Dissecting In-N-Out Burger (Gross or Healthy? You decide!)

   I have talked about In-N-Out a lot, besides having delicious food and being incredibly successful, they are known as a great employer, pay well, and are one of the few companies left that haven’t prostituted their brand by expanding their menu, selling their food at the grocery store or slapping their name on other products.    So it caught my eye when I saw this article by the “Food Babe”  (that should have been my first clue…) about how unhealthy their food is.   Since the fries are made fresh and the rest of the burger seems pretty clean, that didn’t feel right but her article is pretty scathing.  Be sure to read the second part AFTER her article:

There’s some good news and bad news I need to share with you about the beloved In-N-Out burger chain. I started investigating the food at In-N-Out Burger for so many reasons. There is a ton of hype surrounding these restaurants. The burgers are quick and simple. People actually drive dozens of miles out of their way to eat there. I’m sure you’ve seen all the celebrities that tweet about this place and show pictures of them eating it, and for some reason it has this untouchable cloak around it that makes it seem healthier than McDonald’s and other mainstream fast food restaurants.
Even Eric Schlosser, who is one of the most influential food investigators of our time that helped to change the way that I and so many others view food when he wrote Fast Food Nation, once said about In-N-Out: “It isn’t health food, but it’s food with integrity. It’s the real deal”.  

But is it really???


Up until this point, In-N-Out Burger has refused to tell us exactly what is in their food, which should make everyone skeptical… 

They have such a basic menu, but they don’t list ingredients online and blatantly refuse to tell you the full list of ingredients when you ask. I’ve gotten lots of emails from readers that are frustrated about this too and asked me to reach out to them. Just like when I first investigated Chipotle back in 2012, In-N-Out describes their food as made fresh with quality ingredients: “We don’t freeze. We don’t pre-package. We don’t over-process. We just make things the old-fashioned way”.

Well, if that’s true – why hide the ingredient list?

I realize that In-N-Out Burger has been in business for a very long time, but it’s not the 1950’s anymore. People have woken up to the alarming amount of food additives that are used in most fast food places, and who’s to say that In-N-Out is any different? It’s time for them to publish their ingredients online like almost every other fast food restaurant does (and Chipotle and Starbucks do now!) This is an important step towards transparency that more and more customers now want and expect. 

My team and I spent months contacting In-N-Out’s Customer Service and spoke directly with some restaurant locations trying to nail down all of their ingredients. We were successful in obtaining some ingredients used by In-N-Out, but because they are unwilling to share the complete list they would only confirm or deny if specific ingredients are used – one, by one, by one (which is so ridiculous!)
Eventually last December, I sent a letter to the owner and President of In-N-Out, Ms. Lynsi Snyder, asking to chat with her to discuss my concerns. She declined without further comment. I moved forward by replying to her assistant and asking directly for a list of ingredients and also for their policy on the use of antibiotics in the production of their meat. A few weeks later on January 15, 2016, I received an email from Keith Brazeau, Vice President of Quality, with an exciting announcement!
In-N-Out Commits To Publishing Ingredients
He wrote: “we are already working toward publishing our ingredients. Our goal is to ensure this information is readily available to any customer looking for it; and that it will be useful, clear, and of course, accurate.“
I’m thrilled that our behind-the-scenes pressure made In-N-Out Burger commit to publishing “useful” “clear” and “accurate” ingredient lists online, but when will they do it?
The size of their regular menu is super limited, so it really should only take an hour (or less!) for someone to add a PDF of the ingredient list to their website. This is not a difficult task and I see no reason why they cannot implement it immediately, do you? They also didn’t send me the list of ingredients, which they could have easily and quickly done. I followed up with them twice now asking for a timeline and haven’t heard back from them yet (but will update this post when they do).

How healthy do you think In-N-Out’s ingredients are going to be? Here’s what we already know… 


(We found the information above by asking Customer Service about each ingredient individually. I find it appalling that the corporate headquarters didn’t send this information to me after direct communication.)

