Friday, 2 August 2013

Jamie Oliver and McDonalds exposed

I mentioned in a recent post that I had a whole host of food related posts I could write, and have started to write then binned because they turned into rants... This is one that is close to my heart - courtesy of a Facebook post that just popped up on my feed close on the heels of a huge protest that is currently underway in a small country town in Australia called Tecoma to prevent a McDonalds being opened there - right opposite their kindergarten, when there is one five minutes drive away already...

Here's the text that accompanied the photo on Facebook, for those readers who aren't on Facebook (I actually do know people who aren't!!):
Hamburger chef Jamie Oliver has just won a battle against one of the largest fast food chains in the world. After Oliver showed how McDonald’s hamburgers are made, the franchise announced it will change its recipe.

According to Oliver, the fatty parts of beef are “washed” in ammonium hydroxide and used in the filling of the burger. Before this process, according to the presenter, the food is deemed unfit for human consumption.

According to the chef and presenter, Jamie Oliver, who has undertaken a war against the fast food industry: “Basically, we’re taking a product that would be sold in the cheapest way for dogs, and after this process, is being given to human beings.”

Besides the low quality of the meat, the ammonium hydroxide is harmful to health. Oliver calls it “the pink slime process.”

“Why would any sensible human being put meat filled with ammonia in the mouths of their children?” asked the chef, who wages a war against the fast food industry.

In one of his initiatives, Oliver demonstrates to children how nuggets are made. After selecting the best parts of the chicken, the remains (fat, skin and internal organs) are processed for these fried foods.

The company, Arcos Dorados, the franchise manager in Latin America, said such a procedure is not practiced in the region. The same applies to the product in Ireland and the UK, where they use meat from local suppliers.

In the United States, Burger King and Taco Bell had already abandoned the use of ammonia in their products. The food industry uses ammonium hydroxide as an anti-microbial agent in meats, which has allowed McDonald’s to use otherwise “inedible meat.”

Even more disturbing is that because ammonium hydroxide is considered part of the “component in a production procedure” by the USDA, consumers may not know when the chemical is in their food.

On the official website of McDonald’s, the company claims that their meat is cheap because, while serving many people every day, they are able to buy from their suppliers at a lower price, and offer the best quality products.

In addition, the franchise denied that the decision to change the recipe is related to Jamie Oliver’s campaign. On the site, McDonald’s has admitted that they have abandoned the beef filler from its burger patties.
When No.1 was very small, I started a massive brainwashing campaign against the fast food chains. Every time we drove past a McDonalds, Hungry Jacks or KFC, I'd growl something along the lines of, "Yuuuuuck, McDonalds!" in a funny voice, and full of giggles, No.1 would join in. As he grew older, it became totally normal to just bypass them. We made burgers at home. I created my own (KOFC - Kaz Oven-Fried Chicken) with my own 'secret' blend of herbs and spices and crunchy little potatoes - recipe HERE - and once in a blue moon, for a special treat we got real fish and chips wrapped in paper, just like when I was a kid.

And then my mother hijacked the brainwashing campaign... She had No.1 for the afternoon one day and dropped into the garden nursery where she worked for something, with a McDonalds right next door. Because it was getting late, and they'd been running around all afternoon, she dashed in there and bought No.1 a small fries - and he made the fatal discovery, at age four, that 'Yucky MacDonalds' had CHIPPIES!!! I cannot emphasise just how betrayed I felt - by my own mother at that, who forswore all junk food when we were kids... And so, the battles began, and increased when No.2 was getting old enough to join in - memorable moment, someone having begun this by giving him a sip of Coke without my knowledge when he was just barely toddling, when he planted himself in the middle of the living room when we had friends over (who had brought Coke), raised his finger in the air and, through gritted teeth forced out, in a strangled tone, "I NEED Coke!!". He was three at the time, and hugely hypersensitive to caffeine... The incident had its amusing side, but it really wasn't funny. 

So, back to McDonalds. If we look at the spread of these chains across the country, it's insidious what is happening to our food culture. They say they don't do this, but they are targeting lower socio-economic areas and offering deals that are quick and cheap, adding to a cycle of poor nutrition and life long health issues for many lower income families. I live in an affluent area of Sydney, and apart from our local mall fifteen minutes away, you do have to drive some distance to find outlets... Head west or south, however, and they get closer and closer together. It's pretty obvious, regardless of what they say. The case in Tecoma is another instance - when there's an outlet already five minutes drive from the town, WHY is there a need to open one there? Especially when the town council and the whole town's population have been fighting against it for two years now. No doubt they have sundry small businesses who are already providing them with take away options, and providing local employment as well. And clearly, the good people of Tecoma just don't want this particular food option to be so easily available to their children.

