As people read in aghast about what they’ve been consuming in some of the world’s most popular fast food restaurants, it’s hardly surprising the fast food restaurants are keen to move to natural ingredients and implement a healthier menu.
With reports linking paint, flame retardant, sunscreen and other everyday household products to burgers, donuts and cola, who can blame the media for having a field day reporting what the likes of McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts and Chipotle have been putting in their food?
According to a CNN report (1), Taco Bell and Pizza Hut recently announced they were going totally natural, removing all artificial flavors and coloring from their products.
Taco Bell said it was going to make the transition from artificial black pepper to natural black pepper, which immediately begs the question – what is artificial pepper made out of?
The bakery-café fast casual restaurant chain Panera also made the headlines admitting that it would no longer be putting “Ter-Butyl-Hydroquinone” in its customers’ sandwiches (2).
Chemicals in Food
Ter-Butyl-hydroquinone is used as an antioxidant in makeup and other cosmetic products. As the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health notes (3), this chemical is also used in small concentrations in oils, fat and meat product to prevent rancidity.
If you ever wondered how Dunkin’ Donuts managed to make their donuts so brightly-colored, the answer lies within the company’s secret ingredient – titanium dioxide. The donut giant admits it is dropping this chemical, which is used in paints and sunscreen, from its products.
Kraft will be giving up yellow dye in favor for natural solutions to make its cheese and macaroni so yellow, including turmeric and paprika.
Both Tyson Foods and McDonald’s have promised to stop using antibiotics in chickens due to worries that the widespread use of chicken antibiotics is leading to an increase in drug-resistant bacteria, both in animals and people.
Coca-Cola has announced it will refrain from using brominated vegetable oil in its drinks. Some drink companies rely on brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in soft drinks to stop the ingredients from separating out. The additive is banned in both Japan and Europe but is still used in North America. Due to research that suggests BVO could be harmful (4), Coca-Cola has said its drinks will no longer contain the additive.
Chipotle has promised to refrain from using genetically modified food, with the company’s CEO saying although these ingredient are meant to be safe, Chipotle would rather produce food that doesn’t contain them.
The shift to more natural ingredients has been associated with the increasing demand to make food healthier and better for the environment. As Mark Milstein, head of the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell, said:
We’re seeing a shift that will make our agricultural system much more sustainable. But it’s in transition now, it’s not there yet.” (1)
However, criticism has surfaced that corporate America has been too slow in its effort to present more natural and healthy products to consumers.
For example, Danielle Nierenberg, president of the research organization Foodtank, believes such measures should have been implemented by the big food chains and retailers years ago.
These big companies, instead of following, they should be taking the lead,” said Nierenberg (1).
Some consumers are also unconvinced that the food giants should be thought of in admirable light for taking the plunge and moving to natural ingredients. As one CNN reader commented in response to the new fast food standards report:
Too little, too late. Most of these companies I no longer buy from. Haven’t for years.”
What are your thoughts on some of the biggest fast food retailers in the world suddenly adopting healthier, natural ingredients – too little, too late, or better now than never?