1.  They admit that they use Cottonseed Oil to fry their fries. Cottonseed oil does not belong in our food supply and should be strictly avoided. This oil is made from a byproduct of the industrial waste from the cotton farming industry, which isn’t a food crop. Despite being one of the most prevalent GMO crops (designed to produce an insecticide), cotton crops still require an intense application of agricultural chemicals and that’s why cotton has been called the “World’s Dirtiest Crop”. Residues from these pesticides can remain in cottonseed oil according to data collected by the FAO/WHO Joint Meetings on Pesticides Residues in Food. If that isn’t bad enough, to extract the oil the cottonseeds are subjected to intensive chemical refining with toxic hexane, bleach, and deodorizers.
2.  They get their meat from one of the largest factory farms. If you’ve drive on I-5 in central California – you’ve probably smelled it. I posted a video of what it looks like on Instagram – check it out here. Harris Ranch is one the largest concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) on the west coast – critics call it “cowschwitz” because thousands of cows can be seen crowded and walking in their own excrement.
3. The cows are raised with GMO feed. Study after study is revealing that meat raised organically and grass-fed is healthier for us because it is higher in healthy fatty acids, and is not raised with antibiotics or growth hormones linked to cancer
4.  The spread on their burgers and their shakes both contain High Fructose Corn Syrup. One study found that this sweetener can be contaminated with toxic mercury. HFCS has been shown to contribute to type II diabetes, especially in children
5.  Their burger spread is artificially colored with Yellow #5. This is the same dye I petitioned Kraft to remove from their mac & cheese (which they have done) because it’s derived from petroleum and linked to childhood behavioral problems that require a food warning label in Europe. If you add pickles to your burger, those are colored with yellow #5 as well. 
6.  We were able to get some of the bun ingredients from their supplier and released them in this post about fast food buns. They contain: Enriched Flour, Water, Sugar (from sugar beets), Yeast, Fully Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Salt, Calcium Propionate… (and may contain more ingredients that haven’t been disclosed yet). 
7.  They use the Artificial Flavor Vanillin, which is typically made from petrochemicals and paper industry waste, in their shakes. An awesome reader sent me this email recently:
“Years ago we used to eat at In-N-Out because they advertise “no preservatives” etc. But our family noticed that we didn’t feel good whenever we ate there, so we now just pack a cooler for road trips or try and find a Chipotle. A couple of months ago we stopped for gas on a road trip and went into an In-N-Out that was next door. I asked the manager what the ingredients were in the milk shake – the menu says “made with real ice cream”. He said he didn’t know, but had a company hotline he could call to ask about a specific ingredient. I chose one that I thought would tell me the quality of their ingredients – Vanillin. Sure enough, he came back to the counter and said their milkshakes contain Vanillin. The company keeps their ingredient list completely private and won’t share with consumers. I know many, many families who think that In-N-Out represents a healthier fast food option. Would you consider doing an investigation or requesting that they share their ingredients with the public?”
– Jennifer

There is no time like the present for In-N-Out to post their ingredients, as we all deserve to know what we are eating and In-N-Out shouldn’t hide their ingredient lists from their customers.

But – the broader and more important commitment here is for In-N-Out to stop using meat from animals that are routinely fed antibiotics and growth hormones on factory farms. 

The routine use of antibiotics is a major issue that I’ve written several times about (here, here, here, here). I am continuing to work with several consumer advocacy groups (CALPIRG Education Fund, Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union) to eliminate this practice.

In January, we sent a letter to Lynsi Snyder of In-N-Out Burger outlining the public health threat we are facing in regards to the misuse of antibiotics on farms and what In-N-Out can do address it. Specifically, we asked Ms. Snyder to develop an antibiotic use policy that prohibits their meat suppliers from routinely using antibiotics in the raising of their meat.

We received a response to our letter on February 16, 2016 from Mr. Brazeau at In-N-Out that stated, “we support Food and Drug Administration guidance on the use of antibiotics in livestock which were designed to protect both animal and human health.” 

The FDA’s new guidelines on antibiotic use do not go far enough. Here’s why:

The FDA’s policy is full of gaps and still allows for the routine use of antibiotics on animals that are not sick, and is only phasing out the routine use of antibiotics for growth promotion. The FDA will continue to allow farms to routinely use antibiotics to prevent diseases that the animals are at risk for when they are raised in crowded factory farms. As you can see, anyone who is following the FDA’s guidelines will be able to continue regularly administering antibiotics to their livestock and does little to curb its use. 

In-N-Out is a highly regarded chain that many people believe serves better food than other fast food competitors. It’s time to live up to their reputation and stop lagging behind companies like Elevation Burger and Shake Shack who have responsibly decided not to serve meat raised with routine antibiotics or growth hormones. Switching to sustainable grass-fed beef is one way In-N-Out Burger could meet this requirement and help encourage best management practices for animals.

Collectively, we made a huge impact last year when we petitioned Subway to stop serving meat raised on routine antibiotics andwere successful. Now, we can do this again and we need your help!

Get Beef Raised On Routine Antibiotics Out

Contact In-N-Out Burger today and ask them to:

  1. Phase out the routine use of antibiotics and growth hormones across all of their meat supply chains

  2. Require suppliers to improve management practices and conditions for animals in their facilities, reducing the need for routine use of these drugs.

