Harmful Fast Food Ingredient Information


What it is: Aspartame is one of many sugar substitutes.

How it's used: It is used mostly in products labeled "diet", such as Diet Coke, as well as beverage sweeteners like Equal.

Why it's bad: Aspartame is supposed to be safe for people who don't have phenylketonuria (PKU), an atypical hereditary disease. However, there have been many reports of people without this disease who have had side effects such as dizziness, loss of equilibrium, severe muscle aches, and episodes of high blood pressure that have been linked to aspartame consumption. *

More: While people generally use sugar substitutes like aspartame to try to lose weight, actually these sweeteners can ultimately set you back. If you consume lots of aspartame, your serotonin levels go up, which can affect eating and sleeping behaviors. Also, a poisonous matter called methanol is an ingredient in aspartame. If you drink aspartame after exercising or in warm weather, your intake of methanol can be dangerously high. Aspartame is basically a chemical sweetener. Despite the fact that the links below say it's generally safe, try to stay away from aspartame. *

Mayo Clinic - Low Calorie Sweeteners: Sweet and Safe

Mayo Clinic - Is Aspartame safe to consume?

* Research for this article has been aided by "Lick the Sugar Habit", by Nancy Appleton.

Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Yeast Extract, and Hydrolyzed Vegetable Proteins

What they are: All three of these ingredients are food additives that have been invented to replace MSG. These ingredients were created as people started to become aware of the negative side effects that may come with consuming MSG.

How they're used: See "MSG".

Why they're bad: See "MSG".

More: Ask.com - Is hydrolyzed protein bad for you?

Natural News.com - Many 'natural' foods contain questionable taste additives like yeast extract

Mayo Clinic's definition of MSG allergies.

Brown Sugar

See "sugar".

Caramel Coloring

See 'food dyes / colorings'.

Corn Syrup

What it is: Corn syrup, or glucose syrup, is a sweetener usually made from starches. See 'high fructose corn syrup'.


See "dextrose".


See "glucose".

Enriched / Bleached Flours

What it is: Flour is a powder of crushed cereal crops and seeds. Bleached flours have bleaching agents added to them so that they look white instead of yellow. During the process of making enriched flours, they lose some nutrients, which are then added back.

How it's used: Flours are used in breads, baked goods, and breading for meats.

Why it's bad: Bleached and enriched flours have been processed so much that they are basically sugar (see "sugar"). Eating something so refined can cause diabetes. Despite the fact that minerals and vitamins are added back to the flours after processing, these supplements are not as effective as eating whole, or unprocessed, foods. It's best to stick with whole - wheat flour.

More: Want to learn more? Go to:

Women's Fitness - Ugly truths about white flour


What it is: Fructose is a sugar found in most fruits. It is, however, different to high fructose corn syrup because high fructose corn syrups mix differing quantities of glucose and fructose. For more information, see sugar".

Food Dyes / Colorings

What it is: It is a substance added to change the color of foods and beverages so that they look more appealing.

How it's used: Food dyes / colorings are used mainly in processed foods and soft drinks.

Why it's bad: Many people are intolerant of certain food dyes / colorings, which can, among other things, worsen ADD and ADHD symptoms and cause tantrums, horrible nightmares, and hyperactivity in children.

More: Many processed foods don't look like the food they are supposed to be without the addition of dyes / colorings. For example, a strawberry milkshake may appear to contain real strawberries when it actually has red food dye / coloring. This, of course, raises the inevitable question, "What's wrong with putting a real strawberry in a strawberry milkshake?" However, if the strawberry milkshake from Burger King that you had with you lunch had real strawberries, it wouldn't have been as cheap.

Fast food restaurants can have low prices because all of their food has been processed and processed food contains uncountable corn derivatives, which are inexpensive (see below). Britain has made an effort to ban many of these dyes / colorings while the American FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is still insisting that dyes / colorings are usually safe to consume. Decide for yourself. Check out these links:

Food Agency calls for ban on six artificial colours.

The Truth about Food Dyes - Couric & Co.

Are food dyes fueling kids' hyperactivity? - ABC News

Dangers of Food Dyes?

Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser have also voiced some opinions expressed in this article in the books "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "Fast Food Nation".


See "sugar". Note: If a word ends in '-ose' that means it is a sugar.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

What it is: High fructose corn syrup, also called "corn sugar" and "corn sweetener", among other things, is a sweetener obtained from corn by putting the kernels through a series of highly complex machinery.

How it's used:High fructose corn syrup is widely used as a sugar substitute or in conjunction with sugar because it is cheaper to produce than sugar from sugarcane or sugar beets.

Why it's bad: HFCS can contribute to heart disease, and is thought to lead to and / or worsen cancer and weaken the immune system. *

More: here have been a lot of misconceptions regarding HFCS. The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) has been providing the public with false information, saying that the renamed "corn sugar" is processed in your body just like cane sugar. This is not true. HFCS has undergone enzymatic processing. It is made by scientifically converting some of its glucose into fructose.