These chains may well provide our young people with employment opportunities - how many of us had our first jobs at one of them, after all - and that's all well and good. However, at what cost to the health of our children? Obesity is becoming an enormous issue in this country. What we need to do is campaign for sustainable, affordable FRESH foods, and go back to eating simply and well, as our grandparents did. If the bread we buy from the supermarket can stay soft and fresh in its plastic bag for up to a week, then there is stuff in that bread that I don't want in my body, because bread that is made from flour, water, yeast and salt (which is all that actually should be in bread) goes hard and dry in a day or so - and then you make panzanella (Italian bread and tomato salad) or breadcrumbs to freeze and coat your next batch of schnitzels with, or whatever... 

Likewise, if McDonalds, to maintain their bottom line, are prepared to manufacture their meat products out of the scraps that would usually be ruled out for human consumption, using toxic chemicals to make the end product look like real have to ask yourself if that is what you want going into your bodies, or your children's, or your grandchildren's? I know I don't. And thankfully, the brainwashing had its effect. Neither of my boys are big fans of the chains, and when he left home and set up on his own, one of No.2's first recipe requests was for the crunchy chicken drumsticks, which he makes regularly, and which still feature frequently on the menu here at home.


  1. Oh, so right! I was raised on this stuff, and raised my kids on it, just because it's so easy! This was back in the day when consumers didn't have to be told anything, and had I or my folks before me had any sort of information, I might not look like a less distinguished Sebastian Cabot today.

    We place great importance on teaching our children to read, write, and do some figgerin'. Maybe the best education we could provide in terms of length and quality of life would be to show detailed videos, or even in-classroom demos, with all the attendant smells, of how this stuff is made; most kids don't want to eat things with chicken beaks and mouse tails sticking out of the bun...

    Spot-on, as always.

    1. Morning Jack!

      You're spot on too - it IS about education. If people aren't informed, they can't make informed choices...and the current trend here - don't know what's happening in the States on this one - is that they've added 'healthy' options... Salads and stuff. Now, because I don't go into the place, I've no idea what they're actually like, but past experience teaches me that what you see in the shiny ads on TV is NOT what comes out in the little boxes, so I am not so sure that the new 'healthy' options are going to be much better.

      The other day, when we were picking up some stuff at our fruit and veg shop, I was absolutely charmed at the checkout when the lady in the next isle to us pulled up her trolley, started unloading onto the checkout counter, and apologised to the staff because her not quite - by the size of him - one year old had 'stolen' an apple! There he sat, blissfully sticky, gnawing away on an apple he couldn't close his little hands around. REAL food. Good moment!

    2. Most of the ones here have added some salads and Oriental foods. The OF's are basically a bowl of rice with a few vegetables on top, probably healthy enough. The salads are green salads, lettuce, onion, tomato, you know, all the basics, but they come with a dressing that gives them their "theme" (southwest, chef's, etc.), and a packet of chips, or crisps I guess over there, in place of the usual croutons, and all this jazz can add close to a thousand calories to a so-called "healthy" choice.

      Wow, an apple? I don't think there's an American kid who knows what an apple is, unless there are some apple-flavored crisps I haven't seen out there...

    3. It's always the add ons...and the 'upsizes' - and they're counting on that up-sell to continue making their profits.

      That kid was SO cute - the apple was huge - he was basically having to hold it against his face to not drop it because his hands were too little to hold it properly. His mother is on the right track!

  2. We had to drop into McD's a few weeks back for a family member to pee. As the rest of us waited in the car we were disappointed to see so many families, their children in sporting uniforms, going in for a post-game meal/snack. The irony was staggering. (It was a Friday night - post Netball. We were on our way home from The Fringe.)

    1. Different strokes, huh? Can't help seeing the irony though, all that healthy exercise cancelled out by ingesting all those nasty chemicals and too much fat, salt and sugar...

      Knowing from your blog what you guys are doing, I know I'm preaching to the choir, but how hard is it REALLY to plan meals and snacks ahead? My parents both worked while I was at school, we lived in the country and the only actual fast food was the fish and chip shop and a single rotisserie chicken shop in our small country town. There wasn't a lot of money, so our food was always simple and fresh, but we never went without. It CAN be done. And if the kids are part of the process they can learn to be proactive on their own behalves too...