This is what happens when you FOIA the ingredients in school chicken nuggets

It turns out, they're not just made of chicken

Published April 14, 2014 7:44PM (EDT)


Is it possible to ever know what you're really getting when you eat a chicken nugget? At a certain level, perhaps not, but even those looking for a full accounting of the ingredients have few places to turn. You could trust what McDonald's is willing to show us. You could dissect and study them under a microscope.

Or, you could make like WBEZ Chicago and just FOIA them.

As part of an ongoing effort to figure out the mysteries of school lunch, Monica Eng, a reporter for the Chicago public radio station, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the state school district requesting a list of the ingredients included in its tax-funded cafeteria meals.

This was easier said than done. The district took a month to mull it over, and then responded to Eng's query as to the ingredients of chicken nuggets as follows: "chicken nuggets."

Seriously. They only did slightly better for items like the chicken patty sandwich ("chicken patty, bun") and the chicken and bean nachos ("chicken crumbles, tortilla chips, cheese sauce, beans").

Eng, for whatever reason, was unsatisfied with that, and pressed the district to be more specific. They returned with a recipe boasting at least 28 ingredients -- not including the breading. Aside from "chicken nuggets," a partial list, according to NPR, includes "textured soy protein concentrate, isolated soy protein, brown sugar, salt, onion powder, maltodextrin, silicon dioxide, citric acid, potassium chloride and sodium phosphates"

"After years of efforts by First Lady Michelle Obama and others to put real food on cafeteria tables, why are meals in one of the most obese districts in the nation still dominated by sugary and processed food?" Eng asks. Representatives from the first lady's office, Chicago Public Schools, the school lunch caterer Aramark, and the United States Department of Agriculture all declined to provide an answer.

By Lindsay Abrams

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Chicken Food Processed Food School Lunch