Debunked: Michael Pollan’s claims about McDonald’s french fries


Michael Pollan claimed in a 2014 video that potatoes for McDonald’s were sprayed with the pesticide Monitor but Monitor had been discontinued since 2009.


Methamidophos, trade name “Monitor,” is an organophosphate insecticide. … Due to its toxicity, the use of pesticides that contain methamidophos is currently being phased out in Brazil. In 2009, all uses in the United States were voluntarily canceled.CompTox Dashboard (EPA): DTXSID6024177Chemical formula: C2H8NO2PS
Methamidophos – Wikipedia


Joe Schwarcz PhD | 20 Mar 2017 Health and Nutrition

I’ve been repeatedly asked about the “dangers” of McDonald’s French fries. To be honest, I am not the biggest fan of McDonald’s fries. Not because they’re “dangerous”, but because they simply are not to my taste. I am a fan, however, of Michael Pollan’s writings on food and nutrition, particularly his classic book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” But while Pollan doles out the good “eat food, mainly plants, not too much” advice, his attacks on processed foods are, often times, overzealous. Such is the case of Pollan and McDonalds fries.

In a widely circulated 2014 video Pollan blasts McDonald’s not for any nutritional shortcomings of its fries but for accepting only potatoes of a certain size and shape and shunning any with blemishes caused by aphids. That, Pollan suggests, forces farmers to use pesticides such as Monitor (methamidophos) which he deems to be particularly dangerous. Indeed he points out that this chemical “is so toxic that farmers who grow these potatoes in Idaho won’t venture outside and into their fields for five days after they spray.” He goes on to say that the potatoes have to be stored in giant sheds for six weeks so they have time to off gas all the chemicals in them. The video had quite an impact, triggering headlines like “watch this video and you will never eat McDonald’s French fries again.” The issue needs a closer look.

…As far as farmers not wanting to go out into the fields, well, that is standard protocol after spraying with any pesticide. Intervals that have to be respected after spraying any pesticide are established by regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Pollan’s notion about storing the potatoes for sixty days to off gas toxins is pure nonsense. Potatoes are routinely stored in large atmosphere controlled sheds because they have to be available year round. In any case, crops are monitored for pesticide residues and all such found on potatoes are way below established tolerance levels…And as a final point, the pesticide being talked about, methamidophos, has not been used since 2009.



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