this! It will scare you away from McNuggets for good.

  • Madison

    Thank-you for making giving up gluten, meat, and dairy (which means pretty much all fast foods) easier. It is much appreciated.

  • zia junglist

    Dear Mr. Fooducate,

    I’ve been an avid follower of your blog and have recommended it to people left and right since I’ve discovered it. Today I feel a tinge of disappointment. Today I feel you have gotten sucked into sensationalism.

    This article says, “silly putty and chicken nuggets have in common or share a chemical.” not that “chicken nuggets are made out of silly putty, which your blog post implies. Please do not resort to sensationalism. Up until now, I’ve felt you’ve done an excellent job of educating and stating facts, not hyping things up and leading people to believe things that are not true…

    Please stick to the basics. The horrors of our food industry speak enough for themselves.

    Sincerely,
    slightly disappointed but still lover of the blog

    • andy

      3 years later and they still have not changed the headline.
      Kind of silly!!!

  • Ann marie

    And I thought eating the nuggets was better then giving my kids McD’s burgers!

  • http://aahacreative.com Aaron

    This has been making the rounds and I think too much emphasis is being put on the fact that the chemical is also found in Silly putty. The problem should be that the chicken has a lot of additives not implying that there is silly putty in it.

    Heck, french fries have salt in them which is also in Play Doh. Sensationalism is just bad.

  • Yazzie

    @ Aaron …. There is a big difference between having SALT and having an “Anti-Foaming” agent in food… So your metaphor doesn’t stand.

    Plus…people can request “No Salt” on their french fries…. can you order Chicken McNuggets hold the Dimethylpolysiloxane or TBHQ? … Uh… Don’t think so.

    As for the author “implying” that chicken nuggets are made of silly putty is ridiculous… I guess simpletons take things “Literally”….as I’m sure most people can/will understand the cosmic (or should I say the chemical) connection between silly putty and McDonald’s chicken nuggets.

    Oh and for the record… the chicken nugget now has 30+ ingredients on its list…. Does this make the “Happy Meal” less “Happy”??? And the french fries aren’t all potato either.

  • http://www.antioxidants-for-health-and-longevity.com Stan

    There’s also at least a half-dozen ingredients which are listed as words that are pseudonyms for MSG… can you find them?

    MSG is the secret ingredient in ALL fast food. Without it, fast food would taste like s**t!

  • http://julianatalksincoherently.blogspot.com Juliana

    I thought this was really interesting until I saw the ingredient list posted and realized that TBHQ and the anti-foaming agent are dead last on the list, then checked the cabinet in the kitchen and saw TBHQ listed as an ingredient on 3 of the first four boxes I picked up. Fast food is bad, but I agree with all the comments about it being too sensational. Fast food is bad, but it did seem like you were implying, erroneously, that Chicken McNuggets and Silly Putty actually have significant similarities.

  • koedi Lawton

    first of all i think that is not a shocker it just makes me feel like america is trying to shorten american life span. watch the next thing we find out is the Dimethylpolysiloxane or TBHQ leads to some type of cancer

  • http://fooduacteblog hey people

    wow are you serious like silly putty in mcnuggets omg who does that like what if someone is allergic to silly putty or whats in it. Get real mcdonalds that desperate for money. Now i know where im gonna go eat at thanks alot mccie d’s you done mess-up big time.tst tst (nodding my head).

  • Jaelynn_90

    McDonald also sprays ammonia on their food to make it last longer and look fresher .. HUH?? Could this hurt us.. YES do they care NO..

  • http://twitter.com/ChristineDeal Christine Deal

     Damn. & I’m still going to get the McNuggets.

  • Wishuwerehere

    I wish I knew this years ago. I’m sick just learning about this now.

  • RyliePvanwinkle

    thats just nasty eat to much at a time over and over again it will probable kill you

  • http://planzero.org/ morphics

    I highly recommend reading:
    http://www.chemicallyspeaking.com/archive/2011/01/20/mcnugget-chemistry.aspx

    “Like any chemical, there is a dose at which [dimethyl polysiloxane] becomes toxic. What is that dose? Well, you would have to eat about 10,000 nuggets at one sitting to approach any sort of toxic level. I suspect at that point you would have a few problems other than dimethyl polysiloxane toxicity.

    And just think. Have you seen any warnings about toxicity on Silly Putty? Although I wouldn’t recommend it, you could probably eat the stuff.”