McDonald’s is rolling out a cleaner version of its popular Chicken McNuggets, but critics are skeptical the updated menu favorite will be as healthy as advertised.
The fast food giant promises the new nuggets offer an uncomplicated recipe free of artificial preservatives, according to the business website Crain’s, which was first to report details on the menu shakeup. The company hopes a simplified ingredients list, which includes lemon juice and rice starch, will be more easily identifiable by increasingly health conscience consumers.
McDonald’s says the new nuggets are “are made with a simpler recipe that parents can feel good about while keeping the same great taste they know and love.” The item is currently being tested in approximately 140 restaurants located in Washington state and Oregon.
“Famous taste, hooray! Artificial preservatives, no way!,” a post on a Facebook page belonging to a McDonald’s location in Portland, Oregon boasts.
However, critics say “there’s less than meets the eye” about the cleaner McNugget after McDonald’s declined to provide a complete list of overhauled ingredients.
“The Chicken McNugget is and will almost certainly remain mostly chicken, food starch, water, white flour, and salt, deep fried in oil,” said Center for Science in the Public Interest president Michael F. Jacobson.
CSPI, a leading consumer advocacy group focused on health and nutrition, is also raising concerns about a preservative found in frying oil, but not in the actual nugget. Tert-Butylhydroquinone, commonly known as TBHQ, has been linked to an increased risk of cancer among rats in a government study.
“If the company is getting rid of TBHQ, that would be a step forward,” Jacobson said. “But if McDonald’s were to cut half of the sodium in McNuggets, that would better justify breathless headlines that claim this product is ‘healthier.’”
The original Chicken McNugget recipe contains 900 milligrams of sodium per 10-piece order, which is nearly 40 percent of the daily recommended intake.
Feedback for the revamped nuggets has been positive thus far and the company is reportedly eyeing a national rollout prior to the start of the Rio Olympics in August. However, a McDonald’s spokesperson says there is no announcement pending.