Movies and buttery popcorn have gone hand-in-hand for as long as we can remember—although, back in the day popcorn was actually banned from theaters. Unfortunately, that tasty butter isn’t doing much good for our bodies. In fact, that “butter” isn’t actually butter at all.
You might want to sit down for this one. Movie theater popcorn butter isn’t actually butter, but a combination of chemicals that give off a buttery taste. According to Extra Crispy, that buttery taste is created by Flavacol, “the yellow powder that gets added during popping to give your popcorn that yellow buttery color,” and other chemicals.
Related: Secrets every customer should know
What your fast food worker won't tell you
What your fast food worker won't tell you
After we cook something, we put it in a holding cabinet and set a timer.
When the timer goes off, we’re supposed to throw it out. But often, we just reheat the food. So for the freshest meal, come between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. or between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. More people are in the restaurant then, so we’re cooking and serving new food constantly. (These are the worst meals you could order at a restaurant, by the way.)
That plain chicken breast may have been a healthy choice out of the package...
But sometimes we have to slather it with butter just to make sure it doesn’t stick to the grill. On the other hand, these healthy fast foods can satisfy unhealthy cravings.
There’s usually a way to get expensive menu items for less
If you’re craving a Big Mac, for example, order a $1 McDouble with no mustard or ketchup and then add shredded lettuce and Mac sauce for a small charge. It’s basically a mini Big Mac, and you can get two for less than the cost of one Big Mac. Check out more trivia facts you probably didn't know about McDonald's.
Most fast-food joints clean everything with super-concentrated chemicals at the end of the day
That includes the grills and the drink machine nozzles. If you’re one of the first customers in the morning, you may be getting some of that chemical residue on the food or in the drink you order—or, worse. You won't believe what was found on the ice in some fast food restaurants.
Those grill marks on your burger?
Not real. They were put there by the factory. If you want REAL grill marks, it's probably best to make your own at home with one of these burger recipes.
Most of us will cook something fresh for you if you ask
But if you want to make sure your french fries come right out of the fryer, order them without salt; that forces us to cook you a new batch. Then you can add your own salt, and they'll still taste the same. That's because of the secret ingredient that makes McDonald's fries so addictive.
Avoid asking for “extra” of something, like cheese or sauce
As soon as you say “extra,” we have to enter it at the register and charge you for it. Instead, just tell us you want us to “put a good amount on there” or “not to be skimpy with it,” and we’ll load you up.
Yes, our chili is made from what you think:
Meat from old burgers.
It makes me laugh when someone comes in and says she’s trying to be healthy—and then orders a salad with crispy chicken
At McDonald’s, some of those salads have about as many calories as a Big Mac. In fact, a small order of french fries contains four fewer grams of fat than a packet of our ranch dressing. Also, be wary of these "healthy" fast food choices that definitely aren't.
We’re timed on how fast we get customers through the drive-through...
...so we always prioritize those in line outside over anyone at the front counter. And after you leave the drive-through, use this trick to keep your fries crispy the whole way home.
One of my coworkers once got so mad that he spit in someone’s food
He was suspended for three days. Most of us would never do something like that.
Here’s a good way to know how clean a fast-food establishment really is:
When you get your drink, bend down and look up into the ice chute. If you see mold and other stuff growing in there—which is more common than you might expect—they’re not cleaning the machine as often as they’re supposed to.
Those gorgeous pictures of our food in our advertisements?
They’re airbrushed and touched up with fiberglass and paint. It probably takes two hours to make that picture. Obviously, we’re not going to be able to replicate that.
Please, please, get off your cell phone
I’ve had people pull up to the window, pay, and drive away without their food because they’re talking on the phone and not paying attention. Then they’re mad at me. Here are some more crazy stories from drive-through workers.
At most fast-food restaurants, it’s tough to give away free food
Especially things like burgers, because they’re inventoried. We can sometimes give away French fries, ice cream or drinks because we get those ourselves, but it depends on which manager is on duty.
We hate it when you order an ice cream
Most of the time, we’ve got to make it, and it’s already melting by the time we hand it to you. If you order four or five cones at a time, it’s almost impossible to get them to you before they melt everywhere, and then you want new ones.
Here’s something that surprised me when I started working at McDonald's:
Our clam grills are set at 750 degrees, and they can fully cook a regular beef hamburger in just 38 seconds, a quarter pounder in 70 seconds. The first time I ever saw that, I was like, 'Ewww.'
We’re happy to replace something if we mess up, but...
We can usually tell when you’re making up a story to get free food. There was one guy who found a pebble in our parking lot, put it in his food after he ate most of it, and then asked for a replacement. Another lady took 10 tacos home. The next day, she brought just a few of them back, showing us that their lettuce was brown. She wanted another 10 tacos. But of course, if you leave tacos out for 24 hours, the lettuce will turn. Love tacos? Here are some fun taco recipes to try.
Some fast-food workers definitely follow the 10-second rule
I have seen people drop food and then pick it back up and put it on the grill.
No, most of us do not donate our leftovers
I can’t believe how much food we throw out every day, especially at the end of the night. You, however, can do your part. Here's how you can cut back on food waste at home.
