Silicone Surprise: The Unexpected Link Between Chick-fil-A and Breast Implants

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That classic Chick-fil-A taste you crave comes with a side of 55 ingredients, many unpronounceable and even more mysterious. A recent investigation by food activist Vani Hari, better known as Food Babe, reveals there's a lot more than just chicken tucked between those buttered buns - including dimethylpolysiloxane, a silicone-based chemical more commonly associated with breast implants than fast food.1

The Chick-fil-A Sandwich Ingredient Exposé: What Are You Really Eating?

Chick-fil-A has been satisfying America's chicken sandwich obsession since 1964, becoming the 3rd largest restaurant chain in the nation.2 Known for its simple menu, consistent quality, and friendly service, Chick-fil-A has garnered a devoted fan following. But have you ever stopped and wondered, in between those greedy bites of your favorite sandwich, just what exactly is in it?

Hari's investigation uncovered a whopping 55 ingredients packed into the seemingly straightforward Chick-fil-A classic sandwich.1 Some are what you'd expect - chicken, bun, pickle. But many others sound straight from a chemistry lab rather than grandma's kitchen. Let's break it down:

The Dimethylpolysiloxane Dilemma

Perhaps the most shocking find was the presence of dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foaming agent used in the fully refined peanut oil Chick-fil-A uses for pressure cooking their coated chicken. This silicone-based chemical is more widely known as a component of breast implants and Silly Putty.1

While the FDA has approved dimethylpolysiloxane for use in food in small quantities,3 its presence in a chicken sandwich still raises eyebrows. Hari questions the necessity and safety of this unexpected additive.

The Chicken Puzzle

According to Hari, even the chicken itself contains 6 ingredients before breading:1

1. Chicken
2. Salt
3. MSG
4. Sugar
5. Spices (identified by Chick-fil-A as black pepper, paprika & mustard)
6. Paprika

The chicken then gets a coating that includes an additional 11 ingredients such as:

- Sodium aluminum phosphate (linked to neurological problems)4
- More sugar
- More MSG 

The most problematic ingredient above is MSG, which has been linked to over 50 different negative health outcomes, as evidenced by the Greenmedinfo.com database. But it gets worse...

A Complicated Bun

The bun ramps up the ingredient count considerably with items like:

- Enriched wheat flour (refined, bleached flour)
- DATEM (a dough conditioner and potential source of trans fat)
- Monoglycerides (also a possible trans fat source)
- Calcium propionate (linked to ADHD symptoms)5
- Calcium sulfate (a.k.a. Plaster of Paris)

The bun gets a final topping of liquid margarine made from more soy lecithin and artificial flavors.

Problematic Pickles

The pickle chips aren't just cucumbers and brine. Their 10 ingredients include:

- Yellow #5 (linked to hyperactivity and allergies)
- Blue #1 (a potential neurotoxin)
- Polysorbate 80 (associated with weight gain and digestive issues)6

So is it a sandwich or a science project? Hari contends many of these complex additives, including the baffling use of dimethylpolysiloxane, are used to cut costs, preserve freshness, and keep us craving more, all at the expense of our health.

Of course, occasional consumption unlikely causes harm. But for devoted fans frequently enjoying these sandwiches, the ingredient list gives pause.

Chick-fil-A Responds

To their credit, Chick-fil-A has made some positive changes since Hari first critiqued their ingredients in 2012. They've eliminated TBHQ, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial dyes from their buns and sauces, although the pickle still contains Yellow #5 and Blue #1.1

Most significantly, Chick-fil-A phased out chicken raised with antibiotics in 2019, a major win for public health.1 However, they reversed this pledge in 2023 citing supply challenges.7

Chick-fil-A states their ingredients, including dimethylpolysiloxane, are commonly used across the industry and safe according to the FDA.1 They also offer grilled options with simpler ingredient lists.

The Bottom Line 

While Chick-fil-A has taken some steps in the right direction, their classic sandwich remains an ultra-processed product containing many industrial additives, some as surprising as dimethylpolysiloxane. Treating it as an occasional indulgence rather than a dietary staple is advisable.

Hari's investigation reminds us to look beyond the marketing and scrutinize what we put into our bodies. While navigating modern food choices can feel daunting, awareness is the first step towards making more wholesome decisions for our health. Next time you're tempted by that classic chicken sandwich, remember, it's not just a simple blend of chicken, pickle and bun - there's a whole lot of chemistry in there too, dimethylpolysiloxane included.


References

1. Hari, V. (2019, August 15). Here are the 55 ingredients in a Chick-fil-A sandwich. Should you eat them? Food Babe. https://foodbabe.com/here-are-the-55-ingredients-in-a-chick-fil-a-sandwich-should-you-eat-them/

2. Maze, J. (2023, June 27). The 10 largest restaurant chains in America. Restaurant Businesshttps://restaurantbusinessonline.com/financing/10-largest-restaurant-chains-america

3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2022, March 7). CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=173.340

4. Environmental Working Group. (n.d.). EWG's dirty dozen guide to food additives. https://www.ewg.org/research/ewg-s-dirty-dozen-guide-food-additives

5. Dengate, S. (2002). Adverse Effects of Food Additives on Children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 29(4), 197-198. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-1754.1993.tb00507.x

6. Hari, V. (2013, March 25). Polysorbate 80: A Risky Vaccine Ingredient. Food Babe. https://foodbabe.com/polysorbate-80-a-risky-vaccine-ingredient/

7. Chick-fil-A. (2023, March). Chick-fil-A to Source No Antibiotics Ever Chicken. The Chicken Wire. https://thechickenwire.chick-fil-a.com/news/chick-fil-a-to-source-no-antibiotics-ever-chicken

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