Why Does The UK Get Healthier McNuggets Than We Do?

When one thinks of British cuisine — bangers and mash, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie — one doesn’t necessarily think of health food. But, at least when it comes to McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, our funny-speaking friends across the Atlantic are getting the less-caloric end of the deal.

According to some science performed by CNN:

American McNuggets (190 calories, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat for 4 pieces) contain the chemical preservative tBHQ, tertiary butylhydroquinone, a petroleum-based product. They also contain dimethylpolysiloxane, “an anti-foaming agent” also used in Silly Putty.

By contrast, British McNuggets (170 calories, 9 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat for 4 pieces) lists neither chemical among its ingredients.

McDonald’s says the UK McNuggets absorb less oil and have less fat because the chicken is cooked first and then coated, whereas stateside we coat the nuggets before cooking them.

As for the U.S.-only chemicals, a Golden Arches rep says dimethylpolysiloxane, which the World Health Organization says has no adverse health effects — is used to keep the oil from foaming during cooking.

Meanwhile, tBHQ is a preservative for vegetable oils and animal fats, which McDonald’s says is limited to .02% of the oil in the nugget. That’s good, because CNN says 1g of the stuff can cause “nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse.”

All McNuggets not created equal [CNN.com]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Alvis says:

    Well nobody likes foamy nuggets. I’d say the US wins here.

  2. backinpgh says:

    But the British McNuggets are probably all foamy!

  3. danmac says:

    Hmmm…I wonder if the English nuggets are the same size as the American ones…if that’s the case, I would be happy to get a slightly larger portion.

    • danmac says:

      Good lord was my last comment nebulous…I meant to say if our nuggets are bigger, I wouldn’t mind the slight increase in caloric information.

  4. Polish Engineer says:

    My wife says that the nuggets in the UK are even more disgusting than their counterparts here in the USA, which is hard to imagine.

    She described the UK nuggets as soggy lumps of chicken paste.

    Not that they are appetizing here, but that description just gives me a little bit of a gag.

  5. Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

    Now, are these the “White Meat” nuggets or pure “Chicken” nuggets or those mystery “Chicken Product” nuggets? I believe McD’s used each type at one time or another.

    • cbutler says:

      There is a BIG difference in “All White Meat” and low quality dark meat bleached white. Sort of like Hardees “Angus” burgers. There is Angus and Certified Angus. ;)

    • prizgrizbiz says:

      Parts is parts.

  6. Kilawat12 says:

    “That’s good, because CNN says 1g of the stuff can cause “nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse.” “

    Man, I have these symptoms every time i eat at Mac-shack

  7. mikeyo says:

    Maybe they are measured in British Imperial Calories instead of the American equivalent :)

  8. smo0 says:

    “Meanwhile, tBHQ is a preservative for vegetable oils and animal fats, which McDonald’s says is limited to .02% of the oil in the nugget. That’s good, because CNN says 1g of the stuff can cause “nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse.”

    That alone is reason enough as to why people shouldn’t eat this crap in the first place.

    • Polish Engineer says:

      Almost everything has negative health implications after a certain level of consumption.

      Aside from the feeling of suffocation, all of those effects can experienced after a few shots of Jager.

      I’m sure all preservatives, even those in food outside of McD’s, aren’t good for you in excess.

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        You can get the suffocation too, depending on where you fall after too many shots and how nice your friends are when you pass out.

  9. MaliBoo Radley says:

    McDonald’s is generally better in the UK. They use only local British beef, organic milk and free range eggs. You can also have oatmeal for breakfast. Quite different indeed.

    • Tim says:

      Local beef, organic milk and free-range eggs? [citation needed], big time.

      • MaliBoo Radley says:

        This is all from the http://www.mcdonalds.co.uk/ourfood/

        “* Our beef – no binders, no fillers, no additives – just 100% juicy beef made from whole cuts of forequarter and flank. * Sourced from over 16,000 British and Irish farms.”

        “All of the milk used in our restaurants is sourced from British and Irish farms and all our bottled milk is organic semi-skimmed.”

        “All of our raw ingredients – including our milk – have to meet exacting specifications; every detail of the supply chain, including transport, delivery and preparation is extensively monitored.”

