The McDonald’s Corporation is a fixture in American life, and has been going back several decades.
But could the immense popularity of this corporation and its many imitators and spin-offs be a huge reason for the seriously threatening health outcomes in this country?
It’s a question we should all be asking ourselves, especially considering the vast purchasing power these and other fast food restaurants have, which ultimately shapes what our farmers grow.
While McDonald’s has made some notable improvements in recent years especially in regards to the quality of its chicken and by offering some healthier alterantives to staples like burgers and fries, the company (whose former president still serves on Monsanto’s board of directors) still has a long way to go.
And one of the biggest health risks on its menu may be its iconic golden fries, according to a video from author Michael Pollan (of the classic book ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma) that has gone viral.
Pollan Speaks on McDonald’s French Fries and Their Risk to Health
The video, which has been viewed over 5 million times on YouTube (see below) includes Pollan’s description of how McDonald’s french fries are really made, and how health risks from the pesticides they are doused in are treat with extreme caution by farmers.
After watching this, you’ll question whether to ever eat another McDonald’s french fry again:
Are Pollan’s Claims on McDonald’s French Fries Really True?
Since the release of the video, many have wondered about the truth behind Pollan’s claims. The highly respected food journalist’s assertions sent shockwaves across the food industry and led to a PR nightmare for McDonald’s especially considering how the popularity of its famous fries.
In response, a McDonald’s Canada rep issued the following statement as part of a ‘Our Food, Your Questions’ exchange: “Unfortunately, many statements that he makes in that video are not true. Monitor, is not legal for use in Canada (or most places in the world for that matter).”
They also issued a statement on the pesticides being used, which can be read in full here.
“These products are applied to the leaves of the plant and typically don’t reach the potatoes underground. In addition, fields cannot be harvested for a specified period of time after the application of pesticide and their levels must also be below the Maximum Residue Level regulated by the PMRA (Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency).”
McDonald’s USA does not feature any response on its website.
Unfortunately, many statements that he makes in that video are not true. Monitor, is not legal for use in Canada (or most places in the world for that matter).
These products are applied to the leaves of the plant and typically don’t reach the potatoes underground. In addition, fields cannot be harvested for a specified period of time after the application of pesticide and their levels must also be below the Maximum Residue Level regulated by the PMRA (Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency).
According to Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill University’s Office for Science & Society, it is true that farmers don’t go out into the fields after potatoes sprayed, but it’s considered to be “standard protocol after applying any pesticide.”
“Pollan’s notion about storing the potatoes for six weeks to off-gas toxins is bunk,” he says in a Montreal Gazette article. “Potatoes are routinely stored in large, atmosphere-controlled sheds because they have to be available year round. In any case, crops are monitored for pesticide residues, and all such found on potatoes are way below established tolerance levels. There may be reasons to stay away from McDonald’s fries, but they are not the ones highlighted in this alarmist video.”
Schwarcz states in the article that potatoes should be avoided for their “fat content, the high glycemic index, and the amount of salt added,” along with the formation of acrylamide, which is said to be carcinogenic (and is also found in potato chips).
But once again he is missing the elephant in the room, indirectly accusing Pollan of improper science because of his rightful concerns with the high amounts of damaging pesticides used.
The Problem with Pesticides in McDonald’s Non-Organic French Fries
While it is still not known exactly how much of this type of harsh pesticide is used on McDonald’s french fries in general, it’s safe to say that tons of pesticides are added to the potatoes used in the company’s signature fries, considering the vast amount of purchases they make for hungry customers and the lack of organic potato farms in the U.S.
Seeing that potatoes just made the EWG’s 2018 Dirty Dozen List for the second year in a row and were found to have the most pesticides by weight of any type of produce in 2016, it’s about time we start addressing the real issue and start pushing for a stronger organic presence in the potato industry.
And with three varieties of GMO potatoes finally on store shelves, it can be argued that the issue is more pressing than ever before.
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