Does McDonald’s food rot? Or is it so chock-full of chemicals and preservatives that chicken nuggets and fries will stay pristine — if a little dry — forever?
An Alaskan mom named Jennifer Lovdahl recently posted photos on Facebook of a 6-year-old Happy Meal, touting it as evidence that McDonald’s is unhealthy because it doesn’t decompose like normal chow, Fox News reported.
Lovdahl posted the shocking picture on February 3. Alongside a snapshot of some withered fries and chicken nuggets likely hard enough to chip a tooth, the mom posted her January 8, 2010, receipt as proof of the passage of time.
She evidently purchased the Happy Meal and tucked it away in a corner of her office six years ago with the sole purpose of proving a point, according to Business Insider.
“It’s been sitting at our office this whole time and has not rotted, molded, or decomposed at all! It smells only of cardboard. We did this experiment to show our patients how unhealthy this ‘food’ is.”
The image has since gone viral, but so far, it’s hasn’t been confirmed to be real. Of course, this isn’t the first time someone has posted pictures of old McDonald’s meals — pristine as the day they were purchased — to prove that they’re unhealthy.
In the past, the food’s high levels of sodium and preservatives have been credited with the chain’s long-lasting meals. In her caption of the shocking photo, Jennifer tried to encourage people to eat healthier, “real fast food” like apples, bananas, carrots, and celery, which aren’t nearly as tasty as a double cheeseburger.
Of course, McDonald’s refutes that any photo of a 6-year-old Happy Meal, with no signs of decomposition, suggests that Big Macs, French fries, and the Filet-O-Fish are unhealthy. The company released a statement, stressing that yes, their meals do rot — if the conditions are just right.
Rehashing an explanation laid out by a food scientist on its web site a couple years ago, McDonald’s explained that decomposition needs moisture, among other conditions, to occur. Once the chicken nuggets, for example, dry out enough, they can’t grow mold or bacteria.
“Look closely, the burgers you are seeing are likely dried out and dehydrated, and by no means ‘the same as the day they were purchased.’ “
Back in 2013, in response to similar photos attesting to the disturbing theory that chemicals keep McDonald’s meals fresh, Canadian food scientist and Program Director at the University of Guelph’s Department of Food Science and Quality Assurance, Dr. Keith Warriner, threw some serious science at the question.
— Carbonated.TV (@CarbonatedTV) January 9, 2015
Microbes need water, nutrients, warmth, and time to sprout and grow. Eliminate one element, he said, and nothing will happen — no spoilage, no nasty green fungus, no mushy, stinky mess. Take the McDonald’s hamburger, for instance.
“The patty loses water in the form of steam during the cooking process. The bun, of course, is made out of bread. Toasting it reduces the amount of moisture. This means that after preparation, the hamburger is fairly dry. When left out open in the room, there is further water loss as the humidity within most buildings is around 40 [percent]. So in the absence of moisture or high humidity, the hamburger simply dries out, rather than rot.”
To make a McDonald’s Happy Meal rot, wrap it in Saran wrap to keep the moisture inside and store in a very humid room. Then you’ll see some nasty spoilage. Warriner contends that a burger made a home will also remain perfectly preserved for six years under the right conditions.
A 2014 article at IFLScience seems to corroborate that theory, noting an important feature of the McDonald’s hamburger patty in particular that may keep it looking fresh for years: it’s thin, with more surface area, and dries out fast.
At the very least, the 6-year-old Happy Meal makes fast food look a little less appetizing.
[Photo via Jennifer Lovdahl/Facebook]