SINGAPORE - Health-conscious foodies will be relieved to know that at least three fast-food chains and one burger joint have told my paper that they do not use a controversial chemical in their beef patties.
The chemical, ammonium hydroxide, is used extensively to kill bacteria in processed food like seasonings, cheese and beef patties.
In the United States, many consumers were disgusted to learn that fast-food chain McDonald’s used leftover beef trimmings treated with ammonium hydroxide in its burger patties.
Their horrified reaction stems partly from the fact that the chemical is also used in detergents and fertilisers.
In April last year, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver provoked a public outcry after revealing on his TV show that the chemical is used to treat meat.
McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King in the US stopped using such treated meat last month.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore said the use of additives like ammonium hydroxide is allowed when “the quantity of the additive added to food is limited to the lowest possible level necessary to accomplish its desired effect”.
The US Food and Drug Administration declared that ammonium hydroxide is safe for use in food in 1974. The chemical is made by combining ammonia with water.
Ammonia-based compounds occur naturally in the environment but its association with detergents understandably makes consumers queasy.
'Only 100 per cent Australian beef'
Ms Linda Ming, McDonald’s communications director here, said beef treated with the chemical has never used by the chain in Singapore.
The franchise, which has more than 100 outlets here, said it uses “only 100 per cent Australian beef from AVA-approved sources and...continues to comply with all relevant government and food-safety regulations”.
She added that “food safety and quality are our top priorities”.
Wendy’s Singapore, which has 10 outlets, said it does not use additives or preservatives, and that its burgers are also made with 100 per cent natural Australian beef.
Its spokesman said that it keeps bacteria to a minimum by maintaining “good, clean manufacturing processes at all stages of production”.
A spokesman for Burger King Singapore said it uses 100 per cent raw ground beef from Australia and New Zealand.
He said that, “through our supply-chain and supply quality- assurance process, bacteria are controlled by high-quality slaughter” and the use of refrigeration and other microbiological controls.
The burger patties are also all flame-grilled in broilers to control the growth of microbes.
“Burger King Singapore has never considered using ammonium hydroxide and sees no reason or benefit in doing so,” he said.
Mr Jun Mardian Sugandhi, franchise owner of Canadian burger joint Triple O’s, said it uses only pure beef.
He added that its patties do not contain preservatives, flavouring, monosodium glutamate or other additives. “I have always told my supplier to go natural.
While we might not be able to get consistency in the tenderness, I would rather have that than to have tender yet unhealthy meat,” he said.
Mr A. Yeong, 32, a regular McDonald’s customer, is glad that burger joints here do not use the additive.
“The thought of eating beef and knowing it’s processed with ammonia is disturbing,” said the counsellor at a non-profit organisation.