What's Really In Your Fast Food?

One of the reasons for fast food's enduring popularity is the fact that no matter where you are, you know exactly what you'll be getting. A McDonald's cheeseburger tastes pretty much exactly the same in Sheboygan as it does in Milan, and for that reason tourists the world over often decide against sampling local specialties in favor of returning to the familiar and comfortable. But hiding inside your favorite fast-food dishes are some additives and ingredients that are neither familiar nor comfortable. We tracked down a bunch of them, so buckle up, because this is going to get interesting.

What's Really in Your Fast Food? (Slideshow)

The problem with fast food is the fact that it needs to be produced as cheaply as possible, as quickly as possible, with as much consistency as possible. It also needs to taste delicious, and keep you coming back for more. In order to succeed on all these fronts, in many cases that means that these chains can't rely entirely on fresh, wholesome ingredients. While chains hype the freshness of their lettuce and tomatoes in expensive ad campaigns, that's pretty much all they can hype: just about everything else you're consuming is about as processed and chemical-laden as it gets.

Don't get us wrong — we're sure that fast-food chains out there are doing their best to present a healthy face to the world, but the fact of the matter is that chemical use is unavoidable. For example, you'd be hard-pressed to find a fry-o-lator that doesn't contain dimethylpolysiloxane — one of the main ingredients in Silly Putty — because it's the best way to keep the oil from foaming. And if you think that one burger comes from one cow, well, isn't that quaint: A 1998 study found that one 4-ounce patty could contain meat from more than 1,000 cows (and don't forget about "pink slime," a fast-food burger mainstay that contains intestines, connective tissue, and other nasty stuff).

It should be fairly common sense by this point, but there's really no getting around the fact that no matter what you eat at a fast-food restaurant, it'll be not entirely natural, and certainly not entirely healthy. Click here to learn about some of the evils lurking inside your fast-food meal.