The Great Burger King Strawberry Milkshake Mystery


Milkshakes from McDonald’s are pretty mysterious, too, but it was the Burger King strawberry version that inspired this post. My wife is, among other things, mildly anorexic. She has to fight to make herself eat at times, knowing that if her five foot tall body drops below 90 pounds in weight, she’s in trouble. At 93 pounds, she’s okay, with 100 pounds marking her ideal (but seldom reached and only briefly retained) weight. With that ever in mind, I try to keep a couple of fast food milkshakes in the freezer.

She can get those down at times when nothing else will do.

We get most of Pam’s strawberry milkshakes from McDonald’s on Highway 92 in Sierra Vista, Arizona. It’s the handiest fast food outlet for us, considering where we live and the frequency with which I have to drive right past the place on my way to run errands in town. For years, our standard was three strawberry shakes for Pam and one vanilla shake for me, include a drink carrier, please. Now that we have a third resident in our home, we add a chocolate shake for her. At least two of Pam’s three shakes go into the freezer.

We’ve had no “mystery milkshake” issue when Pam drinks a shake immediately after it’s thawed in the fridge, but with her anorexia, that doesn’t always happen. And if the refrigerator time stretches out for too long, the formerly frozen product begins to separate.

The whipped cream on top shrinks down noticeably. No surprise there.

Sooner or later, the ugly action happens at the bottom of the container. In the case of McDonald’s a separate layer forms down low, something with a yellowish color if memory serves. Until this evening, I’d never thought to investigate and/or write about the phenomenon; we just threw out any shakes that got “that bad”.

A few hours ago, though, we had a paradigm shift. A while back, concurrent with a run to Bisbee, I’d picked up strawberry milkshakes at Burger King. Pam had one left. It had been around a while–long enough, in fact, that she’d marked the container with a Sharpie:


    Drink First

Which did not happen. I’d put the shake down from the freezer to the fridge just this morning, but around 7:00 p.m., I told my redhead,

“Look at this! It’s all spattery around the top, not too sure about that, but look at the layer on the bottom!”

“Ew-w-w-w! I’m not drinking that!

“Me neither.”

“What did they put in that?”

“I dunno. Almost looks like water…or…hey, I bet I know what it is. I bet its–”

And we finished the sentence together, “–high fructose corn syrup!”

Strawberry milkshake mystery from Burger King.  Is that separated bottom layer...high fructose corn syrup?

Strawberry milkshake mystery from Burger King. Is that separated bottom layer…high fructose corn syrup?

Well, that was gross. But was it true? High fructose corn syrup (which recent studies have shown to be carcinogenic and a producer of wrinkles in high enough doses) is hard to avoid these days, including every bottle of soda pop out there except for Sierra Mist Natural and cola products bottled in Mexico. It seemed likely the fast food chains would be using the stuff in their not so milky milkshakes, but were they, really?

Time to hit the Net, research the ingredients for Burger King’s strawberry milkshake.

A single Google search brought up a page which lists the 20 ingredients in a BK strawberry shake as follows (emphasis mine):

Milk Fat, Milk Non-Fat, Sugar, Whey Sweet, Corn Syrup High Fructose, Corn Syrup, Flavor(s) Natural and Artificial, Vanilla, Guar Gum, Mono and Diglycerides, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Strawberry Syrup, Water, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate Preservative, Red 40

Yep. The BK strawberry shake done been fructified.

That’s a joke, folks. “Fructified” is defined as: 1. make something fruitful or productive. But it sounds like it should mean: 1. loaded with fructose. Doesn’t it? Really, doesn’t it? Of course, Burger King executives no doubt believe that by including high fructose corn syrup, they have made their product fruitful and productive in the profit making sense.

It’s also interesting that water is in fact a listed ingredient. Perhaps just to pull a bit of powdered milk back into a somewhat liquid state, you think?

The site did have one entry on the BK strawberry milkshake page that cracked me up:

Warning: Contains milk.

Imagine that, a fast food milkshake that contains milk.

The next time we get a McDonald’s milkshake that separates out like that, I’ll try to remember to take a photo so readers can compare the “degrees of separation” between the two brands. In the meantime, if our readers happen to know for a fact what that bottom layer of almost clear liquid might be, feel free to educate us. The Burger King strawberry milkshake qualifies as a medical mystery worthy of being solved before it turns to high fructose belly fat.

Not on my wife, whose body fat content tends to be next thing to nonexistent, but for the rest of us. The girth we save may be our own.

The milkshake mystery fluid, up close.  Blood plasma?

The milkshake mystery fluid, up close. Blood plasma?