Polydimethylsiloxane, sounds tasty doesn’t it? Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s think it is at least. The chemical has been stirring up some discussion recently due to its appearance in fast-food menu items. It belongs to a group of polymeric compounds commonly referred to as silicones, and applications of the chemical range from contact lenses and medical devices to shampoo and conditioners (making the hair shiny and slippery), caulking, heat resistant tiles, polishes, cosmetics, silly putty, and the list goes on.
The FDA approved chemical is classified as “non-toxic,” even though it is non-biodegradable and its commercial use in breast implants has decreased due to “safety concerns.” Under section 176.200, polydimethylsiloxane is listed as a defoaming agent which is an acceptable additive to food:
Sec. 176.200 Defoaming agents used in coatings
The defoaming agents described in this section may be safely used as components of articles intended for use in producing, manufacturing, packing, processing, preparing, treating, packaging, transporting, or holding food, subject to the provisions of this section.(a) The defoaming agents are prepared as mixtures of substances described in paragraph (d) of this section.(b) The quantity of any substance employed in the formulation of defoaming agents does not exceed the amount reasonably required to accomplish the intended physical or technical effect in the defoaming agents or any limitation further provided.(c) Any substance employed in the production of defoaming agents and which is the subject of a regulation in parts 174, 175, 176, 177, 178 and 179.45 of this chapter conforms with any specification in such regulation.
(d) Substances employed in the formulation of defoaming agents include:
(1) Substances generally recognized as safe in food.
(2) Substances subject to prior sanction or approval.
Surprisingly, the FDA also approved formaldehyde as a preservative for anti-foaming agents. Formaldehyde is recognized as a carcinogen by the CDC.
Domino’s Pizza lists the ingredient in their breadsticks, cheese bread, as well as in their “garlic butter oil,” commonly used on most of their pizzas. McDonald’s lists polydimethylsiloxane as an additive in their cooking oils, meaning that their infamous McNuggets and french fries are saturated in the chemical. Wendy’s Also uses the ingredient in their cooking oils. The FDA states that anti-foaming agents are “generally recognized as safe in food. ”The term “generally” is an elusive one at best. The question begs, why is the FDA approving food additives such as polydimethylsiloxane and formaldehyde when the substances frequently find industrial uses?
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