June 25th, 2010
03:44 PM ET

All McNuggets not created equal

All McDonald’s   nuggets are not created equal.

U.S. McNuggets not only contain more calories and fat than their British counterparts, but also chemicals not found across the Atlantic.

CNN investigated the differences after receiving a  blog comment asking about them.

American McNuggets (190 calories, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat for 4 pieces) contain the chemical preservative tBHQ, tertiary butylhydroquinone, a petroleum-based product. They also contain dimethylpolysiloxane, “an anti-foaming agent” also used in Silly Putty.

By contrast, British McNuggets (170 calories, 9 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat for 4 pieces) lists neither chemical among its ingredients.

“I would certainly choose the British nuggets over the American” says Ruth Winter, author of  “A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives.”

McDonald’s says the differences are based on the local tastes: In the United States, McNuggets are coated and then cooked, in the United Kingdom, they are cooked and then coated. As a result, the British McNuggets absorb less oil and have less fat.

"You would find that if you looked at any of our core food items. You'd see little, regional differences," says Lisa McComb, who handles global media relations for McDonald's, which has more than 32,000 restaurants in 117 countries. "We do taste testing of all our food items on an ongoing basis."

One apparent difference is only a matter of labeling, according to McComb. U.K. McNuggets list ground celery and pepper, which are labeled simply as "spices" in the United States, she says.

Marion Nestle, a New York University professor and author of “What to Eat,” says the tertiary butylhydroquinone and dimethylpolysiloxane in the McNuggets probably pose no health risks. As a general rule, though, she advocates not eating  any food with an ingredient you can’t pronounce.

Dimethylpolysiloxane is used as a matter of safety to keep the oil from foaming, McComb says. The chemical is a form of silicone also used in cosmetics and Silly Putty.  A review of animal studies by The World Health Organization found no adverse health effects associated with dimethylpolysiloxane.

TBHQ is a preservative for vegetable oils and animal fats, limited to .02 percent of the oil in the nugget. One gram (one-thirtieth of an ounce) can cause "nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse," according to “A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives.”

In 2003, McDonald’s launched smaller, all-white-meat McNuggets after a federal judge dubbed the food “a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook." Among the ingredients that remained in the new McNuggets: tBHQ and dimethylpolysiloxane.

Christopher Kimball, the founder and publisher of Cook’s Illustrated magazine and host of the syndicated cooking show America’s Test Kitchen, says he suspects these chemicals are required for the nuggets to hold their shape and texture after being extruded into nugget-shaped molds.

“The regulations in Europe, in general, around food are much stricter than the U.S.,” Kimball says.

soundoff (1,904 Responses)
  1. Limer

    Why doesn't McDonald's try and change America's loving relationship with bad food? They have pull, since so many eat their garbage.

    June 26, 2010 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Babs

    This is disturbing on many levels. Of course they haven't touched on the fact that the beef patties are treated with ammonia to kill the ecoli. Glad I stopped eating there years ago.

    June 26, 2010 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • happydad

      I love eating food, period, but I also excercise and drink lots of water. Anyone who eats the same food from the same source multiple times a week or month is an idiot. But I won't cut out a cheeseburger now and then (I prefer 5 Guys over anyone else) for fear of sodium overdose or death by chemical. Who wants to live like that? In constant fear that you're going to die because of what you put in your mouth? Besides, I don't want to get hit by a car and then have the first words I say to God in heaven – "damn, I knew I should of had that burger today".

      June 26, 2010 at 17:15 | Report abuse |
  3. RKSD

    I have an idea, if you don't like McDonald's or what they put in their food, don't eat it. I usually don't comment on this stuff, but the stupidity and argumentative behavior of the posters lit a fire apparently. If you don't want that shit in your body, don't eat McDonald's or other foods you know are bad. And as others have said, you are going to die of something. Unless you're eating 100% organic vegetables and meats and products, the likelihood of you consuming some sort of chemical substance on your food, is very high. Even stuff labeled Organic grown has some sort of chemical process preformed on it.

    June 26, 2010 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. psychoticbliss

    We need to quit buying their crap. It's obviously genetically modified in some way and I say BS that they need those chemicals to maintain their shape. Organic nuggets maintain their shape without it. Now what Einstein?

    June 26, 2010 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. psychoticbliss

    I am sure that host wouldn't eat them. I see people using a lot of organic ingredients on his show.