All fast-food restaurants are not created equal
Even restaurants within the same chain can vary widely depending on the owner and manager and what kind of standards they set.
When you take three handfuls of napkins or fill your purse with ketchup packets...
I don’t know what you call it, but I call it stealing. You’re just making things more expensive for everyone.
Please don’t ask what ingredients are in our fried chicken coating or in our special sauce
All of our recipes are proprietary, so they don’t even tell us what’s in them. But we can tell you why McDonald's Coke tastes better than anywhere else.
At some restaurants, managers get a bonus if they hold onto their employees and keep their turnover rate down
That gives us an incentive to keep people who aren’t very good, even if they don’t know the difference between a French fry and a screwdriver. And I’m not exaggerating; I’ve had employees who were that bad.
Most of us, even the managers, aren’t making much more than minimum wage
You wouldn’t believe the stuff we put up with for that kind of money. People constantly talk to me like I’m a two-year-old. I’ve had customers throw drinks at me and cuss at me. I’ve been held up at gunpoint.
At Taco Bell, most of our food does carry over, so we reheat it and serve it the next day
That’s why I never take my lunch break early. Plus, fast food can have some weird effects on your brain.
For the best deal at McDonald's, order off the dollar menu
You can get a lot of food for the same price as a meal and it will fill you up more.
We were supposed to wear gloves when we made food
But a lot of times my co-workers didn’t do it, and that really skeeved me out. Here are more dirty restaurant secrets the kitchen crew won't tell you.
Most of us don’t wash our hands as much as we should
Even though there are signs everywhere reminding us it's the law.
Look around to see how much trash is in the parking lot
And whether the bathrooms are dirty and if the dining room is picked up. When things that are so publicly visible are neglected, you can bet that even more is being neglected in the back and in the kitchen where no one can see them. That's just one of the things restaurant health inspectors wish you knew.
Once your order is in at the drive-through...
We have two minutes to get your food before the screen turns red, and the manager asks what’s going on.
We do laugh at you behind your back
Like when you mispronounce our menu items or when you think we can’t hear you through the drive-through speaker, yelling at your husband or kids.
When it was slow, sometimes we would all take the garbage out...
And smoke marijuana in the back. Really, it's true. Want more crazy food service stories? Here's everything your waiter isn't telling you.
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“Your movie theater butter has no butter in it, but it does have partially hydrogenated soybean oil (a.k.a. trans fats), beta carotene (a coloring, makes carrots orange), tertiary Butylhydroquinone or TBHQ (synthetic preservative that keeps the color and texture from changing as the product sits), polydimethylsiloxane (silicone based chemical that prevents foaming), and, wait for it, buttery flavoring,” says Extra Crispy. Yes, you read that right. “Buttery flavoring.” What the heck is buttery flavoring? We need answers.
Just when we thought that was the end of the bad news, there’s more. Apparently, this faux butter has 20 more calories per tablespoon than our real, beloved butter. Not only are we being conned out of the real deal, but we’re also consuming more calories.
9 disgusting (and dangerous) things you don’t realize you’re eating
9 disgusting (and dangerous) things you don’t realize you’re eating
Arsenic in rice
Arsenic is an earthly element that is naturally prevalent in the water and soil (termed as organic arsenic), so it's only natural that it's found floating around in the air. However, the substance can also derive from human efforts in activities like mining and the use of pesticides (termed as inorganic arsenic). Although the FDA has been monitoring the levels of arsenic in foods for quite some time, in April 2016, they gave the OK to a limit of 100 parts per billion (ppb) for inorganic arsenic in infant foods such as rice cereal. In particular, rice contains significant levels of inorganic arsenic (which is considered to be more toxic than its organic counterpart) because its grain tends to absorb arsenic more readily than other food crops. This type of arsenic has been identified as a carcinogen, associated with ailments, such as lung, skin, and bladder cancer, and even linked to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. As an alternative, try switching up your grains. According to a study by Consumer Reports, brown rice has higher levels of arsenic than white because of its husk. You can also try cooking rice in a particular way—boiling the rice in a 6:1 water-to-rice ratio and draining the excess water once cooked has been proven to remove up to 60 percent of arsenic levels in rice.
Flame retardants in soda
Addicted to chugging carbonated beverages? You may want to think twice. This toxic flame retardant, subtly listed under ingredients as brominated vegetable oil (BVO), is banned as a food additive in Europe and Japan, yet it still remains open in the U.S. For years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed BVO to be used as a food additive "under certain conditions and on an interim basis pending more research." The substance was originally used to keep plastics from catching on fire, but can now be found in certain sodas and sports drinks, including Fanta, Mountain Dew, and Gatorade. While the food industry claims that it's beneficial to keeping artificial flavoring chemicals from separating in the liquid, health studies have linked overconsumption of BVO to unnerving symptoms, such as skin lesions, memory loss, early onset puberty, and impaired neurological abilities. If you want to be safe, thoroughly inspect all ingredient labels, or better yet, just cut back on all sugary drinks completely. Not entirely convinced? These are 10 huge reasons you should quit soda altogether.
