I am feeling much less sick now. Plus, I have enough chicken soup to drown a baby (or baptize a baby, depending on your intentions.)
Why McDonald's Fries Taste So Good is an article (linked from Digg) which was used in Fast Food Nation. It describes a little bit of the history of their fries, but mostly focuses on the chemical industry of flavors, scents, and colors. Originally, the fries were well received because they were cooked in over 90% beef tallow. They switched to vegetable oil in '90, but had to make up for the flavor. Legally, they just have to say that it contains a “natural flavor,” but they have admitted that part of that flavor comes from an animal source. I have known many vegetarians in the past that have had no problem eating the fries. I guess it all depends on your definition or reasons for being vegetarian. Due to the potency of these kinds of things, the animal product has to be a minuscule amount — maybe one part per billion (the example they gave was that one drop of flavor was enough for five swimming pools.) It does not matter one way or the other to me — I just do not like the taste of their fries.
Surprising fact: on average, Americans now eat about four servings of french fries every week. Who are these average Americans? Most people I know have fries less than once a month, although a few might have them as much as once a week.
Carmine/Carminic Acid/Cohineal Extract is made from desiccated bug bodies. 70,000 of the Dactylopius Coccus Costa, a small insect from Peru that eats red cactus berries, get used to make a pound of pink dye. Think about that next time you have a Dannon strawberry yogurt or Ocean Spray pink grapefruit juice. Again, it is parts per billion, but still…
The “natural” vs. “artificial” flavor/color designation is entirely arbitrary. For some reason, I thought natural was better (as do many people out there), but the same chemical can be either natural or artificial depending on how it was synthesized. Actually taking a banana and leeching out chemicals from it (by using other chemicals) is natural. Creating the same exact chemicals by mixing things in test-tubes is artificial. Chemically, they are both the same thing, but one is cheaper because you do not need real bananas.