Why Hasn’t McDonald’s Gotten Rid Of Artificial Additives In The Big Mac’s Special Sauce?

It seems like every day we hear about yet another fast food chain that’s cleaning up this or that menu item to appeal to health-conscious consumers, and McDonald’s is no different: only last week, the Golden Arches announced 100% antibiotic-free McNuggets, and that it would remove high fructose corn syrup from its buns. But there’s still one popular item on its menu that contains a slew of artificial preservatives, and that same HFCS: the Big Mac’s special sauce. What gives?

The trend these days is all about simplifying recipes and cutting down the ingredients lists, but as The Street points out, McDonald’s famous “special sauce,” which is slathered on every Big Mac, has a whopping 32 ingredients.

Included in that list is high-fructose corn syrup and as many as five artificial preservatives, including potassium sorb ate and caramel color. Those are the kinds of additives one might have expected in the 1980s, but not in the current food mood guided by health-conscious consumers.

The Street cites an insider who says McDonald’s is looking for ways to improve its ingredients across its menu, but there’s not going to be a cleaner special sauce that’s free of artificial ingredients coming anytime soon. And when asked by The Street if HFCS and preservatives would be removed from special sauce this year, a McDonald’s spokeswoman echoed the company’s press release from last week regarding the changes to its buns and McNuggets.

So why not jump on the healthy bandwagon and just ditch all that stuff? One reason could be the iconic status of special sauce, experts say, which plays a large part in making the Big Mac the Big Mac. The company might not want to risk ticking off dedicated customers if they get the reformulation wrong, for example.

“I suspect that they’re working to make sure the flavor profile doesn’t change on that sauce,” Technomic Advisory Group Senior Principal David Henkes told The Street. “Making menu items healthier is important, but for such an important part of the menu as the Big Mac, I’m sure they want to make sure it’s right.”

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