Tag Archives: food labeling

McDonald’s Oatmeal is a Sham

A few months back, McDonald‘s unveiled the next product in their we’re-trying-to-be-healthier-please-keep-eating campaign —  fruit and maple oatmeal.  (On a side note, I actually got mail from McDonalds advertising this new product.  Where they got my address, or why they think I’d care, I have no idea).


Like Candy For Breakfast | Photo courtesy of Ronald McDonald

Turns out, I do care.  While I have never eaten their oatmeal and almost never dine at any of their 8 trillion locations, I did silently applaud their decision to add healthier options to their menu.  Heck, that might even be something I’d consider eating – I mean, it’s just oatmeal, right?


Thank goodness for journalism, though, to help us see through the billion dollar ad campaigns.  This NYT blog post started the madness.

Back to the oatmeal — let’s start with the ingredients.  The basic constituents of this delightful “bowl full of wholesome” (their words, not mine) are oatmeal, diced apples, “cranberry raisin blend” and “light cream.”  Sounds innocent enough, and to an extent, it is.  Sure, the oatmeal itself contains “natural flavor.”  And yes, the apples are coated in calcium ascorbate.  And the “light cream” does contain seven ingredients (huh?) – “Milk, cream, sodium phosphate, datem, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate and carrageenan.”

That’s not too bad by McStandards.  Personally, I add sodium stearoyl lactylate and carrageenan to all my breakfast foods.  So no big deal there.

But what really got me was the nutrition information.  This bad boy has 32 grams of sugar.  That’s more than a full size Snickers candy bar (check for yourself).  Oh, and it’s not too shabby in the calorie department either – 290 as served.  That’s more than a cheesburger or an Egg McMuffin.  Yikes.

Oatmeal Facts

Nutritional Facts for "Fruit and Maple Oatmeal"

But ya know, McDonald’s has every right to sell candied oatmeal and you have ever right to buy it.  What bothers me, though, is that it’s advertised as a “bowl full of wholesome.”  It’s not.  Save yourself the sugar crash and make your own oatmeal.  It’ll be healthier, cheaper and will take less time than sitting in that drive through line.

And to think, I had just settled down after my McRevelation about the Chicken McNuggets, too.  Here’s a fun party game.  Make your friends guess how many ingredients are in a chicken nugget.  They’ll guess 2, cause that would make sense.  NOPE.  Then, they’ll guess 10, trying to be funny.  NOT EVEN CLOSE.  Then they’ll guess 20, staring at you quizzically.  STILL COLD.  This is when you have to jump in, cause you’re at a party and games like this can’t go on that long.

There are 39 ingredients in a chicken McNugget.  If you can name five of them without looking it up, I’ll give you a dollar.



Here’s a hint, one ingredient rhymes with frymethylpolysiloxane – that’s right, dimethylpolysiloxane!  According to their website, this is “added as an antifoaming agent.”  It’s a form of silicone, and it’s also a key ingredient in Silly Putty.  Cool, right?.

Or there’s another fan favorite – TBHQ (stage name for tertiary butylhydroquinone).  That’s butane, and it’s an illegal additive in most European countries.  Don’t worry, though.  It’s only included in trace amounts, for a little zing.  Still, the Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives gave this warning about TBHQ:

Death has occurred from the ingestion of as little as 5 grams. Ingestion of a single gram (a thirtieth of an ounce) has caused nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse.


Oh, oh, Mickey D’s.  You’ll keep selling us butane nuggets, and as long as you throw in a tiny beanie baby, we’ll keep feeding it to our kids.  When will we learn?

McDonalds Characters

The Defendants | Photo Courtesty of Liz and Laura

Porcine Enzymes? Huh?

In preparation for my upcoming interview with Carlo Besozzi, I thought I should take a few minutes to make a passionate appeal for honesty and transparency on ingredient lists.

Let’s face the facts, the U.S. does not do a very good job promoting accuracy in food labeling.  Terms like organic, free-range and, my personal favorite, “all natural,” are tossed around meaninglessly – and consumers eat it up.

Natural Flavors Label

This could be a problem | Photo courtesy of NextNature

Take, for example, the term “free range.”  According to the USDA, free range means:

“Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.”

That’s not an excerpt from their definition.  That’s the whole thing.  No provisions on the amount of time spent outside, the type of “outside” (cement slab?), the amount of room afforded per chicken.  It’s not exactly a secret that most so-called free range chickens don’t spend their lives roaming green pastures.

Anyways, assuming the vast readership of this blog isn’t so much interested in buying meat, let’s discuss something a little nearer and dearer to our hearts – ingredient lists.

“Artificial flavors” and “natural flavors” are the crux of the problem, in my opinion.  What do those phrases mean?  What do they exclude?  Where do they come from?

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