By Dr. Joseph Mercola
Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at fast food restaurants? Fast food insiders (i.e. former employees) reveal a slew of nasty secrets that may make you think twice about ever eating in one of these restaurants again.
Black Oil, Blood and “Melted” Chicken
This featured article has quite a few doozies, such as a former worker from Burger King who describes the restaurant’s oil rotation policy:
“Here is how the oil rotation went. You had four vats of oil that you cooked fries in. And boy did you cook fries. Tons of them. After about 2 days worth, the oil got too dark for fries. So we switched it over to the ones for chicken. Since it was darker, it was okay.
Then that goes on for a week. After a week of massive frying. The oil is black as motor oil. At that point, it’s switched to the Fish Filet vat. That’s the only thing you cook in that vat.”
Another former worker, this one from McDonald’s, recalled what happened when a bag of chicken nuggets was left out on the counter for too long:
“They melted. Into a pool of liquid. I never understood why. But they were completely indiscernible as being the nuggets I once knew.”
Other unsavory confessions revealed by these fast food whistleblowers include:
- Large chunks of mold in ice-cream machines and ice dispensers (which are rarely cleaned)
- A worker continuing to handle food with an open, bleeding wound on her hand
- “Recycling” overcooked burgers into chili, or stripping chicken patties of their breading and passing it off as chicken salad
Startling discoveries like these are all too common when it comes to fast food. It was several years back when 12 year-old middle schooler Jasmine Roberts won the science fair at her school when she discovered that the ice used in the drinks of fast food restaurants had more bacteria than the toilet water. And in 2010, nearly half of soda fountains at fast food restaurants tested were found to contain coliform (bacteria that grows in feces) while 11 percent also contained E. coli!
And Then There’s The Food
Even under the best circumstances, fast food restaurants fail when it comes to your health.
Eating the food at nearly every fast food chain (except maybe Chipotle and a few other restaurants committed to sustainable, organic suppliers) means you are likely consuming feedlot animal meat – flesh that comes from animals raised in crowded unsanitary conditions, fed massive doses of antibiotics and unnatural “frankenfeed” full of GM crops and some other truly disturbing ingredients.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the decidedly unhealthy practices that go on at a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). The problem begins at the massive CAFOs where the beef, chicken or pigs are fed genetically modified corn and soybeans and excessive grains in general (which are not the natural diet of these animals), along with the following almost unbelievable feed ingredients:
- Plastics: for the many animals whose digestive systems need roughage to pass food through them, the CAFOs now use plastic pellets.
- Meat from members of the same species: CAFOs turn farm animals into cannibals. Scientific research has linked this practice to the spread of both mad cow disease and avian bird flu.
- Manure and animal feces: this can include cattle manure, swine waste, and poultry waste. It also includes wood, sand, rocks, dirt, sawdust and other non-food substances.
- Roxarsone: more commonly known as arsenic, which until last year was put into chicken and pig feed to control intestinal parasites that might cause them to eat less and grow slower. Chicken litter (containing the arsenic that passes through the birds) is also collected from chicken CAFOs and fed to feedlot cattle, for some apparent reason that defies common sense.
- Animal byproducts: categorized as “animal protein products,” this includes rendered feathers, hair, skin, hooves, blood, internal organs, intestines, beaks and bones, dead horses, euthanized cats and dogs, and road kill.
Most Fast Food Is A Mixture Of Chemicals, Sugar, Flavoring and Salt
From there, fast food is often nothing more than a slew of chemicals, sugar, high fructose corn syrup and salt … for instance, only about half of a Chicken McNugget is actual chicken. The rest is a mix of corn-derived fillers and additives (most likely genetically modified), along with a slew of synthetic chemicals, including:
- Dimethyl polysiloxane, a type of silicone with anti-foaming properties used in cosmetics and a variety of other goods like Silly Putty
- Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), a petroleum-based product with antioxidant properties
Even the seemingly healthy menu items are loaded with surprising additives like preservatives and inordinate amounts of sugar (in a salad, no less). A burger or a chicken sandwich from a fast food restaurant is not equal, nutritionally, to the equivalent you would make at home. Nearly always the fast food version will contain a staggering variety of additives, flavoring, coloring, and other chemicals that give it that “fast food” flavor. For instance, even the hamburger buns used at McDonald’s, which you may think would be relatively “safe,” allegedly contain:
- Calcium sulfate (aka Plaster of Paris) and calcium carbonate (limestone; antacid medication)
- High fructose corn syrup
- Ammonium chloride (Causes irritation to the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea)
- Calcium propionate (Preservative) and Sodium propionate (Mold inhibitor)
- Artificial flavors
Studies have shown that eating fast food just twice a week DOUBLES your risk of developing insulin resistance and can make you gain 10 pounds, compared to eating it just once a week, for example. Insulin resistance, as I’ve discussed on many occasions, is one of THE primary driving factors behind most of the diseases many currently struggle with, from diabetes to cancer and heart disease.
Three Tips For Breaking Free Of The Fast Food Trap
There is just no way around it – if you want your family to be healthy, someone in your household, or someone you pay, must invest some time in the kitchen preparing your food from scratch, using fresh, whole ingredients. Avoiding processed, fast food requires a change in mindset, which is not always an easy task. It CAN be done, however. Rather than looking at fast foods as a convenience that tastes good or saves money, try thinking of it as:
- Extra calories that will harm your body
- A toxic concoction of synthetic chemicals and artificial flavors that will lead to disease
- A waste of your money
- Likely to lead to increased health care bills for you and your family
- Not something to give to children, whose bodies are still developing and in great need of nutrients
Your goal should be to strive for 90 percent non-processed, whole food. Not only will you enjoy the health benefits—especially if you buy mostly organic—but you’ll also get the satisfaction of knowing exactly what you’re putting into your body, and that in and of itself can be a great feeling. The following three tips can make it easier to eat well without resorting to fast food:
- Identify someone to prepare meals: Someone has to invest time in the kitchen to prepare your meals, or else you will succumb to costly and unhealthy fast food and convenience foods.
- Become resourceful: This is an area where your grandmother can be a wealth of information, as how to use up every morsel of food and stretch out a good meal was common knowledge to generations past. Seek to get back to the basics of cooking — using the bones from a roast chicken to make stock for a pot of soup, extending a Sunday roast to use for weekday dinners, learning how to make hearty stews from inexpensive cuts of meat, using up leftovers and so on.
- Plan your meals: If you fail to plan you are planning to fail. This is essential, as you will need to be prepared for mealtimes in advance to be successful. Ideally this will involve scouting out your local farmer’s markets for in-season produce that is priced to sell, and planning your meals accordingly. But, you can also use this same premise with supermarket sales or, even better, produce from your own vegetable garden.
You can generally plan a week of meals at a time, make sure you have all ingredients necessary on hand, and then do any prep work you can ahead of time so that dinner is easy to prepare if you’re short on time in the evening.
Dr. Joseph Mercola is an osteopathic physician, board-certified in family medicine. He has written two New York Times bestsellers and shared his expertise on ABC News, NBC’s The Today Show, CNN, CBS, Fox News, and in TIME and Forbes magazines.