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Hi, Matt:

Recently my husband and I were sitting in our parked car and romantically slurping up Wendy's Frostys. I felt the mood was somewhat shattered when he wondered aloud whether Wendy's, like McDonald's, adds small, particulate plastics to their milk shakes. Apparently this would allow the milk shakes to be thick-n-rich at higher temperatures, slowing down their melting to runniness. Is this true about either company?

-- Rachel, the net

It's hopeless. We'll never trust Big Business. No matter how cuddly and harmless the American corporation paints itself, we just won't buy it. They're out to get us, and plastic shavings in our milk shakes are just more proof. (And how about the ground glass that gives cereal its satisfying crunch!) No, no, Rachel. Slurp away fearlessly. Leave the old man at home, if necessary. The shakes contain several thickeners and stabilizers derived from natural sources like beans and seaweed, but no petroleum byproducts. The ingredient Mr. Rachel is probably referring to is a form of cellulose, the anti-plastic. A wood byproduct. It's a powder that mixes with cold liquids and bulks up into a stable goo. It adds body to fast-food shakes, salad dressings, house paints, bottled sauces. Cellulose makes the windows in recyclable window envelopes. Best of all, Hollywood uses tons of it for sticky, oozy special effects. So on your next romantic outing, tell Mr. R he's actually drinking the stuff that gave Alien and Ghostbusters their satisfying sliminess.

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