Why You Can Shut Up About McRibs and Yoga Mats.
image courtesy McDonald's Can't you just taste the yoga mat?
Last year, food bloggers everywhere had a story that was literally on the tongues of many people in the country: A chemical used in the making of the McRib is also found in yoga mats. This is completely true. Azodicarbonamide is found in the ingredients listings for both the McRib and for soft, foamed plastic products including yoga mats and shoe soles.
Of course, a story like that took off like wildfire. It's an easily tangible connection. The McRib's pork patty has those rib-shaped bumps that suggest a bony presence not in your usual fast-food sandwich. It doesn't take much to imagine that the McRib's soft, springy texture is similar to a yoga mat. I'm sure people were making jokes about it long before the azodicarbonamide link. But, there are a couple of holes in this oft-repeated story.
First, the location of the McRib's not-so-secret ingredient isn't the meat. The shape of the pork patty is purely aesthetic. It's ribbed for diners' pleasure, if you will. A quick look at the ingredient list on McDonald's website will reveal that the McRib's patty is only pork, water, salt, dextrose (sugar), and preservatives.
The yoga mat ingredient is in the bun. Azodicarbonamide is commonly used to assist with gluten development (important for keeping a bun's structure stable), and provides a bleaching effect.
I said that azodicarbonamide is commonly used, but a more accurate description is that it's fucking everywhere. A quick scan of the McDonald's ingredient list showed that azodicarbonamide is in every single bun at McDonald's. They aren't the only ones using it. It's also in the buns at quite a few other fast-food places.
If you've had something on a bun at Wendy's, Burger King, Subway, Jack In The Box, Carl's Jr., or Arby's, then you've eaten a yoga mat ingredient. It's also in common burger bun brands, including Sara Lee, Oroweat, and goodness knows how many private-label store brands. And these are just the companies with ingredient lists readily available online.
There are a few ways to avoid it. A handful of fast-food places (including Culver's and Chick-fil-A) don't use it in their buns. You could also have burgers only at home, either making the buns yourself or shopping at an azodicarbonamide-free store (i.e. Whole Foods). You can move to Europe where it's been banned.
Or you can do as I've done, and just get over it.