The 9 Nastiest Ingredients in Burgers

It’s National Burger Day. Before you head out to one of the many fast food joints to celebrate the day, you might want to know exactly what you’re getting:

Beef: Even though many fast food companies continue to market their beef as “100 percent ground beef” (McDonald’s) and “grass-fed beef patty” (Carl’s Jr.), they are legally allowed to use a mixture of meat scraps and sinew spun in a centrifuge with ammonium hydroxide and still claim the beef is natural or 100 percent beef. The byproducts of this process are known as “Pink Slime,” and because it is considered a manufacturing process, and not an “ingredient,” fast food chains are still allowed to claim their beef is pure. If you haven’t seen celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s video on the topic, I encourage you to watch it. Companies can even say “100 Percent Pure USDA Inspected Beef” and still be using Pink Slime.

Neotame or NeoTame: Don’t be fooled by this ingredient. It’s the new name for aspartame. Carl’s Jr. adds this cancer-causing ingredient to its burger buns. I really don’t consider the addition of a well-established carcinogen a fitting ingredient for a company that claims to have “All-Natural Burger(s).”   It has also been linked to premature puberty in girls.

Mono- and Di-glycerides: These fats are added to foods to bind liquids and fats together and act as stabilizers. Usually these names are short for: diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides (DATEM). They are frequently found in burger buns (like Carl Jr’s) and many other baked goods. They are usually derived from animal fat like pork fat.

High Fructose Corn Syrup: This ingredient is used by most fast food manufacturers because it is cheap, even though it has been linked to a growing list of health concerns. McDonald’s, like most fast food companies, uses it in their ketchup. Carl’s Jr. does too. High-fructose corn syrup has been linked with many health problems, including diabetes.

Sodium acid pyrophosphate (or sodium pyrophosphate)—This ingredient is often used to maintain the color of a food. McDonald’s uses it in its “Pasteurized Processed American Cheese” as well as the side of French fries added to most burgers. The chemical industry’s own safety data sheets list the ingredient as toxic to blood and advise “do not ingest,” yet McDonald’s thinks it is okay to add this toxin to the food supply.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): This chemical is a well-established neurotoxin, meaning that it is damaging to the brain and nervous system. Most fast food companies simply list “Spices” in their ingredients as they are not required by law to actually list this harmful ingredient outright. As a result, there is no way of knowing which companies use MSG or not based on their ingredient lists. Because the ingredient is so ubiquitous, it is highly likely that most fast food burgers contain MSG. Monosodium glutamate is frequently used in laboratories to create obese animals for testing. Here are two examples of this practice. Additionally, research links MSG consumption to initiating or aggravating fibromyalgia symptoms.

Potassium Sorbate: This chemical is used as a preservative. Potassium sorbate has been shown in human studies to be both genotoxic and mutagenic, meaning that it damages our genetic material which can lead to genetic mutations that are linked with disease. It is also a suspected carcinogen. McDonald’s uses it in its pickle slices found on its burgers.

Polysorbate 80: These nanoparticles are associated in animal studies with brain cell death and brain inflammation and have been shown to, not only gain access to the brain, but to deposit themselves in the frontal cortex of the brain. It has been linked to liver damage when used in medications. Carl’s Jr. uses this ingredient in its pickle chips on its “All-Natural Burger.”

Yellow 5 or Yellow Dye #5: Derived from coal tar, yellow dye #5 (or “yellow 5” as it is now frequently called to sound less ominous) has been linked to learning and concentration disorders in humans as well as kidney and intestinal tumors in animal studies. Carl’s Jr. uses this artificial color in its pickle chips on its “All-Natural Burger.”

While there are many nasty ingredients found in most fast food burgers, these are my picks for the “Nasty Nine.” To celebrate National Burger Day, I’m heading out for a delicious chickpea curry.

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago


Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran3 years ago


Elaine Bauer
Elaine Bauer3 years ago

Fast "food" joints (can't dignify them with the term restaurant) may be fast, but you'd be better of to do just that: fast! Food is not on their menu.

Hussein Khalil
Hussein Khalil3 years ago


Janis K.
Janis K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Anna Undebeck
Anna Undebeck3 years ago

Disgusting... But I love MY Veggie Burgers though.

Henry S.
Henry Silver3 years ago

Most fascinating

Sweetener Council

Though often misunderstood, aspartame is one of the most extensively studied food ingredients in the world with hundreds of studies consistently demonstrating its safety at suggested levels. Contrary to what was described here, aspartame has not been identified as a carcinogen. Even leading health organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute have stated that a credible link between aspartame and cancer has yet to be found and therefore support its use.

The lack of evidence between aspartame and cancer is likely due to the very important fact that aspartame is made up of common dietary building blocks that are not at all unfamiliar to a balanced diet. These same building blocks are regularly obtained from the consumption of vegetables, fruit, dairy and meat products and are metabolised in the same way without posing any adverse health effect on the body. Therefore, by claiming that aspartame causes cancer would be the same as saying that orange juice has the same effect being that they are made up of the same components.

To get the FACTS on aspartame safety and cancer, feel free to visit these helpful websites!

American Cancer Society:
National Cancer Institute:
Health Canada: