Your Favorite Fast Food Chicken Sandwich Has More Ingredients Than You'd Think

Fast food chicken sandwiches have some kind of magic affixed to them that we just can't get over. The crispy crunch of heavily fried and breaded filets paired with oh-so-crispy lettuce, juicy tomato, and creamy mayo all heaped upon an impossibly fluffy bun leaves us hurriedly embarking on a trip through the drive-thru, probably a little more often than we'd care to admit.

Still, despite its deliciousness, there are some ingredients involved in chicken sandwiches you'll probably want to take note of and allow us to warn you that not all of it is pretty. From innocent flavor-enhancing additions to some ingredients that are downright scary, we're here to dish the details on exactly what ingredients we've found injected into your satisfyingly delicious chicken sammie, along with what these ingredients might mean for your health.

Join us as we do a deep dive into the interestingly mysterious world of fast-food chicken sandwich ingredients.

Monosodium glutamate (a.k.a. MSG)

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is often associated with Asian dining and Chinese fast-food restaurants, but what if we told you MSG crops up more often than you'd like to think? When it comes to your delectable chicken sandwich, you may be surprised to find out that MSG lurks in many chicken products sold by fast-food restaurants, with fried chicken of any sort being among the main offenders.

In case you don't know, monosodium glutamate has been the center of controversy for years. It is known for enhancing savory and umami flavors in food but has also been reported to induce unsavory effects in people who are sensitive to it. Though studies still indicate no obvious link between MSG and adverse health effects for most, those with sensitivities will often want to steer clear of the additive to avoid inducing its unwanted short-term health effects (via Mayo Clinic).

Does this mean that every fast-food joint serving fresh fried chicken sandwiches will contain MSG? No. There are some companies making strides to rid their sammies and other foods of such additives, with McDonald's being one of them. Still, it's important to note that many national fast-food chains still use this umami-enhancing additive to improve the taste of their food. So, if you're trying to avoid MSG, it's always worth a glance at the ingredients before taking your first bite.


Soy has received a lot of flak in past years, and it's easy to see why. Reports of this common ingredient often used in Asian cuisine have been said to cause negative effects on the endocrine system and, as such, may work to produce unwanted effects in both men and women. When it comes to the presence of soy in your chicken sandwich, know that it's likely there, and in fact, it's likely in many items you order from your local take-out menu, too.

So, is soy actually harmful? That depends. According to Harvard Health, like so many other foods out there, soy is best eaten in whole form rather than in the form of soy protein isolate and other processed versions of it. Unfortunately, it isn't usually edamame and tofu you're consuming when devouring a fast-food chicken sandwich, but instead, other more processed versions that may or may not render harmful effects on your body.

All in all, whether you experience the adverse effects of excess soy intake from your chicken sammies or any other type of fast food you order will depend on you, your body, and your overall health. It also matters how often you consume soy. Just know that it's usually present in abundance at most fast-food establishments, so be sure to consider that if you are actively trying to dodge this ingredient.

Modified food starch

You may have seen modified food starch cropping up on many ingredient labels and thought, "What gives?" This additive is known for being a thickening agent, emulsifying and stabilizing products for longer shelf-life and stability.

Although seeing modified food starch listed as an ingredient in your chicken sandwich isn't all that encouraging, it also isn't abundantly clear whether this additive is bad for your health. It's present, sure, and it certainly isn't as clear-cut of an ingredient as things like chicken, baking soda, salt, and flour would be. Still, we know that most modified food starch comes from items like potatoes, corn, and other sources and isn't necessarily genetically modified before it hits your food.

Despite the mysterious nature of modified food starch, we haven't been able to dig up any official interesting facts or adverse effects of the additive on the people who consume it. Of course, there are people out there who are leery of the additive, but very little information seems to back up these views. Nevertheless, as always, be sure to stay aware of your own body and its reactions to certain additives, and feel free to steer clear of anything that just doesn't seem to sit right with your body's chemistry.

Sodium phosphates

Sodium phosphate has been spotted in some fast-food chicken sandwiches. Though it may seem like a harmless addition, in some cases, it could prove very negative for your health, especially when consumed over an extended period.

Despite having the word "sodium" in it, you shouldn't think of sodium phosphate as the same as salt. Instead, sodium phosphate is a mixture of salt with phosphate, a non-organic chemical used to improve the texture of food by enhancing its thickness, improving leavening qualities, balancing the pH in food, and more.

