Are you ready for a journey with Mel Weinstein as he explores the ingredients found in your favorite restaurant foods? You might not like what you find out. Do you know what you are putting in your mouth? The book is based on Mel Weinstein’s FLR podcast but provides more details and interesting facts about additives found in fast foods, plus a whole lot more.
Do you know what’s in the fast food that you’re eating? Mel Weinstein, based on his background in chemistry education, analytical chemistry, and food science, takes you on an exploration of the ingredients in menu items found in several iconic American fast-food restaurants. What he reveals will blow your mind: additives derived from insects, an artificial sweetener made with a chemical warfare agent, various additives listed as acronyms rather than real names, wood derivatives used in food, partially disclosed industrial additives, like modified starches, and biological agents as additives.
What’s actually in the food you eat? The fast-food industry is huge, both in the U.S. and around the world. It’s continually growing with the addition of new restaurant chains and the expansion of old ones. A rarely asked question is: What comprises fast foods? Sure, we know what the basic components are, for example, a hamburger may have a bun, a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and sauce, but that list is woefully incomplete. We, as consumers, are ignorant of most of the ingredients in a typical fast-food meal. We are not aware of the presence of additives: preservatives, color agents, flavoring agents, texturizers, and pH adjusters, to name a few. We are not aware of all the industrial chemicals served up with that hamburger.
Why don’t we know about these unrevealed ingredients in fast foods? The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for defining the policies that food manufacturers must follow to market their products. Those policies are based on laws passed by Congress. However, currently, there is no law requiring that fast food companies provide ingredient lists to consumers.
Of the hundreds of fast-food chains operating in the USA, only a handful voluntarily disclose the ingredients in their menu items. A few of these companies are the largest and best-known fast-food companies, such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, and this information is posted on their websites. In evaluating the data from these and other restaurants, a revelation emerges. Fast foods are no different than their ultra-processed cousins sitting on the shelves of supermarkets across the country. These foods are laden with synthetic chemicals, many of which have questionable health resumes. The FDA allows the use of over 9,000 food additives and the list grows every year, with new and novel ingredients being approved each year.
Fast Food Ingredients Revealed is a guide that pulls the curtain aside and reveals the industrial ingredients used by McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. A small subset of menu items for each restaurant is broken down into its individual ingredients. The additives are identified and described in a comprehensive glossary in the appendix. A more detailed glimpse at some of the more interesting and surprising additives is included in the text. A reader will get a very good introduction to the abundance of chemicals used in the fast-food industry. Furthermore, a unique scoring system, created by the author, grades each menu item to provide an assessment of the degree of industrialization of each menu item examined. The score roughly reveals how far from “natural” the food item has industrially traveled.
In the final sections of the book, the author summarizes recent research studies from various countries relating health issues associated with diets high in ultra-processed foods. Lastly, the author examines attempts by different countries to inform their citizens of the hazards of ultra-processed foods through front-of-packaging labeling systems, many of which, surprisingly, is far ahead of the United States.
Mel Weinstein is a retired chemist living in Central Illinois. In his professional career, he taught chemistry for 10 years at the community college level, worked as an analytical chemist for over 20 years in a research center for a multinational food ingredients company, and studied food science at the graduate level. Since his early 20s, he has had a fascination with the constituents of industrial foods, exploring the purpose of additives and their impact on health. In 2016, he started an online podcast called “Food Labels Revealed” to share with consumers his knowledge of food ingredients, their history, and potential problems associated with diets high in hyper-processed foods. In studying the myriad additives found in commercial foods, he eventually posed the question, “Do fast foods contain the same additives as found in packaged foods on grocery store shelves?” To answer this question, he researched menu items in various fast-food restaurants. The results of the research led to the writing of this book, “Fast Food Ingredients Revealed.” Mr. Weinstein sincerely hopes that in reading this book consumers will gain a better understanding of what they are eating when they are lured into fast food restaurants promising fantastic smells, tastes, and textures invented by very creative food scientists and engineers. Do you know what you are eating?