“Made With” Lies

Big business advertising is the art and science of tricking people into thinking and reacting your way. Lies are an absolute staple of the trade.

One major form of lying in advertising is the use of sly linguistic insertions, such as the ubiquitous “up to” gambit — as in the verbal bait-and-switch “save up to [X] percent.”

A slim but dense volume could be composed on this subject.  And, as the late Robert L. Heilbroner once remarked,

At a business forum, I was once brash enough to say that I thought the main cultural impact of television advertising was to teach children that grown-ups told lies for money. How strong, deep, or sustaining can be the values of a civilization that generates a ceaseless flow of half-truths and careful deceptions?

One of the most egregious new marketing campaigns in the blatant lie division is McDonald’s “See What We’re Made Of” series.

The ads are an attempt to portray McDonald’s fare as healthy and wholesome.  Not only do they deploy pictures like this:

They also do things like describe Chicken McNuggets as “made with white meat.”

The key phrase there is “made with.”

What is the full ingredient list of Chicken McNuggets?  It ain’t exactly white meat, bread crumbs and simple cooking oil:

Chicken McNuggets®:
White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, chicken flavor (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, extractives of rosemary). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent). [Link]

As Charlotte Gerson notes:

There are 38 ingredients in a McNugget; many of them made from corn. Further down the list there are the mono, diandtriglycerides, and the emulsifiers that keep the fats and the water from separating. More corn flour is used to make the batter, and the hydrogenated oil in which the nuggets are fried can come from soybeans, canola or cottonseed, depending on the market price.

It gets worse: a number of the ingredients come from petroleum products, to keep the items from spoiling or ‘looking strange’ after months in the freezer or on the road. If you are truly worried, look up these ingredients: sodium aluminum phosphate; mono-calcium phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and calcium lactate. These are used to keep the animal and vegetable fats from turning rancid. Then there are “anti foaming” agents like dimethylpolysiloxene. According to the Handbook of Food Additives, this material is a suspected carcinogen and an established mutagen, tumorigenic, and reproductive effector. It is also flammable.

The most alarming ingredient in Chicken McNuggets is “tertiary butyl hydroquinone,” or TBHQ, derived from petroleum. This is sprayed directly on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to “help preserve freshness.” Again, according to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food. It can comprise no more than 0.02 percent of the oil in a nugget. Which is probably just as well, considering that ingesting a single gram of TBHQ can cause “nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse.” Ingesting five grams can be fatal.

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