Do You Really Know What’s In Fast-Food Fries?

Have you ever wondered what’s actually is added to your local fast-food chain fries? Last week, I came across a great article in Wired magazine article that gave me some great insight into this subject. Let’s take a quick look.

Before making a batch of fries, it’s important to choose the right kind of potato, and the Russet Burbank is far and away the number one choice. First, the potatoes are blanched and then doused with a dextrose sugar solution in order to restore some of the flavor lost during the blanching process. Dextrose is a very high-glycemic carb that is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream, spiking blood sugar levels.

Next, to prevent the spuds from turning too brown or black with deep-frying, sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP) is added to make sure the fries stay golden brown. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says this is safe to consume, in a laboratory setting SAPP is hazardous to the skin and eyes upon contact, inhalation or ingestion, and can even cause severe inflammation. It’s also a rich source of excess phosphorus, which when heavily consumed can contribute to osteoporosis.

Next, the fries undergo there first round of deep-frying at the warehouse, using a combination of vegetable oils (canola, soy, hydrolyzed soy bean oil), and most likely the genetically modified type (GMO). Ironically, the fast food industry used to use beef tallow (a much healthier option) but the low-fat craze of the 1980s forced them to convert over to vegetable oil, thinking it was the healthier option. To replace the missing taste, an artificial beef flavoring is added that contains gluten and milk proteins, two common food allergens. (I am not sure about you, but I prefer only potato in my fries, no need for wheat and dairy fillers!)

Once the fries make it to the storefront, there is a second round of deep-frying with corn oil, rich in TBHQ (tert butylhydroquione) that is highly reactive (leads to free radical damage) and has been shown to cause stomach ulcers in rats. Not good. Even worse, these vats of frying oil tend to sit around for quite some time, adding to the oxidation of already unhealthy fats, making them more damaging to your health.

Finally, add salt and your French fries are ready to be served! (Not sure about you, but I am not exactly craving a serving of these fries anytime soon… or ever in my lifetime for that matter!)

So, what should you do if you want to enjoy some fries from time to time? Are you simply out of luck? I would stick with local restaurants or food trucks where the kitchen staff actually peels the potato, deep-fries it on the spot, and then serves it up to you minutes later. This will minimize the negative health impacts and let you enjoy the occasional treat.

Have a great weekend!

Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CSCS



1)    Wired Magazine, July 2014.