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March 27, 2014

Dear McDonalds: I’m McLeavin’ You. ~ Joni Biesemeier Kalstrup

shows the mcdonalds in USA

I’m not much of a junk-food junkie, yet there I was, guilty of stopping at McDonald’s at least once a week.

If not for a vanilla shake for my son, then for a coffee (three creams) for me. Or, every once in a while, a hankering for a burger and fries (always the small size, as if it makes my capitulation any better…) and maybe a Diet Coke. In the summer, an ice cream cone is a nice treat when the day has been long and brutal.

Oh my god, I totally support this place and allow it, in the soft acceptance, the belief that it doesn’t make up the majority of my meals. This has got to stop.

My connection with MickeyD’s is an emotional thread that runs deep and long. It was my first sign of freedom: fourth grade and allowed to walk eight blocks to McDonald’s to get a meal for under $2, then stop at Snyder’s Drug Store and pick up Young ‘n Loving Teen and Seventeen. Coming of age, my not-so-secret treat was McDonald’s. Even then, when Ronald McDonald was still the kinda creepy spokesperson, I was eating a happy meal, and I was lovin’ it.

McDonald’s has prospered because it’s mainlining my emotional state; feeding its bottom line, and validating my “feeling happy.”

Knowing that I’ve just declared quits with a behemoth, I mapped out how many times I passed a McDonald’s today, how many times daily I’m nudged with ease and convenience. I didn’t take the same route to work as I did home. I counted a total of seven—there might have been more.

Then I searched for a map of McDonald’s locations in the US—the result was a seductive glowing amber, outlining the shape of the United States, showing how I am always moments away from a McDonald’s. One thing I can count on from this burger chain, it will never abandon me and I will always feel taken care of.

And it’s not only out in the world, it has infiltrated my house. My “I Love Lucy” kitchen has a nostalgic feel, partly from the ceramic yellow tile that’s original to this sentimental 1940’s house—local legend says they are from the original McDonald’s, and that the owner of the house was friends with Ray Kroch.

Note to self: my kitchen and the McDonald’s kitchen need to be two very different entities. I’m not even going to get into the corn syrup in the buns and the ketchup, or alarm with the probability of GMO used products. It’s these soft ways that I give in, that I think just this once…

McLeavin’ Reason One:
It’s not food. Let’s be real. If there are ongoing experiments showing Happy Meals and burgers that are 14 years old (and older) and they look as “fresh” as the meal you can order today—meaning, they don’t have a speck of decomposition going on—that’s your first clue.

No mold? This is fake food. Bugs not touching it? You shouldn’t either.

McLeavin’ Reason Two:
What do you call a product that is made from “White Boneless Chicken”? (This is a trick question, as this is not the same as “White Meat from a Chicken”). The Chicken McNugget contains fat, nerve, connective tissue, ground bone, skin and internal organs + ammonium hydrate to kill any germs and ensure it’s OK for human consumption.

And consider that deep frying chicken probably defeats the whole reason for choosing White Meat. This is topped off with autolyzed yeast extract, which is similar to MSG, an artificial sweetener that has been linked to obesity and other health conditions.

McLeavin’ Reason Three:
Although there wasn’t any media hoopla about it (I guess McDonald’s has deep pockets and strong connections), chef Jamie Oliver won his long-fought legal battle after he showed that their burgers are not “all beef patties”, but rather were made with pink slime.

The fatty parts of the beef are “washed” in ammonium hydroxide and used in the filling of the burger. Before this process the food is deemed unfit for human consumption. Besides the low quality of the meat, the ammonium hydroxide is harmful to health. (Note: this process is used in 70 percent of ground beef in the US but doesn’t require inclusion on ingredient lists because it’s consider a process.)

The vast majority of fast food beef comes from CAFO (concentrated agricultural feeding operation) cattle. To keep the animals healthy in this overpopulated area means you’ll most likely be getting a mouth full of antibiotics, hormones and dangerous bacteria.

Since the lawsuit with Oliver, McDonald’s has said that they no longer use this process in preparing their hamburgers (Note: chicken isn’t mentioned here, so I’m going to assume they’re using the same terrible process there). Now, in early January McDonald’s has promised to look for sustainable beef starting in 2016.

Watch out for what is not being said. At this point no one knows what “sustainable beef” is, and when their whole menu would be from this type of beef. In the meantime, know that it’s CAFO beef, which are fed food that isn’t indigenous to cattle—they prefer grass, not corn and soy.

McLeavin’ Reason Four:
The best thing about McDonald’s was putting a salty, hot and crisp French fry in my mouth. As a child, I played with Silly Putty, and probably put the rubbery substance in my mouth, but I don’t recall eating it intentionally. McDonald’s French fries contain Silly Putty, which has the chemical name Dimethylsiloxane.

So, maybe Silly Putty isn’t that bad, but this quickly goes from bad to worse: this anti-foaming ingredient is permitted to use formaldehyde in it as a preservative, and the formaldehyde doesn’t need to be listed on the ingredient list. Formaldehyde can cause MS, Alzheimer’s, cancer, asthma and other tragic issues.

This is no longer just “a moment on the lips, forever on the hips” light, fun mantra; this is a serious health issue.

McLeavin’ Reason Five:
The fountain drinks also contain dimethylsiloxane—it’s found in Diet Coke, Diet Dr. Pepper, Dr. Pepper and Fanta beverages. The diet beverages also contain aspartame, which breaks down into formaldehyde. Formaldehyde in your body? Poison. Formaldehyde in a growing child? Even worse. Oh, and did I mention that plastic straw I chew on, full of petrochemicals?

McLeavin’ Reason Six:
McDonald’s salads only make up 2-3% of their sales, so if I tell you I’m going to get a salad, I’m probably lying. When I do get their salads the MAP (modified atmosphere packaging) is evident—the lettuce is dull colored and flavorless. I don’t like prepackaged salads at the grocery store, and I don’t like them here.

If eating uninspired food were the only problem, McDonald’s salads contain cilantro lime glaze and an orange glaze. Within the glaze lies propylene glycol — a chemical that is not legal to use in cat food because its safety has not yet been proven. In addition, propylene glycol is also used ”as the killing and preserving agent in pitfall traps, usually used to capture ground beetles.”

McLeavin’ Reason Seven:
McDonald’s, like other fast food companies, has started using polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters (PAPs) to coat the wrappers they use to help prevent the food from getting soggy from the grease used in cooking. The chemical also causes changes in cholesterol levels, alters sex hormones, and produces tumors, retards brain development, and infant death in animal studies.

When my sons were old enough to recognize the magical “M” and point and say “McDonald’s” I was chagrined—their brand recognition indicating that I had taken them there perhaps too many times. They didn’t crave the food, rather it was the toy in the Happy Meal and the Play Place where they could romp around for hours while I kicked back. I could flick through my phone, gab with a fellow mom or just chill. These are the moments that began their love affair with McDonald’s and now I’m here to break it off.

So, McDonald’s, in the name of health and sanity, for me and for my family, I’m McLeavin’ you.

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Editorial Assistant: Jess Sheppard / Editor: Renée Picard

Photos: courtesy of author, Wikimedia

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