There has been a lot of discussion about the negative impact fast food has on our weight, and now there’s even more bad news.
Those McDonald’s fries you love so much… Not only do they add to your waistline, they may be bad for your health in other ways, too.
From the moment the potatoes are planted to the moment the prepared fries are served, McDonald’s French fries are exposed to highly toxic pesticides and potentially harmful ingredients.
Every step in the process of making those world famous fries is rife with latent health hazards. Let’s start from the beginning.
The Danger of Methamidophos
According to a video by activist and author, Michael Pollan, his research shows that McDonald’s will only use a particular type of potato, called the Russet Burbank, which is known for its size and length. The Russet Burbank is how McDonald’s can make their fries so long. McDonald’s also requires that the potatoes be free of net necrosis, which creates the brown spots often found in naturally grown potatoes. McDonald’s will refuse to purchase the potatoes from the farmers if they contain net necrosis.
In order to prevent that from happening, and to keep the potatoes in pristine enough condition for McDonald’s to accept them, farmers spray the potatoes with a pesticide called Monitor, or methamidophos. Just how hazardous is methamidophos? The EPA identifies the pesticide as “one of the most acutely toxic organophosphate pesticides”. As such, they have labeled the pesticide as a Category 1 hazard, the highest possible ranking.
The EPA also advises the agricultural community to restrict human exposure to methamidophos-dosed potatoes for a minimum of 4 days in order to mitigate the health concerns, which include confusion, dizziness, respiratory paralysis, and death .
Michael Pollan confirms this, stating in his video that farmers refuse to go out onto their fields until five days after they have been sprayed with methamidophos. Of course, the potatoes are cleaned during the preparation process, but it is conceivable that some of the pesticide can penetrate the surface of the potato, making it much more difficult to remove.
Skip to 3:10 in the video — you’ll be shocked.
The Surprise Ingredient(s)
Once the potatoes are considered safe and ready for harvesting, they go through what appears to be a fairly benign process. McDonald’s Canada produced a customer relations video that highlights the specific steps involved in getting the potatoes from the field to the fryer.
The video shows the potatoes being harvested by automated farming equipment, sorted and cleaned, peeled, cut, and then fried in the kitchen of a McDonald’s restaurant. What stands out most in this McDonald’s corporation-produced video, however, is the fact that, during the potato preparation process, additional ingredients are added along the way.
In fact, on McDonald’s own website, it lists several ingredients that just may surprise you, most notably, Dimethylpolysiloxane. Added to fries as an antifoaming agent, this ingredient can also be found in other products, such as nail polish, sunscreens, deodorants, and contact lens solution .
The Decomposition Problem
Unsettling at best, the videos showing the seeming indestructible composition of McDonald’s fries are a poignant visual that reflects just how unhealthy they are for consumption. In probably the most well-known of the videos, documentary filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock, compares the decomposition rate of several McDonald’s food items, including a regular hamburger, a Big Mac, and fries from both McDonald’s and another restaurant.
After ten weeks, the only food item that was left unchanged were the McDonald’s fries, while it took just two weeks for the other restaurant’s fries to begin to turn black. Watch the video for yourself. It is truly startling.
McDonald’s French fries don’t stand a chance of being healthy. From their time in the field to the minute they’re served, they are exposed to dangerous pesticides and questionable ingredients. Add to that the fact that they refuse to decompose even after ten weeks, and it should give you pause. Maybe next time you’re craving fries, it might be safer to just make them at home!