        “All our bottles of milk are organic. The organic farmers who supply us don’t use GM feed and no artificial fertilizers are used on the grass that the cows graze on as part of their natural organic diet. “

        “Since the end of 2008 all of the eggs used across
        the entire menu are Free Range. We take great care
        to ensure that all of our free range eggs conform to
        the Lion Mark code of practice.”

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

          Well, given that free range eggs are full of more toxins than other eggs, they might soon be changing that policy, in order to stop slowly poisoning their customers…

          • NarcolepticGirl says:

            Wouldn’t the amount of toxins depend on the area (city/country) where the hens are?

          • MaliBoo Radley says:

            The only study I was able to find that spoke of this was one that had been done in Taiwan. I’d like to see that study redone in the US and UK. Otherwise, it’s down to the land they’re feeding on, rather than something that’s true of all free range eggs.

      • MaliBoo Radley says:

        This is the most complete source I can find.


    • Bakergirl says:

      When I visited Brittain, I had one of their ‘Beef Burgers’…..And It tasted like ass. It may be free ranged, but what are they feeding those cows? Chicken Nuggets?!

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Ewwwww. Free Range eggs? Do you know how unhealthy those are?!

    • Fair&Balanced says:

      organic milk and free range eggs???

      Organic milk is a gimic. It is no better for you than the regular milk.
      Free range makes no difference in the quality of chickens, but it just costs more.

      Paying more for organic gives you no benefit and many times is worse for you.
      All crops/cow feed need pesticides. They will use much worse “alll natural” pesticides over the much more human safe synthetic pesticides to stay organic.

  10. Tim says:

    The chicken is cooked first, then breaded? That sounds both disgusting and entirely unnecessary. And stupid.

  11. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I really hate those “XXXX, also used in XXXX” quotesi.e. “Formaldehyde, also used in embalming, is found in toothpaste”. With chemicals, much like everything else, quantity is the vital thing. It’s a really low trick for someone to use, and I believe it falls under the weasel word logical fallacy.

    • Sefford says:

      Maybe it’s because the idea that they hide the fact there are chemicals like this in the product in question is as repulsive as having them in there in the first place. It’s not really specious to assume that these chemicals are unhealthy in any dose, just (potentially) uninformed.

      • enalzi says:

        It’s not hidden at all:
        (Found by going to mcdonalds.co and searching for Chicken McNuggets.)

        Unless you mean, “hidden in that they don’t tell you every ingredient when you order them.”

        • Sefford says:

          Dude, do you think most people have the time or interest to read up on mickey d’s ingredients, but still may take an interest in what they’re eating? Look you aspergian cave dweller, it’s pretty simple to understand: keeping this tucked away in the background and expecting people to dig for it, then calling it “transparency” is not actual transparency. The chemical is mostly harmless in the way it is implemented, but this is not the case with many food additives.

          I hope you choke on a McNugget.

  12. dreamfish says:
    • Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

      As a ghey man, that product with the photo would greatly disturb me. Sorta like the reaction a bull might have to a nice package of Rocky Mountain Oysters.

  13. XianZomby says:

    “tBHQ, tertiary butylhydroquinone, a petroleum-based product. They also contain dimethylpolysiloxane, ‘an anti-foaming agent’ also used in Silly Putty”


    From Wikipedia: “PDMS (dimethylpolysiloxane ) is optically clear, and, in general, is considered to be inert, non-toxic and non-flammable.”

    Also from Wikipedia? This food additive is assigned “E number E900,” meaning it is also a food additive in the European Union.

    TBHQ, tertiary butylhydroquinone also has an E number: E319. Also approved in the European Union as a food additive.

    In fact, looking at the article, and looking at the Wikipedia pages, it’s clear the author used those pages for their article and cherry-picked the most sensational facts to present a case.


  14. Dallas_shopper says:

    I used to live in the UK and the McNuggets there do taste different. As in “better”.

    The portion size is the same in terms of number of McNuggets served, but I don’t know if the actual McNuggets themselves are smaller. Never gave it much thought.

  15. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    You can make Playdoh in your kitchen from flour, salt, and water. I realize that playdoh != silly putty, but my point is that things that are technically edible are used in products that generally aren’t eaten all the time.