Corn sweeteners began to gain popularity in the 70's, when it was discovered that corn could be turned into a cheap substitute for sugar. One of the things that big corporations love about HFCS is that you can alter the glucose to fructose ratio to obtain the desired sweetness. HFCS is being promoted because we now have way too much corn in America. If there were no corn sweeteners, then farmers wouldn't have to grow as much corn and if there were less corn, then corn prices would go up and farmers might actually make enough money to support their families. *

On the CRA's propaganda filled websites www.sweetsurprise.com and www.cornsugar.com they show pictures of corn swaying gently in the breeze, giving the people the impression that the so-called "corn sugar" is natural instead of processed. (But, then again, we must remember this is the Corn Refiners Association saying it's OK to eat something that's made from corn.)

Want to learn more? Go to:

Wikipedia's High Fructose Corn Syrup page

bestcookingvalues.com's excellent article on fast food ingredients.

To see CRA commercials circulating on the web go to:

YouTube-High Fructose Corn Syrup Ad 1

YouTube-High Fructose Corn Syrup Ad 2

YouTube-High Fructose Corn Syrup Ad 3

YouTube-TV Ad 'Maze'

YouTube-TV Ad 'Question Mark'

* This information was found in the highly informative books ‘Lick the Sugar Habit', by Nancy Appleton and "The Omnivore's Dilemma", by Michael Pollan. To read about how HFCS can lead to and / or worsen cancer, go to CBS News.com.


What it is: Maltodextrin is a sweetener derived from starches (usually corn). See 'sugar'.


What it is: Molasses is a sweet syrup derived from the processing of sugar beets or cane. See 'sugar'.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

What it is: Monosodium glutamate, more commonly known as MSG, is a flavor-enhancing compound produced by the fermentation of starch, sugar beets, sugar cane, and molasses.

How it's used: MSG is used as a flavor-enhancer, to add a savory taste to food. It is used mainly in processed foods.

Why it's bad: MSG allergies, while not generally accepted by the medical community, can cause 'MSG Symptom Complex' in people who have them. Symptoms of MSG allergies can include headaches, sweating, heart palpitations, nausea, and chest pain, among other things.

More: Originally, MSG was used almost exclusively in Chinese food but it has now become more widely used. The more a food has been processed, the greater the chance it has of containing MSG.

Recent studies have found that MSG can also have adverse effects on people who don't even have MSG allergies. MSG is in fact an excitotoxin, a neurotoxin that can harm the brain and nervous system. MSG also causes your pancreas to release more insulin than is necessary, causing your blood sugar levels to drop a little while after you eat it, making you hungry just an hour or two after your meal.

To find out more about Monosodium Glutamate, go to: truthinlabeling.org

To see more symptoms of MSG allergies, check out: Mayo Clinic's definition of MSG allergies.

Partially Hydrogenated Oil

What it is: Partially hydrogenated oils, or shortenings, are oils that have not completed the process of hydrogenation, which takes fatty acids and turns them into saturated ones.

How it's used: These oils are used in place of other oils, as they offer more attractive textures (especially for baked goods) and are cheaper. They are also in pretty much all margarine.

Why it's bad: Oils that have not been completely hydrogenated are very high in trans fat, which increases bad cholesterol. This, in turn, can lead to heart disease. If you eat lots of trans fat over time, then you may have a blood clot, stroke, or heart attack, among other things.

More:Want to learn more? Go to: Mayo Clinic.com's page on trans-fats


What it is: Starches, as used in the food industry, are "glue like substances that have been processed to create sugars".

How it's used: Starches are used mainly in processed foods but can also be used to thicken other products.

Why it's bad: For more information, see 'sugar'.


See 'sugar'.


What it is: Sugar is a sweetener obtained from sugar cane or sugar beet.

How it's used: Sugar is used surprisingly often. It is found, not only in desserts, but also in condiments, soups, meats, breads, and pretty much every other food you can think of.

Why it's bad: Sugar is fine in moderation, but it's low in nutritional value, and over consumption can weaken eyesight, lead to some forms of cancer, contribute to obesity, and cause food allergies, as well as kidney damage. (Information from 'Lick the Sugar Habit' by Nancy Appleton.)

More: See 'Additional Resources' at the bottom of this page, or look at our 'Links' page.

TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone)

What it is: Basically, it's lighter fluid. (Isn't it comforting to know that every time you ate Chicken McNuggets as a kid, you also ingested lighter fluid?) *

How it's used: TBHQ, as stated on ingredient labels, is used to 'preserve freshness'.

Why it's bad: Well, humans aren't really evolved to eat lighter fluid, so eating a single gram can result in "vomiting, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse". Eating a mere five grams could kill you. *

More:The FDA allows no more than .02% of the oil in processed foods to be TBHQ. So, according to them, you're probably safe to eat foods with TBHQ and this ingredient probably shouldn't appear on a list of ingredients that have the greatest potential for being harmful, but... lighter fluid??? That's supposed to be safe to eat???

You want my advice? Don't eat TBHQ. Stop buying those Chicken McNuggets you love so much and try to eat chicken that doesn't contain lighter fluid.

To learn more, go to Wikipedia.

We are still in the process of adding this ingredient to our Restaurants, so please be patient. Thank you.

* Please see "The Omnivore's Dilemma", by Michael Pollan, pages 113-114.

Additional Resources

'Lick the Sugar Habit', by Nancy Appleton

'The Omnivore's Dilemma', by Michael Pollan

'Fast Food Nation', by Eric Schlosser

FRESH, the movie

Also look at our Links page for more information.

If you know of any valid information or reference materials, please email us at harmfulfastfood@gmail.com.