    June 26, 2010 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. MIT_Grad

    Did you know that almost all food contains SIGNIFICANT quantities of dihydrogen monoxide? Check out the info on this very dangerous CHEMICAL!! ALL CHEMICALS ARE BAD!!


    June 26, 2010 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kiff

      Yeah, yeah, my sister's an MIT alum, too. I'm quite familiar with the general sense of humor shared by denizens of the Infinite Corridor.

      I think the point here is not that "all chemicals are bad", but that lax regulation of the food industry in the U.S of A. allows companies to put unnecessary and potentially toxic chemicals in their products.

      Dihydrogen monoxide can be extremely deadly, by the way. If you ingest a mere 2-3 gallons of the stuff all at once, you will likely expire from electrolyte imbalance. It's not really that much at all. I live in the desert and consume this much over the course of an average hot summer day – just not all at once.

      And don't even get me started on the effects of INHALING DHMO – it'll just croak you right then 'n' there!

      June 27, 2010 at 04:33 | Report abuse |
    • MIT Grad=loser/nerd

      You are such a nerd, thinking a funny joke is to prey on those that have no knowledge of basic chemistry or chemical nomenclature. What kind of an egomaniac uses "MIT grad" as a user name anyways?...you really need the world to know how smart you are don't you? I'm not impressed, you were probably a C student who graduated with a piece of cake degree. Big deal...so you passed some classes.

      June 27, 2010 at 13:36 | Report abuse |
    • Jackson

      I hear Dihydrogen Monoxide is the #1 killer of children ages 2-6!!!! 😉

      June 27, 2010 at 17:14 | Report abuse |
  7. Greenonyx

    Here's a list of the ingredients of McDonald's scrambled eggs: Pasteurized whole eggs with sodium acid pyrophosphate, citric acid and monosodium phosphate (added to preserve color), nisin (preservative). Prepared with Liquid Margarine: Liquid soybean oil, water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, soy lecithin, mono-and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (preservatives), artificial flavor, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, beta carotene (color). Yummy!

    June 26, 2010 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom J

      The only thing I see here that's a problem is the hydrogenated oils. Cook with butter, people. Margarine is not good for you.

      June 27, 2010 at 13:14 | Report abuse |
  8. huh

    OK! So who's going to break down the Mc Rib For us?

    June 26, 2010 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jager

      Read my previous post, you'll see I despise fast food... but... mmmmmm.... McRib.... mmmmmm (sorry, I did work on the road for a number of years, sometimes at midnight only place open was Mickey D's House Of Fine Beef.....)

      June 27, 2010 at 12:32 | Report abuse |
  9. Wolfgang Spahn

    I'm not an authority on fat or salt, but I detect a good many participants in this discussion who need to try decaf, stat.

    June 26, 2010 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. jayman419

    "she advocates not eating any food with an ingredient you can’t pronounce"

    ... but if you're IQ's over 95 you have no place in this world.

    June 26, 2010 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Omg

      do u realize that 100 is average? how many standard deviations are YOU below the norm?

      June 28, 2010 at 11:39 | Report abuse |
  11. Norm

    Garbage reporting by CNN.

    June 27, 2010 at 02:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Darth Cheney

    Mmm, Dimethylpolysiloxane...

    June 27, 2010 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply


    June 27, 2010 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Paul Aversano

    McNuggets gives me the runs

    June 27, 2010 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David

      "Give", not "gives".

      June 27, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse |
  15. Paul Aversano

    but I still eat them just wash them down with pepto

    June 27, 2010 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Kat


    June 27, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Holden Yourtits

    Guess that explains why McNuggets bounce...

    June 27, 2010 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. BigSmirk


    June 27, 2010 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Sweetenedtea

    Only ingredients we can pronounce? Thanks to a horrible dental accident and shoddy reconstructive tongue surgery, the only ingredient I can pronounce is "ar-se-nic."

    Tell my family I loved them.

    June 27, 2010 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ProudGeek

      LMAO! Epic comedy!

      June 28, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse |
  20. chris

    while living in Japan for a year, I ate McDonalds 4-5 times a week. The burgers and nuggets tasted significantly different, yet edible and appealing. I was able to lose almost 40 pounds that year. (McDonalds diet plus walking 3-6 miles a day and riding bike over 12 thousand miles also helped)

    June 27, 2010 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. DC

    You got to expect this type of crap no matter what Burger Death you choose to eat at.