Sodium phosphate is found in many fast-food items, and yes, your chicken sandwich could be one of those food grabs that will inevitably contain it. Links to excess consumption of sodium phosphate have been shown to increase the likelihood of symptoms like fatigue, vomiting, bloating, and headache. However, this may not transpire when eaten in small amounts (via Healthline). Overall, it's worth keeping an eye out for this sneaky additive, especially if you tend to eat fast food often.

Potassium chloride

Unlike some of the other additives on this list, seeing "potassium salt" or potassium chloride in a list of ingredients for your chicken sandwich isn't all bad. Potassium chloride is naturally occurring and, despite its name, can actually reduce the effects of too much salt on your body. As a result, potassium chloride, sometimes listed as potassium salt, may not be as harmful to your body as other additives; however, certain people may need to watch out for this ingredient when consuming fast food chicken sandwiches.

So, who exactly might need to watch out for this otherwise seemingly helpful ingredient? Since potassium chloride contains, well, potassium, eating too much of this won't benefit those who already consume a high-potassium diet. It may also negatively affect people who have ongoing health issues, such as kidney disease, diabetes, problems with digestion, or even issues with chronic dehydration or diarrhea (via WebMD). As always, consult your local medical professional for the best advice.

Calcium disodium EDTA

Calcium disodium EDTA already sounds like trouble, doesn't it? This additive is often added to foods to help keep them stable and to act as a preserver for color and texture. Calcium disodium EDTA is most commonly found in salad dressings, mayo, and pickled veggies. So, it should come as no surprise that you may get a little bit of this smeared onto your chicken sandwich whenever you order one containing mayonnaise or other calcium disodium EDTA-containing ingredients.

Fortunately, most studies reveal that calcium disodium EDTA isn't seemingly as bad as it sounds. Though certainly an additive, it has not yet been shown to be linked to increased cancer in humans, especially when consumed in average amounts (via Healthline).

Recent findings have emerged that seem to suggest that when consumed in more significant amounts, calcium disodium EDTA may cause irritation to the bowel and digestive system. So, it may be recommended that people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other similarly related illnesses steer clear of this additive, especially on an ongoing and frequent basis.


Like so many other additives, the addition of maltodextrin in fast food chicken sandwiches helps improve the overall texture, consistency, preservation, and flavor. Despite its perks for your juicy fast food sandwich meal, it also presents several icky qualities that may make it worth bypassing, especially if you find yourself eating a lot of food containing it continually.

Maltodextrin is known for spiking blood sugars even higher than your typical granulated sugar. This means it could adversely affect your health, especially for those suffering from diabetes. In addition, the use of maltodextrin is suggested to possibly affect the amount of good bacteria in the gut. This can cause the gut to become imbalanced, which can lead to a host of issues on its own. Not only are the good bacteria lessened, but harmful bacteria can also increase with the consumption of maltodextrin (via Medical News Today). This means that your chances of developing Crohn's disease or other unsavory illnesses increase when consuming this additive.

Not enough to bother you? Maltodextrin can also cause allergies and rashes in some people and may increase the occurrence of cramping and asthma in some. All in all, maltodextrin, though found in many food products, isn't something you'll want to eat regularly. Despite these disparaging facts, it is often found lurking in fast-food chicken sandwiches, which we think is a real bummer.

Dimethylpolysiloxane (Anti-Foaming Agent)

Another common ingredient you'll find in many fast-food menu items is dimethylpolysiloxane. This additive is not only hard to pronounce but is also used to help reduce foaming when frying, making it a fast-food kitchen staple, especially when frying up hot chicken sandwiches, due to its effectiveness.

Though the name of this additive is long and scary-sounding, it isn't necessarily as threatening as it seems. When consumed orally, there appears to be no risk to human health in terms of toxicity. It is important that, as with any additive, you closely monitor your own reaction to any type of processed food and determine whether ongoing consumption of that additive is indeed safe for you. If you suspect that you've developed symptoms closely related to the consumption of dimethylpolysiloxane, please defer to the care and guidance of your medical professional to determine which course of action may be best for you.


You may not commonly associate your fried chicken sandwich with dairy products the way you might ice cream or milkshakes. If you are lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy, you may want to take another peek at the ingredients included in some fried chicken sandwiches sold at your local fast-food eatery.

The milk contained in your chicken sandwich is often found lurking in a variety of places, but surprisingly, we've found that it's even incorporated in the chicken filet itself at some restaurants. The milk is undoubtedly used to enhance the flavor of the chicken filet, especially since the milk included is in dry form. However, we think it's still worth knowing about, especially for those of you with sensitive stomachs. While the amount of milk used isn't likely to be a lot, even a small amount may be detrimental to those who are sensitive or may have allergies related to the consumption of milk.

