Is Fast Food Even FOOD? Taking Pollan’s Journey

See Daily Assignments for your Blog Assignment due Th 10/23.  Just as Pollan traced back his McDonald’s meal back to all of its ingredients, decide on your favorite fast food, then find a list of the ingredients in the food. (Use a Google Search, and do not use the fast food company website unless they include ALL ingredients).   List the ingredients, then trace ALL the unknown ingredients back to their original “food” source.  Include at least one image and several links to the sources that provided you information in tracing back your meal.

As a partial model, let’s say I chose the Chik Fil A Spicy Chicken Biscuit, pictured here::

chic bisc1Chik Fil A Spicy Chicken Biscuit

A quick Google search, and I find a full list of the ingredients, which I list, and then begin to laboriously decipher the origins of many of them by doing new Google searches:


Biscuit (enriched bleached wheat flour [niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid]  What is Thiamine mononitrate?  From Wikipedia:  “Though thiamine is found naturally in foods, thiamine mononitrate is not. Thiamine mononitrate is synthesized by removing a chloride ion from thiamin hydrochloride and mixing the final product with nitric acid.”  At first I didn’t question “enriched bleached flour” because I’ve used it for years.  But on looking at it I found that when milling wheat, it is not naturally white. Wikipedia, again:  ” In order to give flour a white color, it goes through a bleaching process that involves use of a chemical, such as benzoyl peroxide, to oxidize the flour. It would take weeks to do this naturally by letting air oxidize the flour. Some common bleaching agents are benzoyl peroxide and chlorine gas.”  omg.  The truth about bleached flour is that it is REALLY BLEACHED with bleaching agents.  See source here: 3283

vegetable oil shortening [palm and/or palm kernel oils] Interesting they aren’t clear which one. I found that palm kernel oil, coconut oil, and palm oil are three of the few highly saturated vegetable fats. Wikipedia: “Palm kernel oil, which is semi-solid at room temperature, is more saturated than palm oil and comparable to coconut oil. It is commonly used in commercial cooking because of its relatively low cost, and because it remains stable at high cooking temperatures and can be stored longer than other vegetable oils.”

sugar  (REAL!) sugar.  3rd ingredient in a biscuit?

salt  Easy enough. 

maltodextrin:   it’s a polysaccharide that is used as a food additive.  After reading further down into the Wikipedia entry I saw this: “Maltodextrin can be enzymatically derived from any starch. In the US, this starch is usually corn.”   So here’s the first corn in the biscuit.

… and I would continue with the list of ingredients, looking up all ingredients I didn’t know, and adding the information about where each ingredient came from.

The rest of the ingredients in Spicy Chicken Biscuit?  Kind of scary.  Count ’em:

cultured nonfat milk, leavening [sodium bicarbonate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate], whey, natural flavor, dextrose, water, self-rising flour [enriched bleached flour {wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid}, baking powder {baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate}, salt]), butter oil (soybean oil, palm kernel oil, soy lecithin, artificial flavor, TBHQ and citric acid added as preservatives, and artificial color), chicken (whole breast filet, seasoning [salt, monosodium glutamate, sugar, spices, paprika], seasoned coater [enriched bleached wheat flour {with malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid}, sugar, salt, monosodium glutamate, nonfat milk, leavening {baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate}, spice, soybean oil, color {paprika}], milk wash [water, nonfat milk, egg], peanut oil [fully refined peanut oil, with Dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foam agent added]peanut oil [fully refined peanut oil, with Dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foam agent added]).


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About Bonnie Boaz

I have been teaching for over 20 years, and after all this time, I would say that teaching is one of my superpowers. I taught at Syracuse University for seven years way back when (okay you were likely a baby then) and I've taught at VCU for 12 years. I've been teaching in University College for the last 8 years, and currently teach Univ 112, Univ 200, Univ 211, and Honors 200. I think VCU students are the best around: you are smart, open-minded, and creative. It's a privilege to share the classroom with all of you!

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