Crushed bugs in food coloring
Red food dye is a staple for any baking enthusiast; they've long been used to help our favorite red velvet pastries achieve its rich color. Unfortunately, the aesthetic appeal also comes with a pretty hefty price—much of the red coloring infused in food is actually comprised of crushed bugs, specifically cochineal insects. According to Live Science, these guys are harvested mainly in Peru and the Canary Islands on plantations of prickly pear cacti. They spend their days sucking on the plant's sap and producing a crimson pigment called carminic acid that they use to ward off predators. Manufacturers like to dry, crush, and dunk these insects into an acidic alcoholic solution to produce carmine extract (i.e. red dye). Even until 2009, cochineal was categorized as one of the many dyes that fall under the blanket term "natural color" on the nutrition info, but because it triggered severe allergic reactions in many people, the FDA now requires cochineal extract to be explicitly identified. We recommend you check the ingredients list or just stick to natural coloring. (These are the other artificial food colorings you need to watch out for).
Flesh-eating bacteria in beef
Turns out A-1 might not be the only thing you're having with your steak. According to a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, an overwhelming half of grocery store meats tested positive for staph bacteria, including the potentially lethal MRSA strain. To minimize the threat of listeria, the FDA allows the food industry to spray deli meats with the same bacteriophages that hospitals and veterinarians use to kill germs. These remnants are far from harmless; Science Daily informs that the meat infestation is estimated to cause around 185,000 cases of food poisoning each year. The bacteria can also cause serious, life-threatening infections of the bloodstream, skin, lungs, and other organs. In light of this information, investing in grass-fed meat from organic farmers may be worth the extra bucks.
Sand in instant powder soup
Ever wonder why your packaged soup tastes a little gritty? Well, turns out that silicon dioxide (most commonly known as the sand that gets in your bathing suit at the beach) is commonly implemented in certain foods as an anti-clumping agent and humidity controller. You'll generally find it in dry coffee creamer, dried soups, and other powdery meals. The same substance is also frequently used for insect repellent because they do a great job at removing the oily film that covers an insect's body. Although the EPA concluded that the human health risk is "not unreasonable," heavy consumption has been associated to the risk of developing autoimmune diseases. Although you don't have to worry too much about ingesting some at the dinner table, try refraining from pre-packaged foods if you can help it. (Instead, try out these 5 simple home-cooked soup recipes).
Paint chemicals in salad dressing
We all love a good salad. But while your creamy white ranch may look savory, there may be something embedded within that's definitely not as appetizing. Commonly used in paints and sunscreens, titanium dioxide (a mined substance that is frequently mingled with toxic lead) is often added to processed foods in order to make them look whiter and visually appealing. Furthermore, propylene glycol, an element frequently used as antifreeze, is often imbued into salad dressings as a thickening agent to help achieve that familiar luscious texture. While the color white may be associated with pureness and cleanliness, don't be fooled. This whitening agent can transport certain inflammatory chemicals to your intestinal tract, sparking bowel swelling and severe digestive issues. Consequent inflammation has also been linked to increased chances of IBS and colon cancer. Needless to say, it's not exactly what we'd deem healthy eating. (To avoid it, here are 12 healthy salad dressings you can make yourself).
Maggots in canned mushrooms
In case you're not aware what maggots are, these tiny legless larvae typically develops in decaying organic matter or as a parasite in plants or animals. Grossed out yet? Surprisingly, the FDA legally allows 19 maggots and 74 mites in a 3.5-ounce can of mushrooms before it's deemed problematic. While maggots may have certain medical benefits (they can help clean dirty wounds by feeding on dead tissue), the idea of ingesting them is still pretty gross. If the concept of dining on baby worms triggers your gag reflex, you may want to stick to fresh, organic mushrooms next time.
Human hair in bread
Don't go rummaging through your local bakery in hopes of detecting strands of hair–the hair here will be much more difficult to spot. Scientifically termed as L-cysteine, this semi-essential proteinogenic amino acid is obtained industrially by hydrolysis of poultry feathers, hog hair, or—wait for it—dissolved human hair. Manufacturers often use it as a commercial dough conditioner and flavor enhancer to improve the flaky texture of breads and other baked goods. Believe it or not, the stuff is pretty common, so you can probably expect to have eaten some already if you're a pastry fan. Don't be too alarmed: Although it's not medically toxic, it could provide an ethical dilemma for vegans swallowing it unknowingly.
Nonstick chemicals in microwavable popcorn
If you're a fan of home movie marathons, take heed: You may want to opt for sweet treats over this salty fare. Industrial nonstick elements—that are classified as perfluorinated chemicals—are commonly used to coat the inside of popcorn bags in order to prevent the grease from leaking out. Unfortunately, data from human studies suggests that PFCs can also have effects on human health, including high cholesterol, sperm damage and infertility, and ADHD. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association also discovered that nonstick chemicals in popcorn bags can significantly impair the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to a myriad of other health maladies. If you're addicted to munching on these kernels during your favorite flick, making it the good old-fashioned way—with a pot on the stove top—is always a great alternative. (Did you know movie theater popcorn also used to be banned?)