  3. Provide a more healthful and sustainable grass-fed option on the menu.

Make Your Voice Heard!

If you know someone who eats at In-N-Out, please share this post with them. We are creating a safer food system together and I love each and every one of you for getting involved! 


   Pretty convincing huh?  But then I found this article, and was reminded how easy it is to subvert things on the internet.    I have a feeling that the photo of the “Food Babe” on her blog is just a model and she’s actually a 300-lb blob.   In any case, I believe this gal’s article and consider yourself free and clear to eat In-N-Out, assuming you’re lucky enough to live in California.

Vani Hari, AKA the Food Babe, has amassed a loyal following in her Food Babe Army. The recent subject of profiles and interviews in the New York Times, theNew York Post and New York Magazine, Hari implores her soldiers to petition food companies to change their formulas. She’s also written a bestselling book telling you that you can change your life in 21 days by “breaking free of the hidden toxins in your life.” She and her army are out to change the world.

She’s also utterly full of shit.

I am an analytical chemist with a background in forensics and toxicology. Before working full-time as a science writer and public speaker, I worked as a chemistry professor, a toxicology chemist, and in research analyzing pesticides for safety. I now run my own blog, Science Babe, dedicated to debunking pseudoscience that tends to proliferate in the blogosphere. Reading Hari’s site, it’s rare to come across a single scientific fact. Between her egregious abuse of the word “toxin” anytime there’s a chemical she can’t pronounce and asserting that everyone who disagrees with her is a paid shill, it’s hard to pinpoint her biggest sin.


Hari’s superhero origin story is that she came down with appendicitis and didn’t accept the explanation that appendicitis just happens sometimes. So she quit her job as a consultant, attended Google University and transformed herself into an uncredentialed expert in everything she admittedly can’t pronounce. Slap the catchy moniker “Food Babe” on top, throw in a couple of trend stories and some appearances on the Dr. Oz show, and we have the new organic media darling.

But reader beware. Here are some reasons why she’s the worst assault on science on the internet.

Natural, Organic, GMO-Free Fear

Hari’s campaign last year against the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte drove me to launch my site (don’t fuck with a Bostonian’s Pumpkin-Spice Anything). She alleged that the PSL has a “toxic” dose of sugar and two (TWO!!) doses of caramel color level IV in carcinogen class 2b.

The word “toxic” has a meaning, and that is “having the effect of a poison.” Anything can be poisonous depending on the dose. Enough water can even be poisonous in the right quantity (and can cause a condition calledhyponatremia).

But then, the Food Babe has gone on record to say, ” There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.” I wonder if anybody’s warned her about good old dihydrogen monoxide?

(AKA water.)

It’s a goddamn stretch to say that sugar has deleterious effects, other than making your Lululemons stretch a little farther if you don’t “namaste” your cheeks off. However, I implore you to look at the Safety Data Sheet for sugar. The average adult would need to ingest about fifty PSLs in one sitting to get a lethal dose of sugar. By that point, you would already have hyponatremia from an overdose of water in the lattes.

And almost enough caffeine for me.

And what about that “carcinogenic” caramel color? Well, it turns out that it’s not the only thing in your PSL that’s in carcinogen class 2b.

There’s also coffee.

Coffee is class 2b because of the acrylamide accumulated during the roasting process. Coffee, before Starbucks turns it into a milkshake, is pretty healthyfor you. Class 2b means that all possible carcinogenic effects haven’t been ruled out (because we haven’t tested drinking it while tightrope walking across the Grand Canyon and simultaneously attempting to eat fire… yet), but that it hasn’t been shown to cause a single case of cancer.

This is a blatant attempt at getting you to look to her for answers by making you unnecessarily afraid. The goal of Hari’s campaign was to… well, we’re still not sure. Remove the caramel color? Smear Starbucks? After that campaign failed, she launched a failed attempt to get them to use only organic milk, which would have made their lattes far more expensive and no healthier.

Hari uses this tricky technique again and again. If I told you that a chemical that’s used as a disinfectant, used in industrial laboratory for hydrolysis reactions, and can create a nasty chemical burn is also a common ingredient in salad dressing, would you panic? Be suspicious that the industries were poisoning your children? Think it might cause cancer? Sign a petition to have it removed?

What if I told you I was talking about vinegar, otherwise known as acetic acid?

