American fast food is almost entirely made of corn
November 10, 2008
Study also shows that fast food restaurants are misleading consumers about the oils they use to cook their food products.
Using a stable isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen to determine the origin of molecules present in hamburgers, chicken, and fries, Hope Jahren and Rebecca Kraft found corn to be the almost exclusive food source of the beef and chicken served in fast food restaurants. The researchers also uncovered evidence to suggest that fast food restaurants are misleading consumers as to the oils used in preparing french fries and that animals slaughtered for production are kept in confined quarters, rather than outdoors.
"Fastfood corporations, although they constitute more than half the restaurants in the U.S. and sell more than 1 hundred billion dollars of food each year, oppose regulation of ingredient reporting," the authors write. "Ingredients matter for many reasons: U.S. corn agriculture has been criticized as environmentally unsustainable and conspicuously subsidized.
"Of 160 food products we purchased at Wendy's throughout the United States, not 1 item could be traced back to a noncorn source. Our work also identified corn feed as the overwhelming source of food for tissue growth, hence for beef and chicken meat, at fast food restaurants."
U.S. Corn production, 1950-2007
Making consumers aware of the source of their food is a critical first step to improving the American diet, say Jahren and Kraft.
"Our work highlights the absence of adequate consumer information necessary to facilitate an ongoing evaluation of the American diet," they conclude.
CITATION: A. Hope Jahren and Rebecca A. Kraft. Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in fastfood: Signatures of corn and confinement. PNAS Early Online Edition for the week of Nov. 10-14, 2008.
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