12 Fast Food Facts That Unsettled Our Stomachs

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Vote up the facts about fast food that come with a side order of surprise.

Burgers and fries and chicken, OH MY!

Whether you hit up the drive-thru or have it delivered, fast food is something you've likely had at least once - if not on a regular basis. Getting fast food is convenient, quick (per the name), and generally an easy option when you're on the go.

Like the snacks and staples we pick up at the grocery store, there's a lot about the preparation and presentation of fast food that goes on behind the scenes. Unusual ingredients appear in unlikely items, while promises made by our favorite restaurants may or may not actually be true. Even the backstories, slogans, and catchy jingles are full of surprises.

We found some facts about fast food that came with a heaping helping of the unexpected. Each one left us feeling uneasy in its own way -  how about you?

  • French Fries Have A Lot In Common With Condoms
    Photo: MichalPL / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    Polydimethylsiloxane is a common ingredient in condom lubricants. Often referred to as E900 or (PDMS), it's a simple silicon-based polymer and is in other consumer goods, too, including Silly Putty, skin and haircare products, and hydraulic fluid.

    PDMS functions as an anti-foaming agent, and this is how it becomes part of the French fry-making process. The chemical is added to fryers to prevent potentially dangerous splatter. According to a 2017 report from the European Centre for Ecotoxicology and Toxicology of Chemicals:

    Extensive environmental, animal and epidemiology studies have been conducted on PDMS. In all cases PDMS has been shown to pose little or no risk to the environment or human health.

    In 2018, a Japanese study claimed PDMS successfully aided in hair growth on mice. Despite these findings, there's no connection between eating fries and curing baldness.

  • Like many other fast food restaurants, KFC, formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, has been the subject of several lawsuits. In 2016, for example, a customer in New York sued KFC because the bucket of chicken she bought was only half full and didn't look like the "overflowing bucket of chicken" she saw in their commercial. Her lawsuit was dismissed, but in 2021, Erwin Sandi of Indonesia successfully negotiated an agreement with KFC after he pointed out how they'd misrepresented their chicken sandwich. 

    Legal disputes aside, going international hasn't always worked out well for Colonel Sanders's brainchild. With locations in nearly 150 countries and territories worldwide, KFC's famous slogan "finger lickin' good" can get lost in translation. In China, for example, the Mandarin translation equates to "eat your fingers off."

    As an additional note, when the chain changed its name to KFC, it didn't have anything to do with the content of its foods, despite rumors to the contrary. The new moniker came after the Commonwealth of Kentucky trademarked its name, which meant anyone using the word "Kentucky" would have to pay a licensing fee

  • Taco Bell was sued in 2011 because, according to claims, the fast-food chain's "seasoned beef" was anything but beef. When investigations found that it fell below the legal requirement to be sold as "beef," consumers and the general public learned that what Taco Bell put into its tacos, burritos, and the like was only 35% beef.

    The restaurant chain insisted its seasoned beef was 88% beef and, in the end, the lawsuit was withdrawn. Because the USDA only requires "taco fillings" to have 40% meat, Taco Bell's meat product with 35% beef wouldn't qualify, but its self-reported 88% one would. 

    As of 2022, Taco Bell's seasoned beef consists of

    Beef, water, seasoning [cellulose, chili pepper, maltodextrin, salt, oats, soy lecithin, spices, tomato powder, sugar, onion powder, citric acid, natural flavors (including smoke flavor), torula yeast, cocoa, disodium inosinate & guanylate, dextrose, lactic acid, modified corn starch], salt, sodium phosphates.

    Among those ingredients, cocoa is present to give the seasoned beef its color, but "doesn't add any flavor to our recipe." 

  • Wendy's is one of the few fast food chains to offer chili, and it's one of the restaurant's signature foods, alongside baked potatoes and Frosties. The chili at Wendy's includes common ingredients like beans, spices, tomato products, and meat, but it also contains silicon dioxide. 

    An anti-caking agent added to the chili to keep it from clumping, silicon dioxide - also called silica - is a major component in sand. In terms of being a food additive, it's also present in some coffee creamers, seasonings, baking powder, and confectioner's sugar. Naturally occurring silica, on the other hand, shows up in leafy green vegetables, oats, and bananas.

  • IHOP - originally the International House of Pancakes - is known for... well... pancakes. Proof of this is found in the name and attempts to change it. When IHOP rebranded in 2018, the restaurant chain allegedly transitioned to IHOB, or "International House of Burgers," but quickly returned to its original moniker. IHOP maintains it was just a publicity stunt, and insists it worked.

    Of course, pancakes aren't the only items on the menu, but they do show up in some unexpected places. IHOP adds "a splash of our famous buttermilk & wheat pancake batter" to its omelets and breakfast burritos and bowls to give them some extra fluffiness.

    Omelets range from big steak and chicken options to build-your-own, while breakfast bowls and burritos include scrambled eggs. When it comes to the eggs themselves, IHOP lets customers choose between egg whites and the "standard" option, the latter of which gets you to the pancake batter-infused egg blend. 

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    Hawaiian Pizza Is Actually Greek-Canadian Pizza

    Hawaiian pizza isn't Hawaiian; it and was actually invented by a Greek immigrant living in Canada. While this isn't especially problematic in terms of whether or not Hawaiian pizza is edible, it does shake up what is commonly assumed to be the origin of the pineapple-topped pie.

    Sam Panopoulos arrived in Canada in 1954 and opened several restaurants with his brothers in Ontario. He and his siblings offered burgers and pizza and, on a whim, decided to experiment with the latter.

    According to Panopoulos, in 1962, they put canned pineapple on pizza "just for the fun of it, [to] see how it was going to taste." The brothers liked it, offered it to customers, and within a "couple of months...we put it on the menu." When it came time to name their creation, they went with "The Hawaiian" because that was the brand of pineapple they used. 

    Hawaiian pizza is one surrounded by controversy, so much so that Iceland's president called for pineapple to be banned from pizza in 2017. Hawaiians, for their part, reject assumptions that Hawaiian cuisine simply involves throwing pineapple onto some food. Chef Alan Wong explained

    People all over the world don’t really know what we eat in modern-day Hawaiʻi... They think that we eat pineapples on pizza or burgers and they call it Hawaiian. Nothing can be more wrong.... We really don’t eat pineapples like that... Hawaiʻi is so much more than that, with a great food history.