This is Hari’s business. She takes innocuous ingredients and makes you afraid of them by pulling them out of context (Michelle Francl, in a review of Hari’s book for Slate, expertly demonstrates the shallowness of this gimmick). This is how Hari demonized the harmless yet hard-to-pronounceazodicarbonamide, or as she deemed it, the “yoga mat chemical,” which is yes, found in yoga mats and also in bread, specifically Subway sandwich bread, a discovery Hari bombastically trumpeted on her website. However, as the science-minded among us understand, a substance can be used for more than one thing perfectly safely, and it doesn’t mean that your bread is made of a yoga mat if it happens to contain azodicarbonamide, which is FDA-approved as a dough-softening agent. It simply means your bread is composed of chemicals, much like everything else you eat.

Hari’s rule? “If a third grader can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.”

My rule? Don’t base your diet on the pronunciation skills of an eight-year-old.

A Force to Disagree With

In a recent blog post, Hari accused several of her detractors of having nefarious ties to sinister organizations. These evildoers included Dr. Joe Schwarcz, the director for Science and Society at McGill University, Dr. Steve Novella, a Yale-educated neurologist and contributor to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast, and Dr. Kevin Folta, the horticultural chair at the University of Florida. Why? Because these highly credentialed scientists had the nerve to use facts against Hari. Dr. Schwarcz speaks out regularly about her tactics. Dr. Novella debunked some wild claims of hers about the science of microwaves. And Dr. Folta said “she found that a popular social media site was more powerful than science itself, more powerful than reason, more powerful than actually knowing what you’re talking about.”

But could any of these scientists’ criticisms possibly have merit? Not to Hari. She has flung these accusations at Dr. Folta multiple times. He’s responded on his personal blog and has released his email correspondence to prove that he has no financial connections to hide. And yet, Hari has not recanted.

Moreover, the tireless crusader for transparency doesn’t want you to pay attention to the bullshit behind the curtain. And it’s not just when scientists point it out in the news–it’s when anybody questions her on her Facebook page.

There’s a group on Facebook called ” Banned By Food Babe” that boasts nearly 6,000 members. Reasons for being banned include “I asked for her qualifications” and “I pointed out that water was a chemical.” Some members of the page were former fans of hers who were banned when they asked questions of clarification. Any dissent couldn’t possibly have merit within the ranks of the Food Babe Army.

And when Hari’s been questioned about silencing critics by news outlets? She consistently says that she won’t be silenced by people who are haters and shills, racist or sexist.

If she thinks she’s being attacked for being a woman, she’s missed that she’s not the only “babe” in this discussion.

If her arguments had merit, she could engage in a battle of wits with her detractors instead of making insidious accusations. It’s not about Hari, the woman who gets home at the end of the day, maybe gives her dog an (organic) treat and watches some crappy TV show. It’s about Food Babe LLC, the business organization that spreads terribly inaccurate science.

It’s about statements like this:

“The enzymes released from kale go in to your liver and trigger cancer fighting chemicals that literally dissolve unhealthy cells throughout your body.”

One of her outspoken critics, Kavin Senapathy, is a writer at Grounded Parents and a contributor at the Genetic Literacy Project. Senapathy has said that the Food Babe “exploits the scientific ignorance of her followers.” With a background in genomics, Senapathy is a science writer and likewise an Indian American woman, but I’m sure it’s a much more comforting narrative in the Food Babe Army to say that we’re all just sexists and racists.

Is It Made With Real Girl Scouts?

How many companies or products do you think it would make sense to crusade against in the course of a career? One? Three? A dozen?

Hari has declared, to date, more than 610 products and companies to be unsafe over the course of four years.

According to Hari, the problem with most of them, including Girl Scout Cookies: GMOs and pesticides. She’s even alleged that an apple can be worse for you than a hot fudge sundae, if it’s not organic.

And is there even a shred of truth to this? Not in the least. Hari claims going organic will save you from pesticides, but organic farming uses pesticides too. Some of them are far more toxic than conventional pesticides. (Remember, the dose makes the poison. Neither apple would have enough pesticide by the time it reaches market to be harmful.)

The difference between organic and conventional? For a product that’s no healthier, organic is more expensive and they give Hari a commission.

As for those GMOs in the Girl Scout Cookies, fret ye not. In order to introduce a genetically modified crop into the food supply, they have to be proven to benutritionally indistinguishable from their non-GM counterparts.

Maybe Hari’s crusades would be OK if she had the facts to back them up. But she doesn’t, and worse, when she’s wrong, she tries to make her errors disappear.

Recently, a writer from the New York Times contacted me to ask for some background on Hari. I was happy to oblige. She was looking for the articles for which Hari had been widely criticized and that were conspicuously absent from her Facebook page. Hari had told the writer that she couldn’t recall those articles.

