Junk Food Flip, which debuted on the Food Network last night, sees two celebrity chefs travel the US, eating a series of fatty meals and challenging restaurateurs with low-calorie alternatives. This reality series sets out to open eyes, correct myths and suggest a way forward for an industry synonymous with bad health, or worse, gross negligence.
Twelve years after Super Size Me and not much seems to have changed. Junk food is still junk food, human weakness is still human weakness, and while we all wait for another puke-worthy scandal to hit the public, here are some of the industry’s most heinous malpractices.
KFC gives young girl Salmonella, brain damage
At Villawood KFC in 2005, seven-year-old Monika Samaan ate a poisonous Chicken Twister. The tainted junk-wrap put her in a coma for six months, affected her ability to speak, and left her mostly confined to a wheelchair.
Seven years later, KFC was ordered to pay $8 million for effectively giving the then-12-year-old brain damage, which they then went on to appeal, denying any responsibility.
Taco Bell beef accused of containing 35% beef, 65% mystery
In 2011, an Alabama law firm filed a class-action lawsuit against the Mexican-ish chain, claiming they were misleading the public as to what’s actually in its beef. The suit insisted that Taco Bell used the “seasoned beef” label to hide the fact that questionable ingredients were used in the making of their Tacos. The USDA stipulates that to be considered beef, the stuff must contain at least 35% actual beef. Taco Bell was accused of using more oats and fillers than actual meat.
Taco Bell got on the defensive, releasing an ad campaign that casually addressed the concerns, and while the eventually revealed ingredients list read like the back of a shampoo bottle, the case was settled behind closed doors.
McDonald's McMeats accused of starting out as pink slime
Over the years, many a junk food franchise have been accused of using some version of pink slime, or “lean finely textured beef” in their products. McDonald's US were perhaps the biggest culprit of serving up LFTB. In 2011, the stomach-churning details went viral when Jamie Oliver denounced the practice on Food Revolution.
Basically, LFTB eventuates when fatty slaughterhouse offcuts are gathered, mixed, and put through a series of ghastly processes in order to create a standardised slime, which eventually resembles something like meat. One such process includes the use of ammonium hydroxide to get rid of all the fat from a largely fat-based cut, and filling what’s left with a bunch of other weird rubbish.
Oliver’s subsequent anti-ammonia campaign went down a treat, as less than a year after, McDonald’s USA announced they would stop using the slime in their meat products.
Macca’s fries are fine for vegetarians as long as they’re not really vegetarians
At the start of this millennium, the McDonald’s corporation came under fire after the revelation that their vegetarian-friendly fries were actually nothing of the kind. In a series of lawsuits, Macca’s was accused of frying fries and hash browns using vegetable oil spiked with beef essence.
The proof was in the batter. McDonald’s was backed into a corner and forced to address the situation, offering a public “apology” and “donating” $10 million US dollars to the (mostly Hindu) groups affected by the lie. Note well: while McDonald’s apologised for any confusion surrounding the beef flavouring, they maintain that the fries were never marketed as vegetarian. A backhanded apology if there ever was one.
Some fifteen years later, McDonald’s enlisted Mythbusters’ Grant Imahara to validate the list of ingredients used in their fries, a marketing ploy that ended up embarrassing for anyone even remotely involved.
Husi Food Company sells stale beef; cooks dirty meat
US food practices might be problematic, but they’ve got nothing on China. In 2014, meat processor Shanghai Husi Food Company provided meat to McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and China’s favourite, KFC - meat that just happened to be rotten.
China’s $1 trillion food manufacturing industry is barely regulated, which make Husi’s actions possible. Those actions included mixing old bags of stale meat with fresh meat, in order to cut production costs. And this wasn’t just a bit of filler – authorities seized 100 tonnes of the stuff.
Young man finds something’s brain inside a piece of something from KFC
In 2013, then 19-year-old student Ibrahim Langoo entered a KFC in the UK for a spot of chicken and left the place nauseated from almost eating battered brain. KFC insisted it was a wrinkled kidney, as if that made things better. With all these shonky processes implemented by the industry, who knows what sordid paths the mysterious organ travelled along in order to end up under the flaps of chicken skin?
These disgusting surprises often pop up in KFC meals, so often that some have questioned whether they cook with mutant chickens. Luckily, Langoo was compensated for his nausea with vouchers for more KFC chicken.
Nazi Germany invents Fanta
If Nazi Germany weren’t restricted by pesky allied sanctions, then we wouldn’t able to enjoy a Fanta in 2016 Australia. When German Coca-Cola bottling plants were unable to source the usual ingredients, they came up with a wartime alternative – an orange one.
While I know it’s tempting to blame Fanta for every atrocity committed by the Third Reich, let’s remember it’s just a drink, and all that Nazi stuff is in the past. Oh, except for last year when a 75th anniversary ad celebrating Fanta’s history assumed consumers wouldn’t make the link.
Kids visit Burger King to choke on Pokemon toys
In 1999, a Burger King promotional offer went south when a series of kids choked on “Poké Balls” – the little, spherical capsules that contained the actual toys. The seemingly harmless casings ended up killing a 13-month-old girl, and almost suffocating a long list of other American kids, and lead to one of the most costly product recalls in all of history. These incidents usually occurred when the casing opened while inside the child’s mouth.
Burger King eventually recalled 22.5 million balls still sitting in warehouses, though a voluntary recall of balls already with the customer saw only 500,000 returned.
Here’s the original ad that announced the recall:
Missed the first episode? Watch it right here: