Former Employees Expose McDonald’s Food Secrets

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"McDonald's" by Vacacion is licensed under CC BY
Credit: Flickr / Vacacion/ Creative Commons

Oak Brook, Illinois — One of the most popular fast-food establishments is, of course, McDonald’s. But how fresh is that hamburger? Should you “add fries to that”? What’s the unhealthiest item they serve? What about supposedly “healthy” choices? What’s the secret in the “secret sauce”? And what’s in your milkshake?

The mysteries of the world’s largest restaurant chain have begun to emerge, based on accounts of former workers and others.

Here’s a quick look at 8 of those mysteries:

1The “Forgotten Burger” Story

"London 2012 Olympics 202 Big Mac lunch 490 calories" by David Holt London is licensed under CC BY-SA
Credit: Flickr / David Holt London / Creative Commons

The Huffington Post recounts the story of a man who put a McDonald’s hamburger in his coat pocket and forgot about it — for fourteen years! The Case of the “Oldest Hamburger” was covered on a segment of the TV show The Doctors, which showed that a 14-year-old burger seemed never to have aged. American chef J. Kenji López-Alt says that’s because it dried out quickly.

2How Fresh is the Freshness?

"Big Mac meal with Chocolate Shake, Fillet-O-Fish, Chicken McNuggets - McDonalds, Hume Hwy AUD16.80" by avlxyz is licensed under CC BY-SA
Credit: Flickr / Avlxyz / Creative Commons

Speaking of drying out, McDonald’s burgers and chicken may be served to customers hours after being cooked. A former employee quoted in the Daily Mail claims these and other items can be left to stew for “hours on end.” In addition, according to Salon, “The chain’s burgers can resist rot for years,” probably because of chemical additives that may include “really a lot of” a preservative and mold inhibitor.

3Want Fries With That?

"20141007_IMG_3416.jpg" by danijeljw is licensed under CC BY
Credit: Flickr / Danijeljw / Creative Commons

Salon points out that where French fries are concerned, the high fat content helps resist spoilage. According to Washington State University department of food science Barry Swanson, “Anything that is high in fat will be low in moisture,” which means mold growth is blocked. McDonald’s fries also contain citric acid, says Salon, which is not only a preservative but a cleaning agent used to remove lime scale.

4Lowdown on the Grilled Chicken

"picto 108" by Consumerist Dot Com is licensed under CC BY
Credit: Flickr / Consumerist Dot Com / Creative Commons

The former employee who spoke to the Daily Mail says one of the least fresh McDonald’s items is grilled chicken. Few people order it, so it sits for two hours under a steamer set on “high.”

5The Unhealthiest Item on the Menu?

"McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder Cheese - Big Mouth!" by kawanet is licensed under CC BY
The Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Credit: Flickr / Kawanet / Creative Commons

The former worker also told the Daily Mail that the double quarter pounder with cheese is the unhealthiest item on the menu. According to online fitness Web site Calorie King, the item contains: 780 calories; 45 grams of fat or nearly 70 percent of the recommended daily value; 175 mg of cholesterol, or nearly 60 percent; and 1310 mg sodium, or nearly 55 percent.

6The Healthy Choice

The Mcasian chicken salad. Credit: Flickr / GoodiesFirst / Creative Commons

But even if you opt for the healthy choice of a salad, according to the Huffington Post, you risk chemical exposure. The publication says that at many fast-food restaurants, a salad “may have some questionable chemicals in it.” Huff Post continues, “Many places dust their salads with propylene glycol to keep the leaves crisp.” The chemical is “considered safe for consumption,” Huff Post acknowledges, but “propylene glycol can be found in antifreeze.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), propylene glycol…

Propylene glycol is a synthetic liquid substance that absorbs water. Propylene glycol is also used to make polyester compounds, and as a base for deicing solutions. Propylene glycol is used by the chemical, food, and pharmaceutical industries as an antifreeze when leakage might lead to contact with food.

7Secrets of the “Secret Sauce”

"Big Mac" by bee-side(s) is licensed under CC BY-ND
The coveted Big Mac with the “Secret Sauce”. Credit: Flickr / Bee-Side(s) / Creative Commons

The Huffington Post also points out that, as per U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, it’s acceptable for any restaurant’s sauces, such as the signature Big Mac “secret sauce,” to contain “30 or more fly eggs per 100 grams” and “1 or more maggot per 100 grams.”

8Ice Cream and Milk Shakes

"Soft Serve Ice Cream McDonald's January 14, 20112" by stevendepolo is licensed under CC BY
McDonald’s Soft Serve ice cream. Credit: Flickr / SteveDepolo / Creative Commons

According to the Web site Secrets of the Fed, “Some [McDonald’s] employees have come forward to say, ‘They don’t clean the [milkshake and ice cream] machines.” The site further adds,

“With fast food restaurants hiring 15-year-olds with work permits, and young adults with no ambition, cleaning the shake machines can sometimes be a hit or miss.”

The site charges high levels of bacteria and a “hygiene risk” for milkshake drinkers in any fast food establishment and not just McDonald’s: “The inside of the machines have found to be dirtier than toilet water 70 percent of the time.”

Secrets of the Fed further explains:

“Now, this disgusting truth is not just centered around McDonald’s. This can be found in any ice cream machine, in any fast food restaurant you choose.”

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