Why Lovin’ the McRib Isn’t Heart Smart

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Blink and it’s gone. The ephemeral McRib sandwich appears at McDonald’s infrequently and only for a limited time. If you haven’t indulged in one yet, here’s what you’re missing: azodicarbonamide, ammonium sulfate and polysorbate 80 — those are just three of the 70 ingredients (34 in the bun alone) that go into the BBQ pork sandwich, according to the restaurant’s website.

These components are in small enough quantities to be innocuous. But it’s still a little disconcerting to know that, for example, azodicarbonamide, a flour-bleaching agent that is most commonly used in the manufacture of foamed plastics like in gym mats and the soles of shoes, is found in the McRib bun. The compound is banned in Europe and Australia as a food additive. (England’s Health and Safety Executive classified it as a “respiratory sensitizer” that potentially contributes to asthma through occupational exposure.) The U.S. limits azodicarbonamide to 45 parts per million in commercial flour products, based on analysis of lab testing.

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The McRib enjoys a bizarre cult following, in part because of its impermanence. Reports Brad Tuttle over at Moneyland:

First introduced in 1982, the sandwich first disappeared in 1985, but then has periodically resurfaced in McDonald’s in the U.S. and abroad. The McRib’s cult-like following has generated not only Facebook pages, but McRib Locator websites and a Twitter account.

This fall, the McRib made news as McDonald’s re-introduced it once again — this time, making it available in all U.S. locations through Nov. 14. The obvious question is: if the McRib is so popular, why doesn’t McDonald’s sell it year-in, year-out, at all locations?

The answer is that, sort of in the same way that some people are attracted to bad boys (or girls) who won’t commit, the elusiveness of the McRib is part of its appeal.

If the chemistry-lab ingredient list isn’t enough to put you off the McRib’s saucy allure, perhaps the nutrition information will: with 980 mg of sodium (more than half your recommended daily intake) and 10 g of saturated fat, the sandwich is, quite literally, not for the faint of heart.

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Meredith Melnick is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @MeredithCM. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.


I saw the picture on the advert as I drove by, I'm on a greens diet at the moment and should not give in to temptation as these things are really bad for you. They contain things that The UK and Australia BAN in there country's. There's all kinds of reports about badly treated animals and stuff. I could eat 2 of these, with the fries and a large coke. Problem is, I don't want to be Fat.(as I go to boil my broccoli, spinach and cabbage) Life sucks sometimes.


Telling her to do more research when you point out that it's only a wise choice comparatively speaking makes no sense.  The article does is not speaking comparatively to other products at McD's it's only pointing out why the McRib itself isn't that great relative to general nutrition standards.  Just because it may less salt and fat compared to other McD items really does not invalidate the fact that it's unhealthy.   Speaking of which, I'm sure we could have a field dissecting all the bad stuff that goes into McD's products even the purportedly "healthy" products.   


do some more research meredith, 980 mg sodium, 10 g sat.fat--thats lower than a quarter pounder, way lower than big mac! This is actually a wise choice comparatively speaking. Doesn't speak much for nutritional value at Mc D's though does it.