Order a meal in any fast-food restaurant, and you’ll likely walk away with a sandwich, fries and a drink. If you had to identify the ingredients of this meal, you might list beef (or chicken), lettuce, tomato, cheese, ketchup, bread, potatoes and soda. Not complicated, right? Wrong.
Burger and chicken joints don’t think of the building blocks of a menu item as ingredients. They think of them as components, which are made of ingredients. For example, McDonald’s famous Big Mac jingle — “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun” — suggests the sandwich has seven components. Would you believe it has 67 ingredients?
Here’s the top half of the top ten:
10. Citric Acid: The Most Common Preservative
9. High-fructose Corn Syrup: The Most Common Sweetener
8. Caramel Color: The Most Common Color Additive
7. Salt: The Most Common Flavor or Spice
6. Monosodium Glutamate: The Most Common Flavor Enhancer