There are horror stories from all over the world about disturbing things that diners have found in fast food. From deep fried chicken heads to still struggling cockroaches, it’s generally best not to think too hard about what you’re eating when you opt for something unnaturally speedy and delicious.
However, for all the hideous things that can accidentally end up in your burger, sometimes what’s supposed to be there can be even worse. All sorts of alarming chemicals and compounds can turn up where you least expect, giving you more reason than ever to be afraid of the food industry. Here are seven of the weirdest things in your favourite fast food.
1. Beetle Juice
Making food look good usually takes time - something that fast food restaurants do not have a lot of. One short cut is to use food colouring to make your meal more visually appealing. Unfortunately, a prime source of popular red food dye is crushed beetles. Carmic acid, as it is also known, is used in everything from meat to desserts and is a staple of almost every fast food menu.
There’s nothing worse than eating on the beach and getting a mouthful of tiny gritty pieces. Surprisingly, there are some companies that actually rely on sand to make all the difference to their food. Silicon dioxide, aside from being used to make glass and fibre optic cables, is used by chains like Taco Bell and Wendy’s to prevent their chili from clumping together. Though apparently harmless, it’s certainly unappetising.
Commonly used in the baking industry and often advertised as “yeast food for bread”, ammonium sulphate is a mainstay of commercial food. When it isn’t busy helping big businesses, however, the additive has another, more stomach turning application. Ammonium sulphate is also used across the world as a large scale soil fertiliser.
Also known as petroleum-derived preservatives, these ingredients - now found in over 18 items from McDonald’s menu alone - were only made legal after years of lobbying from the fast food industry. Why all the fuss? Because just five grams of this stuff can kill you, and one gram is enough to cause nausea, vomiting, a sense of suffocation and collapse. Delicious.
5. Silly Putty
Ever wondered how fast food frying oil can be used over and over again without foaming over? The answer lies with silly putty. Dimethylpolysiloxane, a silicon compound also used across the cosmetics industry, is an ever present in almost every fast food menu. Apparently harmless, it’s hard to look at your French fries the same after you know what’s been done to them.
Unless you’re a beaver, trees have never been particularly tasty, which makes their inclusion to our food all the more baffling. A key stabilising ingredient in everything from McFlurrys to KFC Popcorn Chicken, cellulose - also known as wood pulp - is actually used across the processed food industry.
If there’s one thing worse than finding a grain of sand in your food, it’s finding a human hair. Unfortunately for squeamish diners, human hair is often an unavoidable part of eating in a fast food joint. L-cysteine, used to make bread dough more pliable, is derived from either hair or duck feathers, depending on the distributors. Probably the last thing you’d expect to find in your burger bun.
You could be forgiven for wanting to forget what you’ve just read and going back to a state of blissful ignorance. We’re sorry if we’ve ruined fast food. We just thought you ought to know.