Thursday, January 12, 2012

Has McDonald's been forced to label its food carcinogenic?

There's a pic going around showing a "new" McDonald's warning label about cancer-causing ingredients. But here's the kicker: that shit is in most of what you eat.

If you've been paying attention, you've been hearing about acrylamide for years. It's naturally present in ripe olives, and dried plums (prunes) and pears. It's in your coffee. And it gets produced every time you brown many of your favourite foods (like meat, potatoes and bread) at high heat. In short, it's in everything you like.

This picture showed up on Buzzfeed today, but a web search seems to indicate that it is a hoax from 2009, based on conjecture about whether California's strict food safety laws would lead to fast foods being labelled the way cigarettes are. I can't find any evidence that that is actually happening.

Of course, that won't stop this image from going viral, again, with reactionary comments like this:

"It stands to reason that this is a legal/precautionary measure; after reports swirled about fast food wrappers containing cancer causing chemicals that have been found in the fecal matter, blood, and urine of tested subjects, McDonald’s likely placed these notices on their wrappers to save face. 
For us, this is a wake up call. Personally I wish I could throw up the Big Mac I ate last night (if it weren’t too digested) but since I can’t, I’m going to be forced to take a brief hiatus from my local Dirt Ronnies. Will you continue to eat McDonald’s without shame or concern, or is a warning like this big enough to scare you away?"

No, it does not "stand to reason". Even the faux label itself admits that the compound is naturally occurring, and that that the FDA has nothing against it. If McDonald's were forced to issue this warning, so would all those other cooked and prepared foods I listed above. It is simply not a "McDonald's issue."

My feeling is, if you're going to trash McDonald's for selling sugary, fatty, overprocessed and marginally nutritious food to kids and other vulnerable groups, then do that. McDonald's is not a nice company (although I do love an Egg McMuffin). But random and ill-informed anti-McDonald's panic is not helping the conversation about nutrition, culture or corporate ethics.



  1. Acrylamide is actually under review as a carincogen, and it found in many foods that are heated at high temperatures. You're right, it is found naturally in the environment in prunes and dried pears etc, but that doesn't mean that fast foods shouldn't be of a concern. Cigarettes contain acrylamide as well. Hoax or not, people should be aware of what is in their food and decide accordingly on whether or not to continue consuming it. I would never smoke a cigarette, and I will not ever again eat from macdonald's because obesity, coronary heart disease, and cancer and things we should not take lightly.

    1. Sorry, some grammatical errors. Overall though thanks for putting in a new side to the argument and encouraging people to look deeper into viral internet prepositions before believing them.

  2. Just saw the warning about carcinogens in some of McDonald's food and beverages at a Mc Donalds close to El Segundo, CA. This warning is for real in at least one McDs in CA. The warning does not explain which food and beverages--just "some."