Food transparency has become a hot topic in recent years, with consumers demanding to know what exactly is in the food they’re eating.
Even fast food giant McDonald’s has felt the pressure to make changes to their menu in response to this trend. In 2018, the chain announced that they would be removing artificial preservatives from many of their menu items, including their popular breakfast sausage.
But what about other additives, such as nitrates? Are they still present in McDonald’s sausage?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the ingredients in McDonald’s sausage and whether or not nitrates are still a concern.
Does McDonald’s Sausage Have Nitrates?
Nitrates are commonly used in processed meats as a preservative and to enhance flavor. They have been linked to health concerns such as an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.
So, does McDonald’s sausage contain nitrates?
According to the chain’s website, the current recipe for their breakfast sausage contains pork, water, salt, spices, dextrose, sugar, rosemary extract, and natural flavors. Nitrates are not listed as an ingredient.
However, a Reddit user managed to find old nutritional information from 2009 that showed the previous recipe for McDonald’s sausage contained additives such as corn syrup solids, monosodium glutamate (MSG), propyl gallate, and citric acids – all of which are commonly used in processed meats and can be harmful in large quantities.
It’s important to note that while the current recipe for McDonald’s sausage does not contain nitrates, it still may not be the healthiest option due to its high fat and sodium content.
The Role Of Nitrates In Food Preservation
Nitrates are commonly used in food preservation, particularly in cured meats such as salami, ham, sausage, and hot dogs. They work by slowing down bacterial growth and preventing spoilage, which helps to increase the shelf life of these products. Nitrates also enhance the flavor and color quality of meats, giving them their characteristic umami taste and pink or red color.
However, there are concerns about the potential health risks associated with the consumption of nitrates. When exposed to high heat in the presence of amino acids, nitrates can transform into nitrosamines, which are known carcinogens that can lead to adverse health impacts. This is why the FDA regulates the use of nitrates and nitrites in processed foods to ensure that our exposure to these ingredients remains within safe levels.
In recent years, efforts have been made to reduce the number of nitrosamines that can form during the cooking process by adding other ingredients such as Vitamin C, which inhibits their formation. It’s also important to note that consuming processed meats in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet is unlikely to cause long-term adverse health impacts.
While nitrates play an important role in food preservation, it’s essential to be aware of their potential health risks and to consume them in moderation. It’s also important to read food labels carefully and choose products that contain safe levels of nitrates and nitrites.
Understanding The Ingredients In McDonald’s Sausage
Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients in McDonald’s breakfast sausage:
1. Pork: The primary ingredient in McDonald’s sausage is pork, which is a good source of protein. However, it’s important to note that the type of pork used and how it’s processed can affect the overall nutritional value of the sausage.
2. Water: Water is added to the sausage mixture to help bind the ingredients together and improve texture.
3. Salt: Salt is a common ingredient in processed meats, and it’s used to enhance flavor and act as a preservative.
4. Spices: The specific spices used in McDonald’s sausage are not listed on their website, but they likely include a blend of herbs and spices to give the sausage its signature flavor.
5. Dextrose: Dextrose is a simple sugar that’s added to the sausage mixture to enhance flavor and improve texture.
6. Sugar: Sugar is also added to the sausage mixture for flavor.
7. Rosemary Extract: Rosemary extract is a natural preservative that’s used to help extend the shelf life of the sausage.
8. Natural Flavors: Natural flavors can be derived from a variety of sources, including plants and animals. They’re used in processed foods to enhance flavor and aroma.
The Health Risks Of Nitrates In Food
Nitrates are a set of compounds commonly used in processed meats as a preservative and to enhance flavor. However, they have been linked to several health concerns, including an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.
When nitrates are added to processed meats, they can easily convert to nitrosamines in the stomach. Nitrosamines are potentially hazardous and increase the risk of cancer, specifically colon cancer, when people are repeatedly exposed to them. The FDA has warned about the dangers of nitrosamines in processed meats.
While green, leafy vegetables are actually much richer in nitrates than cured meats, the association of nitrate with cured meats causes concern about their cancer-causing effects. Studies suggest that eating foods rich in natural nitrates can help reduce the risk of chronic health conditions, whereas eating foods high in added nitrates can cause health risks.
Nitrosamines can form if nitrates or nitrites are cooked at high heat. Different types of nitrosamines can increase the risk for cancer. Nitrosamines are some of the main carcinogens in tobacco smoke. Bacon, hot dogs, and processed meat can contain high levels of both sodium nitrite and protein. On exposure to high heat, this combination creates the perfect conditions for nitrosamines to form. Cooking vegetables, however, is less likely to produce nitrosamines. People rarely cook vegetables at very high heat, and they don’t contain large amounts of protein.
Inorganic fertilizers have caused an increase in nitrate levels in water resources in many places around the world. When nitrate concentrations in drinking-water are below 10 mg/L, food (mainly vegetables) will be the main source of nitrate for humans. In the reverse situation, when the nitrate level in drinking-water is high (exceeding 50 mg L−1), water will definitely be the main source of exposure to nitrates.
Alternatives To Nitrates In Sausage Production
Despite the negative health effects of nitrates, they are still commonly used in sausage production. However, there are alternatives that can be used to preserve and enhance the flavor of sausage without the use of nitrates.
One such alternative is celery powder, which contains naturally occurring nitrates. When combined with a starter culture, it is one of the most commonly used sources of nitrite in natural and organic meat products. However, it is important to note that residual nitrate levels may be higher in products containing vegetable juice powder compared to those containing sodium nitrite.
Other natural sources of nitrites include spinach, tomato paste, cranberry extract, rosemary, and citrus extracts. These ingredients contain substances that inhibit the formation of harmful NOCs during digestion and can help preserve processed meat.
Swiss flavor company Givaudan has also recently launched NaNino+, a plant-based nitrite replacement that could revolutionize the processed meat industry. This product contains natural ingredients such as Swiss chard and does not contain allergens.
It is important to note that while these alternatives may be safer than nitrates, they still need to be used in moderation and should not be relied upon solely for preservation purposes. Additionally, it is important to read ingredient labels carefully and choose sausage products with minimal additives and preservatives.
McDonald’s Response To Consumer Demands For Transparency
In recent years, McDonald’s has faced criticism and scrutiny from consumers regarding the quality and sourcing of their ingredients. In response, the chain has launched marketing campaigns to address these concerns and provide more transparency about their food production processes.
One such campaign is “Our Food, Your Questions,” where McDonald’s answers consumer-submitted questions about their food sourcing and processing practices. The campaign has been launched in the US, Canada, and Australia, and has addressed rumors such as the use of “pink slime” in their meat and whether their eggs are organic or free-range.
Additionally, McDonald’s has introduced environmental stewardship initiatives into its supply chain, such as using Marine Stewardship Council-certified fish and introducing QR codes on packaging for customers to scan for nutrition information.
In Canada, McDonald’s has been answering all ingredient- and nutrition-related questions on their website, while in Australia they have introduced a smartphone app called TrackMyMacca’s that allows customers to trace ingredients back to their source.
While these initiatives may not directly address the concern about nitrates in their sausage, they demonstrate McDonald’s commitment to addressing consumer demands for transparency and healthier food options.