This fall, Burger King released a Halloween Whopper. You may be seeing ads for it – and its also popping up in social media feeds. For $6.99 you can get a soft drink, side of fries, and a Whopper with a “spooky” black bun that has even spookier effects on the people who eat it: it turns poop bright emerald, cartoon green. However “green” you imagine it, the actual effect is probably greener.
It is a crazy side effect that even has its own hashtag now, #greenpoop. Some people are freaked out. Others are questioning Burger King to explain the side effect (which it has not). And others just think its funny. I don’t.
I was curious as to why Burger King hadn’t had this kind of public relations nightmare when it released this black bun in Japan in 2014 for Halloween. (That sandwich had a black bun, meat with black pepper, and black cheese). Looking deeper, I found out that the Japanese Kuro Burger‘s bread and cheese were both blackened by bamboo charcoal, and the special sauce was made from squid ink. (Randomly, McDonalds jumped on the black-bun-train and also launched a Squid Ink Burger during the holiday).
There is the answer: the dye materials. Japanese burgers were naturally dyed and the American burger uses artificial food colors (AFCs), which are used to color many beverages, foods, and sweets in the United States.
The scary problem with Burger King’s Halloween Whopper (and with so many of the highly processed, colorful foods you’ll find on store shelves and in restaurants in America) is actually the combination of several artificial food dyes, including FD&C Yellow #6, FD&C Blue #1, and FD&C Red #40. Those are just the food dyes listed. You can read all the ingredients listed by Burger King for the HA.1.®LOWEEN WHOPPER® black bun to understand the chemical shit storm that it really is here.
“Although individual tar food colors are controlled based on acceptable daily intake (ADI), there is no apparent information available for how combinations of these additives affect food safety.” – Risk Assessment for the Combinational Effects of Food Color
In 2010 the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) issued a 58-page report, “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks,” where it revealed that nine of the food dyes currently approved for use in the United States are linked to health issues including cancer, hypersensitivity (strong allergy symptoms) and hyperactivity. The following results are about Blue 1, Yellow 6, and Red 40 that are in the Black Whopper, but if you have the time, I suggest reading the full report.
Blue 1 potentially causes kidney tumors in mice and another study raised questions about possible effects on nerve cells. The dye also causes hypersensitivity reactions and hyperactivity in children.
Yellow 6 potentially causes adrenal tumors in animals. It may be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens) and occasionally causes severe hypersensitivity reactions (more allergy-like symptoms) and hyperactivity in children.
Red 40 is by the far most used food dye. You will find it everywhere. Just like Yellow 6, Red 40 might contain cancer-causing and other contaminants. Red 40 was found to accelerate the appearance of tumors in mice. Plus, it is known to cause hypersensitivity reactions and hyperactivity in children.
You may decide to bank on the fact that most studies suggest that food dyes are safe and disregard any risk. But here’s some “food for thought.”
Almost EVERY food dye test is run by the actual food dye manufacturer (total red flag for any test results). Plus, the FDA does not have your best interests in mind, even though we’d all like to think it looks out for us. It’s rules exist to tell companies what they can get away with, not to protect you. It allows chemicals in your food, and then asks questions and tests later, after any damage is done. According to Purdue University researchers, the amount of artificial food dye certified for use by the Food and Drug Administration has increased five-fold, per capita, between 1950 and 2012.
Let’s say you choose to still believe in the FDA and food dye manufacturers tests, there’s still the problem that the dyes are almost 100% tested individually and NOT AS A MIXTURE(S). In real life, most dyes actually are consumed in mixtures!
“Virtually all the studies tested individual dyes, whereas many foods and diets contain mixtures of dyes (and other ingredients) that might lead to additive or synergistic effects.
In addition to considerations of organ damage, cancer, birth defects, and allergic reactions, mixtures of dyes (and Yellow 5 tested alone) cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in some children… Because of those toxicological considerations, including carcinogenicity, hypersensitivity reactions, and behavioral effects, food dyes cannot be considered safe,” reports the CSPI.
In addition to the problem of mixing, we don’t get to see how much is used however. New research by Purdue University scientists, published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, showed that the dye content of breakfast cereals, candies, baked goods, and other foods were disturbingly high. The amounts of dyes found in even single servings of numerous foods—or combinations of several dyed foods—were higher than the levels shown to impair some children’s behavior.
SIDE NOTE: I dislike artificial food dyes in general, but it completely frustrates me that we will pump kids full of dyes and colored foods (and now we know that it is way more than we previously would have guessed) and then punish them when they get hyper and act out. We will watch them struggle in school and never think twice about what we’re feeding them for lunch. (Here are food and health habits that actually help them in school.) Or, worse yet, put them on medications early to offset the impact of the foods we give them to eat.
But that’s another topic. Back to the black burger. You have no idea how much total dye is in the bun. Burger King doesn’t report it.
It takes A LOT of food dye to turn your poop that green – for several days in some people (so I’ve heard)! Between the combination of the colors and the sheer amount of dye needed to turn an entire bun black, the internal effects of Burger King’s burger are truly scary (no pun intended).
I’ve seen many comments of people who want to try the burger just to see what it will do. Please don’t.
Your diet should be made up of vibrantly colored foods, just not any foods that contain artificial, processed food dyes. Also, instead of chemically based artificial food dyes, vegetable-based dyes can often be used to achieve the same effect. Leave the coloring to nature! It’s far less scary for your health.