Dough conditioner

Dough conditioner is often used in fast-food restaurants, as it can improve bread's overall baking process and texture, especially when used in high-output environments. As a result, you'll often notice bread conditioners that may go by a variety of names making an appearance in your favorite fast-food chicken sandwich bread.

So, is it safe? Eh. That's still to be determined. Dough conditioners have received a lot of flak for their potentially harmful effects. In fact, several of them, including potassium bromate and azodicarbonamide, have been banned in countries like Europe. Sounds pretty messed up, doesn't it? We think so, too. But despite what we all think, the United States has yet to ban ingredients like these from its bread, meaning these ingredients could potentially have negative effects on your health.

Despite these grim findings, it's important to note that dough conditioners aren't likely to cause a significant adverse effect on your health when eaten in small amounts. It's still wise to limit your consumption of this ingredient to successfully avoid any potentially damaging carcinogenic effects it may have on the human body.

Sulfur dioxide

So, what else are you chomping on when you eat your favorite fast-food chicken sandwich? The findings so far have been pretty alarming. In addition to this long list of additives, we've also found sulfur dioxide in fast food chicken sandwiches, such as the Crispy Chicken sold by Burger King. Its purpose? To preserve the chicken and act as an antioxidant. While this additive isn't supposed to be harmful when consumed in small amounts, it can still cause negative effects in some individuals.

Individuals who already have asthma may find that their asthma worsens and may even lead to ongoing coughing, wheezing, and other unwanted symptoms associated with asthma, referred to as "bronchospasms" (via ATSDR). In most cases, this type of reaction would occur in people who are highly sensitive to sulfur dioxide and may also occur when the individual consumes other foods containing the additive, such as wine. Thus, if you have asthma and notice heavy wheezing after eating processed foods like fast food chicken sandwiches, it may just be that you have a sensitivity to sulfur dioxide and may wish to avoid these meals for the sake of your health.

Pea protein

Unlike so many other food enhancers on our list of chicken sandwich additives, pea protein is a fun little addition that you have very little to worry about. Pea protein is often used as a protein replacement for vegans and those who may wish to skip obtaining their protein source from meat.

When it comes to the use of pea protein in chicken sandwiches, it isn't exactly clear what the additive accomplishes. It obviously isn't for vegan purposes; however, its role in the fast-food industry shouldn't carry with it nearly the amount of concern that other additives do. One thing to note about pea protein is that despite its non-toxicity, it doesn't exactly function like regular protein. This means that pea protein may not be readily absorbed by our bodies the way that animal protein is, but its high iron and easily digestible attributes are enough to make it a non-concerning addition to your delicious chicken sammie.

Modified cellulose

Modified cellulose is yet another ingredient you may find in your chicken sandwich, particularly in sammies found at Jack-in-the-Box. Though cellulose is naturally occurring, it also comes from bizarre sources. For example, many sources of cellulose found in processed foods come from wood. Other sources include leftover waste from vegetable products. The purpose of cellulose is often to prevent clumps and thicken mixtures. In some cases, it is also used to increase fiber content.

For most individuals, getting a little bit of modified cellulose in their diet isn't going to do much harm to their health. However, some people may find their bodies to be particularly sensitive to this substance and, therefore, may experience adverse reactions that include stomach pain and gas (via Healthline). As always, if you find this true for you, consider skipping fast-food items containing this additive since being gassy and in pain certainly isn't fun for anyone!

Cocoa powder

Surprised to see this innocent addition on the list? So were we! Cocoa powder is, apparently, a hidden ingredient featured in Arby's chicken sandwiches, and we must say, we're quite shocked. The reason for this addition isn't clear, as Arby's chicken sandwiches certainly don't take on the chocolatey taste we'd expect cocoa powder to impart. Nevertheless, it apparently plays some role in the creation of Arby's tasty and delicious chicken sandwich creations, and at this, we aren't at all mad!

In most cases, people won't have any adverse reaction to cocoa powder, and it isn't related to toxicity the way that some offenders on this list are. Still, we find it quite curious that Arby's included this ingredient since we couldn't find any other company with this amusing addition to its chicken sandwich ingredients list. Either way, we're pleased to say you can happily munch away at a chicken sammie containing this curious substance without worrying about it harming you in any way. Enjoy!