There is a new ingredient being added to most of the menu items you can order at Burger King, McDonald’s and other fast food outlets: microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) or “powdered cellulose” as components of their menu items. Or, in plain English, wood pulp.
This non-absorbable fiber entered into the fast food ingredients list by stealth, yet has become almost ubiquitous overnight: it can now be found in buns, cheeses, sauces, cakes, shakes, rolls, fries, onion rings, smoothies, meats—basically everything you lay your hands on in a fast food restaurant.
All of these cellulose-based ingredients are non-digestible wood pulp possessing no nutritional value. Though some studies suggest that microcrystalline cellulose may have adverse effects on cholesterol, the FDA has approved powdered cellulose for human consumption in moderate doses.
The emulsion-stabilizing, cling-improving, anti-caking substance goes by all kinds of unassuming names, from powdered cellulose to cellulose powder to methylcellulose to cellulose gum. But while it’s name may change, its basic properties do not.
So why are fast food corporations putting wood pulp in your food and drinks?
Primarily, cost. It costs them less to make you feel full without actually feeding you.
Companies can save money by progressively less chicken in their “chicken” and cream in their “ice cream”, replacing it with this low-cost filler instead.
McDonald’s tops the wood pulp leaderboard with the highest number of cellulose products, with the stuff integrated into 14 of their menu items including their renowned fish fillets, chicken strips and biscuits. Burger King came a close second with 13 menu items containing cellulose.
However, a whole array of cellulose-laden ingredients (such as honey mustard, bbq sauce, and cheese blends) can be found in multiple items throughout the menu making the filler difficult to avoid.
In short, if you eat at these places – you’re probably getting a little more fiber than you planned on.