Deep down, some part of you knows that when you go out for fast food burgers, you're not getting the best quality beef — whether you're willing to admit it to yourself or not! So when researchers released a study proving that rat and human DNA was found in burgers, you shouldn't have been that surprised. I mean, people have found entire rats and severed fingers in their fast food before, so we should all have a little bit of gross factor tolerance built up. It is, after all, fast food. That's not to say that because it's prepared quickly and at a lower price point we, as consumers, should put up with stag rodents and human parts in between our buns — it's just to say that there's a lower expectation of quality for food that's being mass produced at such a fast rate.
But before I spend too much time freaking you out about that cheeseburger you ate last night that's starting to rumble in your stomach out of psychosomatic fear, I'll fast forward and tell you that you're probably going to be OK — researchers found that despite the presence of these findings, the level of their saturation falls within the bounds of what is considered to be acceptable and tolerable for human consumption. Pretty gross though, right?
The company behind the research, Clear Labs, is an organization of software engineers and genomic scientists dedicated to analyzing and improving the quality of the world's food sources. Meaning, the point of this research was not to scare us away from fast food and to condemn the industry. Rather the point was a call to reform, and a kick in the pants to raise the standards and inspire food chains to meet consumers' expectations. Their goal is to ensure quality food is being made available with complete transparency, so they're really on everyone's side.
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The study included 258 burger samples gathered from 79 brands and 22 retailers in northern California and included some super fun (not) findings like a black bean burger with no black beans, two cases of beef found in veggie patties, three cases of rat DNA, one case of human DNA, and pathogens in 4.3 percent of all products. While this might not be jaw-droppingly surprising, it is disturbing, because like Clear Lab points out, most of these issues fall within the FDA Defects Level Handbook. But with consumers becoming more educated and involved in the sourcing and condition of their food, standards are becoming more strict, which means quality will likely increase. So mostly, you can rest assured that studies like the Clear Lab's Hamburger Report and the FDA standards are continuously working towards improving food quality and safety.
Because there's only so much information that we can obtain on our own, at some point and with some chains, we have to rely on the transparency and ethics of the companies we trust to eat with. To some extent, it's always a risk to eat food that's been prepared for you by someone else, but the goal is for it to become less of a risk and more reliable. Just feel lucky that you're not the person who bit into a chunk of rat (RIP, Ratatouille).