Did you know you're likely eating crushed beetles or duck feathers with your fast food burger? These are some of the most disgusting additives you're eating when you hit the drive-thru. 

Silicone Oil

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McDonald's Chicken McNuggets are full of dimethylpolysiloxane, a silicone oil that's often used for making contact lenses and medical devices. In the fast food industry, it's used as an anti-foaming agent and is often found on take-out rice. Don't worry though -- the chemically engineered silicone oil is considered non-toxic, though that doesn't exactly make it food.

Prescription Drugs

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Johns Hopkins University researchers tested chicken feathers from factory farms that supply fast food chains and found a long list of prescriptions added to chicken feed as additives. There were antidepressants, antibiotics (some of them banned), arsenic, allergy medications, and other drugs pumped into the chickens we eat. If you find that depressing, just eat more chicken to fill up on those nice antidepressants.

Propylene Glycol

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Propylene glycol is an organic chemical compound with a wide range of uses including use in anti-freeze and the vapor liquid for E-cigarettes. It's also used as a preservative in the fast food industry – often to keep the greens in those pre-packaged fast-food salads crisp as they may sit there for days.

Cysteine-L, Or... Duck Feathers!


Cysteine-L is an amino acid synthesized from either human hair or duck feathers. It's used in the fast food industry for creating artificial meat flavorings and to soften mass-produced breads or pastries. McDonald's, for example, uses it in their apple pies and other baked products.

Silica, Or... Sand!


Silicon dioxide, better known as sand, has a ton of industrial uses like manufacturing glass, fiber optic cable, and cement. It's used in fast food to prevent clumping or caking. It's what allows that tasty Wendy's chili to sit in the pot for so long without turning into a big lump.



Dimethylpolysiloxane is in just about any fried item you get at any fast food joint you go into. The silicone compound is found in Silly Putty and cosmetics, but industrial food uses it as a way to keep the fryer oil from getting all foamy. So those fries, nuggets, and onion rings all have silicon in them. Health organizations haven't found any negative health effects so far, but the recipe for french fries should be as simple as potatoes, oil and salt, shouldn't it?



Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) comes from petroleum and is often used in cosmetics, skincare products, varnish, lacquers and resins. It has also found its way into processed food. McDonald’s uses TBHQ in 18 menu items, from the Fruit and Walnut Salad to McNuggets. It took a long time for TBHQ to be approved for human consumption after many years of pressure from food manufacturers. The FDA only allows the chemical to be 0.02 percent of a food’s oil and fat because five grams of the stuff is lethal. Just one gram causes nausea, vomiting, delirium and even collapse. You'd have to eat about 11 pounds of McNuggets to hit that level, but still there's a potentially lethal additive in 18 McDonald's foods.

Cellulose, Or... Wood!


Cellulose, produced from wood pulp, is used in tons of processed foods used by fast food chains. It's in everything from cheese to ice cream syrups to salad dressings. It's used as a thickener and stabilizer, and as a way to use less flour or oil which are more expensive. Almost any fast food restaurant you can think of uses it, and it's seeing more use as the chains try to cut fat and boost fiber in response to scrutiny of fast food's reputation for unhealthy dishes.

Ammonium Sulfate, Or... Fertilizer!


Ammonium Sulfate is a common chemical soil fertilizer that is often used to feed yeast while baking mass-produced breads for fast food chains. On top of serving as a fertilizer for alkaline soils, it's used in insecticides, herbicides and fungicides.

Beetle Juice


Carminic acid is synthesized from Cochineal beetles and is commonly used in red food coloring. To make it, the beetles are dried and crushed to extract the red properties for dyes. It's used in everything from meats, sausages, processed poultry, marinades, bakery products, toppings, and desserts. The beetles have been used as food dye since the time of the Aztecs, and it's not dangerous. It is something to think about though if you're vegetarian or vegan ... or just don't feel like eating dried, crushed beetles.