Yes, There’s Wood Pulp in Burgers…Here’s Why I Think it Matters

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 12.39.06 PMOn Monday, Quartz published an article by Devin Cohen titled, There is a Secret Ingredient in Your Burgers: Wood Pulp. Given the headline and people’s already present suspicion regarding all of the shady and potentially dangerous ingredients hidden in food items, the article gained a lot of traction. In subsequent days, most journalists and bloggers have focused on the dangers of this additive (unclear) and whether or not it is pervasive throughout the food chain as opposed to just fast food (it appears to be).

The one angle that has not been explored as much is the overall trend. Let’s go ahead and assume that wood pulp is a safe thing to consume, it certainly seems to have no nutritional value whatsoever. So why are companies inserting it into food items? To mask inflation and earn more profits most likely. This was a major theme I focused on last year in a series of pieces on stealth inflation and food fraud, a couple of which can be read below:

New Study Shows 59% of “Tuna” Sold in the U.S. Isn’t Tuna

New Study Shows: Food Fraud Soared 60% Last Year

The Quartz article notes that:

There may be more fiber in your food than you realized. Burger King, McDonald’s and other fast food companies list in the ingredients of several of their foods, microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) or “powdered cellulose” as components of their menu items. Or, in plain English, wood pulp.

The emulsion-stabilizing, cling-improving, anti-caking substance operates under multiple aliases, ranging from powdered cellulose to cellulose powder to methylcellulose to cellulose gum. The entrance of this non-absorbable fiber into fast food ingredients has been stealthy, yet widespread: The compound can now be found in buns, cheeses, sauces, cakes, shakes, rolls, fries, onion rings, smoothies, meats—basically everything.

The cost effectiveness of this filler has pushed many chains to use progressively less chicken in their “chicken” and cream in their “ice cream.” 

This is the part that really interests me. When did these companies first introduce this substance into their products and what is the growth trend? My guess is that as food costs have risen, the proportion of non-nutritonal fillers has increased substantially. That said, I’d like to see some data and I haven’t yet.

My big takeaway here is the same as last year’s when I first started writing about the trend. As the cost of food continues to rise, the cost of not paying attention to what you are eating rises exponentially. Companies will continue to try to mask inflation by shrinking package sizes, and when that is no longer possible, increasingly inserting empty fillers (or worse) into their products.

Meanwhile, the following video is a telling spoof on the ingredients in McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.

On a related note, if you haven’t read my recent post on BPA, definitely take the time: National Geographic Reports – Chemicals Causing Infertility in Pigs are Present Throughout Human Consumer Goods.

Bon Appétit.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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20 Comments

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  1. Been happening for years. AKA The Incredible Shrinking Candy Bar. Here’s an article from ’08 that says “It’s been happening for years, and it’s not going away.”

    Read more: http://www.foodchannel.com/articles/article/the-incredible-shrinking-candy-bar/#ixzz36L4uWUYV

  2. And then there’s “meat glue”.

    • Well, the inventor of the fake egg has applied for a patent in China so that we can benefit from cruelty free egg analogue. You see, you can put lipstick on a pig and call it beautiful.

  3. Wow…interesting how they can still make it taste delicious.

  4. Last time when in a moment of weakness I bought Burger King, I commented to my wife that the texture of the patty was like sawdust – swore off the crap forever. There is an easy answer, just do what the Koch Bros or Monsanto family would do – eat kosher, you don’t think they eat their crap do you? Besides, the big earner in the Fartune 500 is Big Pharma – a sick society is a profitable one for them. Eat kosher and drink yerba mate every day.

    • I looked through the groceries in my local Wal-Mart a year or two ago, and over 70% of food on the shelves was “kosher”(or ‘RITUALLY fit for slaughter’). Dig into that crap one time. It’s a whole other side to a lot more than just good conspiracy…also, I’d like to add that the kosher food isn’t much better for you than non-kosher. I think what you probably meant was to eat “organic”. The two words don’t even come close to mean the same thing..at least here in America, anyways…

    • Its known as the Kosher tax. Look at aluminum foil, saran wrap, and a whole host of other things that have nothing to do with slaughter, yet carry a kosher branding. Its just another way to separate us from our money. Then, again, since so many wars are started to steal others’ resources, maybe thats where the Kosher tax is applied in the course of ritual slaughter (of innocents).

  5. OMG, I din’t know fast food was crappy… oh wait

  6. Now that Burger King has the ‘Gay Pride Whopper’ it makes sense they want ‘wood’ in it.

  7. soylent green is coming to your local mcdonalds soon.

  8. There’s a simple solution to indigestible wood pulp in your food: just add fresh, raw termites to your diet to introduce their cellulose-digesting gut bacteria to your intestines. Mmmmm! Problem solved! Also, we have here a new profit potential in the probiotics market….. termite-gut bacteria yogurt.

  9. Wow -what an ignorant article -do the morons writing this stuff have any knowledge ,education or even bother typing mcc into a search before flatulating out their “opinion”. Mcc has been in the food industry for over 40 years and has hundreds of uses -very few are about adding bulk-mostly texture and viscosity. Mcc is a high tech processed product -it is a very light product that binds well with water and fats {elimination without digestion}and is in a high number of vitamins and nutritional drinks. Please do some basic inquiry before writing trash articles to fill space. Food Science & Nutrition 40 + years experience.

    • So… wood pulp is good for you then? ;)

      Are you serious? Why would anyone eat a tree?

      Just because MCC is used as a bulking agent in medication doesn’t automagically confer nutritional benefits.

      But, I would love to hear about the wonderful health benefits of wood pulp. You know more than most, so please, do enlighten us. (I mean that quite literally. I want to know. I’m not being sarcastic.)

    • Yep – and they used to put Potassium Aluminum Sulphate in pickles to keep ‘em crispy, and we all know what crap goes in Margarine, and that GM Canola will destroy your eyesight, and Aspartame is Formaldehyde in disguise and…

      For the Consumer

      Applies to methylcellulose: powder, powder packets, tablets

      Check with your doctor if any of these most COMMON side effects persist or become bothersome:

      Abdominal fullness.

      Seek medical attention right away if any of these SEVERE side effects occur while taking methylcellulose:

      Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); chest pain; difficulty swallowing; nausea; rectal bleeding; stomach pain; vomiting.

  10. @ Robert,

    Does the moose meat I get from the woods need Mcc mixed in before I eat it?

    ‘nough said.

    I don’t even need a highly coveted degree in Food Science & Nutrition to know that – which is why I pursued a lucrative career in Art History.

  11. A former CIA agent, who helped 66 countries to set up open sourcing, said the United States and Great Britain now have all the major precursors to a revolt.

  12. Oh Robert I am so impressed with your 40 years in the food nutrition business. You f*****s have been poisoning people with ignorant advice of low fat, heart healthy carb s**t causing massive heart, obesity, diabetes issues that have enriched large food, pharmaceutical, and health care corporations and the politicians who took their contributions and the vulturous 1% who made billions out of poisoning us. You worthless brainless maggot. You took in all that education without an ounce of critical thinking about whether what you read or heard was actually right. Get healthy, eat Paleo. Know where your food comes from.

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