Social media is rife with claims that British chef and restaurateur Jamie Oliver has proven in court that food at fast food company McDonald's is 'not fit to be ingested because it is highly toxic'. These posts - viral on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp - claim that McDonald's has lost a legal battle to Oliver, after the latter proved that the meat processed by the fast food chain is toxic and not fit for ingestion, due to it being washed by 'ammonium hydrogen'.
BOOM found these posts to be misleading; while Oliver did raise the issue of ammonia-processed beef by McDonald's in a highly sensational episode in his show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution in April 2011 - over ten years ago - he did not file a lawsuit against McDonald's, neither did he present a scientific or nutritional case against processed meat being 'unfit for ingestion by humans'. Furthermore, McDonald's had stated in February 2013, that it had discontinued the use of lean beef trimmings treated with ammonia since 2011.
Despite this, similar claims have been viral multiple times over the past decade, and have been debunked by other fact checkers around the globe.
One of the most viral and recent posts was shared with an image of Oliver and a McDonald's signboard, along with the following caption:
[McDonald's loses the legal battle with chef Jamie Oliver, who proved that the food they sell is not fit to be ingested because it is highly toxic.
Chef Jamie Oliver has won a battle against the world's largest junk food chain. Oliver proving how burgers are made.
According to Oliver, the fat parts of meat are "washed" with ammoniac hydrogen and then used in the packaging of the meat "cake" to fill the burger. Before this process, according to the presenter, already this meat was not suitable for human consumption.
Oliver, a radical activist chef, who has waged a war against the food industry, says: We're talking about meat that would be sold as dog food and after this process it's served to humans. In addition to the quality of meat, ammonium acid is harmful to health. Oliver says this: "The process of the pink crap".
What sane human being would put a piece of meat soaked in ammonium hydrogen in the mouth of a child?
In another of his initiatives Oliver has demonstrated how chicken nuggets are made: after selecting the "best parts", the rest: fat, skin, cartilage, visuals, bones, head, legs, are subjected to a mec split smoothie canica - it's the euphemism that engineers use in food, and then that blood pink paste is deodorant, bleached, re-refreshed and repainted, dipped in flour and fried melcocha, this is left in usually partially hydrogenated oils, that is, toxins.
The food industry uses ammonium hydrogen as an anti-microbial agent, which allowed McDonald's to use meat in its burgers, which is not suitable for human consumption.
But even more disturbing is the situation that these substances based on ammonium hydrogen are considered 'lawful components in the production process' in the food industry with the blessings of health authorities worldwide. So consumers will never be able to discover what substances they put in our food.
PLEASE STOP FEEDING YOUR KIDS THIS FAKE FOOD because NOW YOU KNOW.
Click here to view an archive of the post.
We searched for the caption on Twitter and Facebook, to find the claim highly viral on both platforms.
Looking for more information on ammonia-processed meat at McDonald's, BOOM found that similar claims have been viral multiple times over the past decade.
These claims suggest that beef mixed with ammonia, or 'pink slime' - as it is popularly called, is highly toxic and not safe for human consumption. The previous claims, like the one made by the website Essence of Live, spoke about how Oliver got McDonald's to admit that their burgers were 'substandard' and compelled the multinational company to change their methods of processing meat.
Unlike the recent claims on social media, the older claims did not speak about any court case involving Oliver and McDonald's.
So, what exactly did Jamie Oliver do?
We went all the way back to April 2011, when Oliver ran a highly sensational campaign against ammonia-processed meat in the second season of his show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.
In one of the episodes, where Oliver visits a school, he 'demonstrates' how the meat is processed, by washing some meat trimmings in a washing machine with a jarful of cleaning ammonia (the jar had a picture of skull and crossbones to prominently emphasise danger). He gave the impression that the meat is literally washed in ammonia solution.
However, experts disagree with both the process described by Oliver, and the dangers of such a process mentioned in his show.
Dr. Joe Schwarcz, Director of McGill University's "Office for Science and Society", believes that Oliver greatly exaggerated the dangers of processing beef with ammonia. In a rebuttal to the claims made by Oliver, he wrote the following:
Once a cow has been butchered and disassembled into the various cuts, some fatty trimmings always remain. Traditionally these have been used for pet food, but in 1991, Beef Products Inc., an American company developed a process to convert the trimmings into what it calls "Boneless Lean Beef." The fatty portions are separated by spinning in a sophisticated centrifuge, leaving behind the muscle tissue which is then ground into a slurry that is roughly 94% lean beef. This "pink slime" is then frozen into chips or blocks, ready to be incorporated into hamburger or into processed luncheon meats.
Because meat trimmings are particularly susceptible to bacterial contamination, the company introduced a novel method to control the risk. Salmonella and E. coli bacteria, having evolved in an acidic environment, cannot survive under basic, or alkaline, conditions. Ammonia gas can introduce such conditions as it dissolves in water to form ammonium hydroxide, a base. An equilibrium is then established between the dissolved ammonia and the ammonium hydroxide, with very little ammonium hydroxide actually being present at any given time. But when it is used up, as in the reaction to destroy bacteria, it is replenished as more of the dissolved ammonia reacts with water.
On the subject of how harmful ammonia is to the body, Shwarcz added, "Ammonia is a product of protein metabolism and therefore routinely forms in the human body. It ends up being converted into urea which is then excreted in the urine."
McDonald's Had Stopped Selling Ammonia Processed Beef Ten Years Ago
Oliver's campaign against McDonald's processing of beef with ammonia, which was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for nearly half a decade, cause a massive uproar in the United States and United Kingdom.
This eventually pushed the fast food chain to change to a different form of meat processing, and end the use of 'pink slime'.
On February 2013, when the outrage against the ammonia processing still refused to die out, McDonald's gave the following statement:
McDonald's does not use lean beef trimmings treated with ammonia, what some individuals call "pink slime," in our burgers, and hasn't since 2011. Any recent reports that we do are false.
Burgers are at the heart of the Golden Arches, and the fact is, McDonald's USA serves only 100% USDA-inspected beef- no preservatives, no fillers, no extenders- period.
Prior to 2011, to assist with supply, McDonald's USA, like many other food retailers, used this safe product but it is no longer part of our supply.
We also looked for instances of Oliver taking McDonald's to court, but were unable to find any reliable news reports stating such a case ever took place. Looking at his past show, we also could no find him making a case against such meat processing techniques on the grounds of science and nutrition.
This has been previously debunked by Snopes.
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