    June 27, 2010 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Trey

    Eric, I have stopped eating McDonalds not too long ago. I am tired of my money going to this corporation, that treats their animals the way they do and the way they put all these chemicals in their food. I would love to see McDonald's go out of business.

    June 27, 2010 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Martin

      I'm not sure that what McDonald's serves could be classified as "food".

      There's a reason they call it "junk food".

      June 27, 2010 at 12:43 | Report abuse |
  23. Ray

    Another Chemist says: (since i took polymer in the 12th grade, i must be stupid)

    Well neither of the chemicals mentioned are really concerning . TBHQ is an almost ubiquitous preservative. Dimethylpentylsiloxane (a specific conformer of the poly form they mention here) is used in over-the counter anti-gas tablets.

    Here's another angle: if you knew the chemical names for natural products, would you still eat them. Instead of fiber, try cellulose. Instead of saturated fat, try tri-acyl glycerol. Far nastier chemicals occur in nature, and they are natural toxins. We are made of chemicals, people. They just happen to be in a naturally-selected (be careful about how you interpret this phrase) equilibrium. Also, our livers have the abilities to metabolize chemicals in families of shapes and structures. Anything from anti-biotics to caffeine, it can handle them all. The word is 'cytochrome'

    June 27, 2010 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Tiger Woodie

    Come on people, it's dimethylpolysiloxane. Who wants foaming chicken nugg-its? Stop your bellyaching and just eat what the factory produces like good little factory output receptacles.

    June 27, 2010 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Iago

    I bet those nuggets have that nasty dihydrogen monoxide in it too. Shame McDonnalds. Shame.

    June 27, 2010 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Martin

      hahahaha – I bet most people think "dihydrogen monoxide" is a LETHAL chemical 🙂

      June 27, 2010 at 12:39 | Report abuse |
  26. Chad

    Fantastic, so I can eat crack? I can say it. Poop, I said it. It's safe to eat.

    June 27, 2010 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Iago

      Nah. Crack is really pronounced benzoylmethylecgonine, cut with baking soda or sugar or sand or whatever. Not pronounceable. Not safe.

      June 27, 2010 at 12:37 | Report abuse |
  27. Martin

    They talk about calorie content and fat content, when they should be talking about the CHICKEN content, which is actually pretty minimal in a chicken mcnugget.

    They should also look at SODIUM content, which is always higher in North American foods compared to the equivalent European versions.

    June 27, 2010 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Tom J

    "They also contain dimethylpolysiloxane, “an anti-foaming agent” also used in Silly Putty."

    Another case of sensationalist reporting, and another chance for 80% of you to show yourselves as the sheeple you are.
    Dimethylpolysiloxane is the main ingredient of Gas-X. Other than the ability to reduce surface tension, and therefore make bubbles hard to form, it's inert.

    The truly scary thing here is that some of you vote.

    June 27, 2010 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom A

      When you reduce the surface tension in the digestive system, you encourage unnatural absorption into the body. Chemicals that would normally pass thru us are instead metabolized .

      June 27, 2010 at 13:54 | Report abuse |
  29. Hanna

    If you're so worried, then just don't eat at Mcdonald's. Simple solution.

    June 27, 2010 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. John D

    Don't light a match near a McNugget. It might explode.

    June 27, 2010 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Brandon

    I coat my food with Barry Bonds Sports Cream before I eat it..

    June 27, 2010 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. J

    I agree that people have the right to eat whatever they choose. If you want to get fat or increase your risk of multiple disease then that should be your choice. However once you start introducing it to children who are incapable of making a reasonable choice then you should be kicked in the face.

    June 27, 2010 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Nicholas M Cummings, Rochester, MA


    Way to do your jobs! And to the politicians on whom we've wasted our votes: way to appoint soft, industry-cozy former executives to "enforce" our regulations.

    To everyone else: I HIGHLY recommend watching "Food, Inc."

    June 27, 2010 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Nick

    As a general rule, if you are eating a "nugget" of any animal that goes from cold to cooked in less than 5 minutes, then you probably don't care much about your health to begin with.

    June 27, 2010 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Carl

    It's either a rule or not. If it isn't to be taken literally, then it means nothing because you have to either literally eat something or literally not eat it.

