8 Fast Food Chains With Questionable Quality Ingredients – Eat This Not That

Fast food restaurants in America have long been seen as serving mystery meat, unnatural flavors, chemicals and foods that do not occur naturally in nature (nuggets are not a natural cut of meat, for your information). In recent years, some pioneering chains have worked to change these perceptions by sourcing higher quality ingredients, avoiding harmful antibiotics and adopting a simple and fresh approach.

That’s all well and good, but not all fast food chains are Chipotle or Panera Bread. In fact, many still have lax policies on antibiotics in meat, and some haven’t even cleaned their packaging of toxic chemicals.

For many fast food restaurants, the question of quality rests largely on the meat. Far more than anything else, meat is the thing most likely to be laden with bad ingredients and/or come from factory farms, not to mention the whole moral issue of animal welfare. When it comes to discerning which fast food meat measures up, a great resource is the Chain Reaction Scorecard, a metric used by US Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) to assess giant fast food brands based on the use of antibiotics in their beef, and rates them on a scale from A (eg Chipotle) ​​to F (eg Burger King).

When deciding which fast food restaurant to order from, you might want to avoid those linked to mysterious chemicals you can’t even pronounce. Here’s a look at nine fast food chains with questionable quality ingredients.

And don’t miss 8 sandwich chains that use the highest quality ingredients.

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As America’s largest buyer of beef and the de facto model for other fast food companies, McDonald’s understandably operates under a giant magnifying glass. Sure, the company has made strides to become healthier in recent years, but it seems like every step forward is also followed by a few steps back.

Not only has the chain come under intense scrutiny for its animal welfare practices (or lack thereof), but it’s a brand that likes to use the term “natural flavor” in quotes, which doesn’t really matter. is never a good sign. The “natural beef flavor,” in particular, should raise red flags, especially when used in french fries and hash browns, menu items that are supposed to be vegetarian.

And in case that wasn’t enough, even the bags used to serve the fries were found to contain an alarming level of organic fluoride, a kind of “eternal chemical” that stays around for a long time and can contaminate soil, water, and air.

McDonald’s is also culpable when it comes to phthalates, a chemical found in the chain’s foods, which has been linked to reproductive health issues, as well as asthma and cognitive development problems. That doesn’t sound like a very happy meal at all.

dominoes pizza
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Pizza may not taste like cardboard anymore, but Domino’s still isn’t a beacon of quality food either. The world’s largest pizza chain seems to prioritize speed over nutrition – just one slice of some of its pies will send you into a sodium coma.

Aside from the salt, the pizza chain’s meat has also been found to contain excessive amounts of phthalates, which isn’t all that surprising considering it contains one of the worst grades of beef in the business. fast food in some ways.

Although he claims he will “switch to pork and beef from animals raised without the routine use of medically important antibiotics…once a sufficient supply of such pork and beef becomes available on the market American”, Domino’s always uses meat with antibiotics, and received an F rating in that department.

Taco Bell
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From hair gel-like beef and rehydrated ingredients to 100% cage-free egg sourcing, Taco Bell goes back and forth on a seesaw of public perception, oscillating between a good effort and a glaring omission.

The chain has a not-so-great mystery meat track record, at one point claiming its beef was “mostly beef” (which doesn’t seem like something to brag about). And while he managed to set the record straight by using 100% USDA-inspected beef, there are still some question marks.

For example, his beef contains phthalates. And despite a commitment to reduce the use of antibiotics in its meat by 2025, no public action has been taken to achieve this goal.

burger king restaurant exterior
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A bit late to the party when it comes to improving the quality of its food, Burger King only started banning artificial ingredients (including potentially harmful ones) in 2021.

Which might be too little too late when it comes to the all-important court of public opinion. An F rating on the Chain Reaction scorecard indicating lax antibiotic policies for its meat is definitely not a good look for a restaurant synonymous with burgers.

pizza shack

A few years ago, Pizza Hut probably wouldn’t make it on this list, given the company’s commitment to all-natural ingredients. But then it did the opposite and jumped off the all-natural bandwagon, quietly removing its healthier, cleaner menu options and reverting to mystery ingredients and chemicals – it’s yet another chain whose meat contains phthalates.

While it once looked like Pizza Hut was poised to be a food quality pioneer, the company now finds itself at the bottom of the barrel with an F on the Chain Reaction scoreboard and some of the most popular pizzas. more unhealthy than you can order.


When your signature sandwich happens to be made with some of the most basic meats around, that’s not a good sign.

Roast beef is at Arby’s like Big Macs are at McDonald’s, so the fact that a candid Arby’s employee said it’s something you should never order – given that it’s apparently a compressed block of leftover beef left to sit under a heat lamp – is cause for concern.

If the idea of ​​reheated leftover beef wasn’t triggering enough, consider the fact that his meat also got an F on the chain reaction scorecard. In fact, the company has no public policy on antibiotics.

dairy queen restaurant
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Technically, Dairy Queen’s frozen treats aren’t actually ice cream, which might sound terrifying. Don’t worry too much, though: This is mostly because Dairy Queen doesn’t use enough milkfat in its products to count, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

However, the list of what it uses in its “ice cream” – including corn syrup, mono and diglycerides, artificial flavor, guar gum, polysorbate 80 and carrageenan – is not really reassuring.

But it’s not just dairy products that should be of concern. The chain, which also serves many non-dessert dishes, apparently has such a shady reputation for the quality of its food that a county coroner literally had to pull out and debunk the rumor that Dairy Queen burgers were made of meat. human.

While the chain certainly isn’t catering to cannibals, its beef burgers are loaded with saturated fat and sodium, not to mention antibiotics.

kfc restaurant exterior

Turns out its blend of herbs and spices isn’t the only thing KFC wants to keep secret. For example, his high-calorie chicken contains nearly half the recommended daily sodium intake in a breast. Even salad dressings are sodium overload, and Beyond Meat Vegetarian Chicken is also surprisingly unhealthy!

Yes, committing to antibiotic-free chicken was a step in the right direction, but information about its suppliers has long been notoriously murky, and its animal welfare practices have rightly come under fire. Overall, despite some positive developments, KFC is the perfect example of a fast food chain with an unhealthy and sleazy reputation that is hard to shake.

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