McDonald’s tests chicken sandwich with controversial ingredient

McDonald’s began testing chicken sandwiches containing the controversial ingredient, monosodium glutamate (MSG), at more than 250 restaurants in Texas and Tennessee starting in December. Analysts say the move means the quick service brand is serious about becoming a serious contender in the chicken sandwich wars.

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Two new fried chicken sandwiches from McDonald’s are being tested in select markets. (McDonald's).
Two new fried chicken sandwiches from McDonald’s are being tested in select markets. (McDonald's).

McDonald’s began testing chicken sandwiches containing the controversial ingredient, monosodium glutamate (MSG), at more than 250 restaurants in Texas and Tennessee starting in December. Analysts say the move means the quick service brand is serious about becoming a serious contender in the chicken sandwich wars.

MSG was once widely used to enhance the flavor of foods, particularly in Asian cuisine, but fell out of favor with consumers after a (since-discredited) study linked the ingredient to a wide range of health issues. Some individuals do experience adverse effects – including headaches, fatigue and nausea – after consuming food containing MSG.

The ingredient is considered “generally recognized as safe” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency responsible for ensuring the safety of the nation’s food supply.

Chicken sandwich wars

While McDonald’s doesn’t currently use MSG in any of the items on its regular, nationally available menu, its competitors do.

Both Popeyes and Chick-fil-a use MSG as an ingredient in their popular chicken sandwiches. The two quick service brands battled for chicken supremacy throughout 2019, with a resulting increase in sales and foot traffic for both brands.

In July 2019, a group of McDonald’s franchise owners called chicken sandwiches a “top priority” for the brand to bring in more customers and compete in the chicken sandwich wars.

A mixed bag of reactions

Trials of the new chicken sandwiches began December 2 and is expected to continue through January 26, 2020.

The Crispy Chicken Sandwich is a fried chicken patty topped with butter and crinkle cut dill pickles, while the Deluxe Chicken Sandwich features tomatoes, lettuce and mayo. Both sandwiches are served on a potato roll. The suggested price of the Crispy Chicken Sandwich is $3.49 and the Deluxe version retails at $4.09.

The reactions to the use of MSG were not all positive on social media. However, a McDonald’s spokesperson reported that they have received positive feedback on the new sandwiches and that “insights from the test will inform our decisions moving forward.”

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