    Most people can't pronounce "quesadilla" either. It's just a stupid fear-mongering "rule" which people can spew out and not back up. It is an expression of ignorance and inability to comprehend health issues.

    "One gram" warning is also dumb. One gram of Iron could also kill you, but a few milligrams per meal are necessary for good health.

    June 27, 2010 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. KK

    They don't call it McSh&#t for nothing. Can you pronounce McSh&#t Ed?

    June 27, 2010 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Jim

    Generally chemists would know more about chemicals and not try to eat their words when they re-read them and found their witty humor more drole than any generalist's.

    June 27, 2010 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Rob L

    Of course the government should step in and regulate what's put in food. All this garbage people continue to ingest is a huge drain on the health care system. People would like to believe it's their right to eat this stuff, and it hurts no one else, but that is so far from reality.

    June 27, 2010 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Thomas

    I used to work at a McDonalds meat processing plant. After about 6 months of working there I stopped eating at McD's. If you had seen the stuff I've seen you wouldnt eat their food either.

    June 27, 2010 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nicholas M Cummings, Rochester, MA

      Again, to anybody reading these comments, watch the documentary "FOOD, INC."

      You will become compelled to help push for changes in our food manufacturing system.

      June 27, 2010 at 13:22 | Report abuse |
  40. Jea Foo

    I am fairly certain I ingested silly putty as a child on accident, since the very nature of the product required a lot of contact. Folks, the real enemy here might just be silly putty.

    June 27, 2010 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Craig Shearer

    I would love to see McDonald's out of business. Their food is disgusting. I love to see people eating their crap food at work, after they bring it back for lunch, and just start grossing them out to the point they throw it away.

    June 27, 2010 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lucy

      You try to gross me out while I'm eating my greasy, fatty, delicious McDonald's and you're going to get a big fat punch in the mouth.

      June 27, 2010 at 15:41 | Report abuse |
  42. Rick McDaniel

    The restaurant industry, in the US, must be forced to change, or Americans will become the fattest people on earth.

    June 27, 2010 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Moesy

      Rick, sadly our country already has the fattest, unhealthiest people on earth.

      June 27, 2010 at 13:47 | Report abuse |
    • personal responsibility

      Why is the industry's fault that we eat too much and not the right things? What happened to free choice and personal responsibility?

      June 28, 2010 at 16:32 | Report abuse |
  43. JL

    The problem with the British McNuggets is that they taste like crap, compared to their American counterparts.

    Note to CNN: fix your web pages. Your Flash ad covers the submit button.

    June 27, 2010 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Lucky22anme

    I can't say I am terribly McShocked at this disclosure. We recently ate two 10 piece McNuggets and they were actually yummy. Little did I know I was eating a component of Silly Putty. I don't think I will ever eat them again. The government really should crack down on the garbage that is put in fast food. Especially since they know kids are the ones that are eating this junk.

    June 27, 2010 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Sid

    You're all a bunch of trolls. Good article in my opinion.

    June 27, 2010 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Pete

    Let them clean-up the petroleum in the gulf, then the petroleum in our McNuggets!

    June 27, 2010 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RLJ

    This is CNN. An organization of (at least for the written news) professionals. Proper English is "Not all McNuggets are created equal." Mistakes like that immediately hurt the credibility of the story; perhaps not much, but at the professional level of a national reporter such basic grammar mistakes should be avoided.

    June 27, 2010 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Joel

    I bet you'd find something similar with the burgers...in Brazil (where I have lived off-and-on) the hamburgers taste much better (less greasy/more like actual meat) than they do here in the US.

    June 27, 2010 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Miss Vickey

    The "rule" is cleverly posed so that the author, an expert on food and nutrition, cannot be sued by McDonald's legions of attorneys for telling people not to eat at McDonald's which is what I take the message to clearly be.

    June 27, 2010 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. TM8

    That is exactly why I gave up eating meat. You never know what you are gonna get. One time, I saw a Tyson chicken truck going through Texas in 110 degree weather-on the way to the slaughter house I suppose, and the smell was atrocious! 1/3 of the chickens appeared to already be deceased from the horrible conditions they were in. And some other's were bloody. I gave up eating meat right then and there. Especially after I read the side of the truck "For a healthy lifestyle, eat chicken." Screw that. Never ever ever again.

    June 27, 2010 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
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