Luckily, the internet never forgets.

If you want proof that Hari doesn’t research anything before she puts it online, look no further than this article on airplanes, which she deleted from her site. She claimed that pilots control the air in an airplane, so you should sit near the front to breathe better air. She wrote that passengers are sometimes sprayed with pesticides before flights, and that airplane air is pumped full of nitrogen.

Please recall high school science, in which you hopefully learned that the atmosphere is 78% nitrogen. Also, if anyone has personally been sprayed with pesticides before a flight, please email me, I would love to talk to you about it (not really).

The other piece of writing that she unsuccessfully attempted to cleanse from the bowels of the internet claimed that microwaves are like small nuclear reactors, and they make water crystalize the same way it does when you say “Hitler” or “Satan” to it, because water has ears and a grasp of early twentieth-century European dictators.

Feel Better—Detox and Definitely Don’t Vaccinate!

Food Babe has written that, in order to deal with the flu, you should take vitamins, get sunshine, and ” encounter the flu naturally.” In other words, her advice is to get the flu, an infection that kills an average of 31,000 people annually.

A PSA: Please remember that when you vaccinate, you help protect the people around you who cannot vaccinate. You protect people who are immunocompromised, who are going through cancer treatments, and who are on immunosupressants. If you catch the flu, you become a disease vector and can easily infect more people.

“I won’t eat any of these ingredients or even put them on my body,” Hari wrote of the components that make up the flu vaccine. “However, the mainstream medical community, government agencies and pharmaceutical companies suggest that I directly inject these ingredients into my bloodstream? And I need do it every year until I die? Are you freaking kidding me?”

Nope! Not kidding. The flu is serious. To scare people into not taking every measure they can against a deadly disease mortifies me. Hari has denied that she’s anti-vax, but all the reasons she has for avoiding the flu vaccine are ones anti-vaxxers hold near and dear to their hearts for letting their children suffer. Toxins. Aluminum. Mercury. The usual suspects.

But hey, the next time you’re down with a bug, follow Hari’s lead and detox your way out of it. Who doesn’t want to lose a few pounds, feel better, and have more energy? Hari will help, for only $9/per bottle from her sponsor, Suja.

In Hari’s non-defense, they’re “only” $6 per bottle from Suja’s website.

But wait, didn’t she say that the Pumpkin Spice Lattes had a toxic dose of sugar at fifty grams in a grande? So why does she endorse Suja when it hasforty-two grams of sugar and even comes with a warning on its website that it’s not suitable for diabetics?

It’s probably because detox is complete bullshit.

In order to buy into the premise that you need detoxing, you first have to be “toxed.” The common enemies they claim that juice can clean out of your system are heavy metals and pesticides. The bullshit? Those don’t cause allergies, acne, weight gain, or whatever symptom she’s using to scare you into buying overpriced juice this week. Heavy metal toxicity has specific symptoms, and actual pesticide poisoning is really scary.

Neither can be fixed by fruit juice. Not even organic fruit juice.

You’re constantly “detoxing” just by living. Your kidneys and liver take care of cleaning out unnecessary things in the body fairly efficiently on their own. Proof? The toilet paper industry.

Go Ahead, Lie About Your Food Allergies

We’ve already established that Hari has a fickle relationship with the truth. How about the definition of the word “allergy”? That seems basic enough. An allergy is an immune system overreaction. Life-threatening food allergies are serious.

And this one is very serious.

Hari claimed that she’s allergic to refined sugar in a blog entry in which she also wrote about about all the desserts she’s eaten. But only refined sugar,because apparently short-chain carbohydrates are only evil if they’re not from one of her approved sponsored sugar sources. So, I guess she can just eat these now that her acupuncturist diagnosed and treated her for this alleged sugar allergy.

Alleged. Because she’s admitted that she’s fine with lying about allergies.

“Go as far as telling the server you are allergic to butter and dairy, soy and corn,” she writes. “Butter really isn’t bad for you if it is organic and you use it in moderation – but restaurants can go crazy with it, adding several hundred extra calories you can live without.”

This is a problem.

I have celiac disease, and there are people with genuine life-threatening allergies. When people like me go into a restaurant, we’re at the whim of a waiter who may have just served twenty fussy assholes from the Food Babe Army who think that gluten causes your spleen to turn radioactive, or whatever lie she’s using to sell organic kale dipped in yak’s butter this week. So when I tell a server that I can’t do gluten, that waiter might roll their eyes at me because of people like Vani Hari.

Well, people like Hari and her Food Babe Army. Changing the world, one lie at a time.