  16. Emily says:

    I’m sure the Brits more than make up for it with the ingredients in fish and chips.

    • MaliBoo Radley says:

      Probably not. That’s a basic batter, fish, potato and oil. Now, when you get into the other things served in a Chippie, you might be right. Don’t me get started on the Saveloy sausage!

  17. Razor512 says:

    We’re Americans, we require more sophisticated chemicals in our food to be satisfied.

  18. pixiegirl says:

    ONe of the girls I work with was telling me she would never eat chicken nuggets because she saw how they were made on some news special on TV. Basically they mash up the chicken, bones and all to a nice fine pulp along with other ingredients. Then they squeeze the pulp into little nuggets and bread them. They even showed the video to kids so they could see how their favorite food was made, and surprisingly all of them still wanted to eat them after watching how they were made.

    • MaliBoo Radley says:

      I saw that. It looks like strawberry soft serve ice cream. Foul. But I suppose it’s no different from any sort of pate or seafood mousse.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      I saw that. Jamie Oliver did it: http://tv.gawker.com/5504493/jamie-oliver-confirms-american-children-are-doomed-to-be-fat-and-gross

      He basically lied to the children, and if you listen to the audio, you can hear a difference in his narration when he says that what he will do IS NOT the way they are made in America, but it IS the way it is done “back home”. Probably because they didn’t want to get sued, so they threw in the little disclaimer. It’s the reason I am upset with Jamie Oliver, for lying to kids. Because when you lie to kids, and they find out you are lying, they cease trusting you. From yours and the comment below me, it seems his intended message got through, even if the truth didn’t.

  19. sgmax2 says:

    It’s called “consumer protection agency.” Even our fish and chips are healthier than in the USA.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      Er, I dunno about that. I never had as much food poisoning anywhere as I had in the UK. They might manufacture it to be slightly less evil, but they can’t cook it to a safe temperature for shit.

      And it’s not like I kept going back to the same places that I got food poisoning from in the first place. I’d try different restaurants and end up yakking my dinner into the toilet and shitting foam. Once I stopped eating out almost entirely, that problem magically cleared up.

      So it’s not all rosy over there.

      Plus don’t even get me started on suet.

      • MaliBoo Radley says:

        I never had that problem in the UK. I ate out all the time and never got sick once. I guess you must have particularly sensitive tummy, I suppose.

      • NarcolepticGirl says:

        One of my best friends was in the UK for about 6 months. She also got food poisoning quite a bit, too. I think 3 times or so.

  20. elburto says:

    “When one thinks of British cuisine — bangers and mash, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie — one doesn’t necessarily think of health food.”

    Whereas when one thinks of America, one thinks of gastronomic delights such as deep-fried Coke, the Double Down, HFCS and pigs feet. Delicious and nutritious!

    Shepherd’s Pie is meat, veg and potatoes, hardly unhealthy. Fish is delicious and healthy, and we acknowledge that humans need fat to you know, live. Everything in moderation and all that.

    The commenter above is correct when she states that our McD’s uses a better range and quality of ingredients. I can find out which farm my burger came from, or my milk, we have healthier choices on all of the menus, and the taste difference shows the effort that’s gone into making their food tasty, but ethical. Fruit desserts at UK McD’s have real fruit, they’re made with sugar and milk instead of HFCS and dairy-replacement powder, and the chicken nuggets are made of real chicken not mechanically recovered gristle and mush.

    When we start having mass disease outbreaks here caused by fast food, like the e-coli and salmonella problems over the Pond, at least we’ll know which set of meats/veg/dairy products to stop shipping, I’m glad my burger doesn’t come from thousands of cows, I think my countrymen will agree.

  21. Levk says:

    Ummm… its fast food, when I go there I do not plan to eat healthy so really who ever cares about this should not even be eating in a fast food restaurant.

  22. consumerfan says:

    The reason? A backlash in the UK over preservatives. Marketing something as ‘No preservatives’ or ‘No E-Numbers’ promotes the idea of healthier food.

    And you have to have the anti-foaming agent because in the US, the nuggets are coated and then cooked. The coating includes raising agents which cause the foaming.
    In the UK, the nuggets are cooked before coating. No foaming so no anti-foaming agent needed.