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article imageWhy that fast-food burger you just ate includes wood pulp

By David Silverberg     Jun 30, 2014 in Food
Many fast-food items produced by leading global brands include the oft-overlooked ingredient microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) or "powdered cellulose." It's better known as wood pulp.
Devin Cohen of Quartz reports the addition of this non-absorbable fiber into fast food ingredients has been "stealthy, yet widespread: The compound can now be found in buns, cheeses, sauces, cakes, shakes, rolls, fries, onion rings, smoothies, meats—basically everything."
As we learn here, Microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) (E460) is "derived from naturally occurring cellulose similar to that found in fruits and vegetables. From this natural source, products are customised through various unique, co-processing techniques."
Adding high-fiber low-fat wood pulp to fast-food acts as a filler, meaning those chicken nuggets may contain less chicken and more MCC.
In 2011, Taco Bell was slapped with a lawsuit for using something cellulose to create a meat-like substance.
Quartz's Cohen wanted to analyze the ingredient list of dozens of fast-food giants across North America to learn of MCC's presence in daily menus. He found McDonald’s ranks highest on the list with wood pulp integrated into 14 of their menu items, such as fish fillets, chicken strips and biscuits.Burger King was #2 on the list with 13 menu items containing cellulose.
It should be noted some studies found that microcrystalline cellulose may have adverse effects on cholesterol, but the FDA has approved powdered cellulose for human consumption in moderate doses.
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