wood pulp
Scientists have devised a way to make batteries from trees. Reuters

They all serve burgers and fries, but what else do McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and other fast-food chains have in common? They all have items on their menus that contain wood pulp.

According to the Los Angeles Times, several fast-food restaurants list cellulose in their nutrition information. Cellulose is a common additive used in processed foods and made of tiny plant fibers and wood pulp, but it is not digestible.

McDonald's had the most menu items containing cellulose, with the wood-pulp additive present in shredded cheese, fish fillet patties, biscuits, sausage and scrambled egg mix, smoothie base, syrup, ice cream, barbecue sauce, sweet 'n' sour sauce and honey mustard sauce.

Quartz reported McDonald’s finished first, with 14 menu items containing cellulose. Burger King trailed closely behind with 13 menu items like buns, tortillas, tacos, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, pancakes and several others.

Wendy’s had 10 items with cellulose, including shakes, cheese shreds and cheese crumbles.

Taco Bell, which has wood pulp in nine of its offerings, called cellulose “a safe carbohydrate found in the cell walls of plants" that "helps with water and oil binding."

While cellulose isn't the most appetizing ingredient in the kitchen, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies it as "fiber" and says it is safe to eat in some cases. However, humans cannot digest cellulose, and if large amounts are digested, the additive can result in “dietary bulk, reducing the nutritional value of such foodstuffs and possibly exerting a laxative effect.”

Natural News.com reported fast-food restaurants are not the only culprits adding cellulose — which also goes by names like powdered cellulose, cellulose powder, methylcellulose and cellulose gum — in food.

Organic Valley and Kraft both use modified cellulose powder in shredded cheese.

General Mills reportedly uses cellulose in a long list of foods: Log Cabin syrup, ice cream shake mix, smoothie base (mango, strawberry, strawberry-banana) mozzarella cheese sticks, honey mustard dip, Fiber One ready-to-eat muffins and any products with its tortilla flour.

Kellogg’s also has wood pulp in its MorningStar chicken nuggets, patties and veggie wings as well as its Eggo waffles, Cinnabon pancakes and snack bar varieties.

According to The Street, other foods that contain wood pulp are:

Aunt Jemima Frozen Blueberry Pancakes and Original Syrup; Weight Watchers vanilla ice cream sandwich, English toffee crunch ice cream bar and giant cookies & cream ice cream bar; Pillsbury-brand Moist Supreme Classic Yellow Cake Mix, Mozzarella and Pepperoni Pastry Puffs, Cheese and Spinach Crescent Pastry Puffs, Artichoke and Spinach Bread Bowl Bites, Buffalo Chicken Crescent Pastry Puffs and Cream Cheese and Jalapeno Bread Bowl Bites; Duncan Hines cake mixes, Jimmy Dean frozen breakfast bowls; some Pizza Hut and KFC menu items; Sonic’s ice cream, Sonic Blast, banana split and ice cream cone; Dole Peaches & Cr'me Parfait and Apples & Cr'me Parfait; and Nestlé hot cocoa mixes.