Monday, May 23, 2011

Chemistry on the internet: the McNugget

A post on the internet about the horrors of the McDonalds chicken McNugget includes the following text:

But perhaps the most alarming ingredient in a Chicken McNugget is tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is either sprayed directly on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to "help preserve freshness." According to A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (i.e. lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food: It can comprise no more than 0.02 percent of the oil in a nugget. Which is probably just as well, considering that ingesting a single gram of TBHQ can cause "nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse." Ingesting five grams of TBHQ can kill."

An organic chemist would not consider tertiary butylhydroquinone a form of "butane."

Wikipedia notes --tert-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), tertiary butylhydroquinone) is an aromatic organic compound which is a type of phenol. It is a derivative of hydroquinone, substituted with tert-butyl group. --

Lighter fluid is pressurized n-butane, whereas the substituent in TBHQ is a tert-butyl group.

The analysis on is below the level of a "low quality" patent application.


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