Happy meals forever
A McDonald’s burger kept for 12 years has shown no signs of decay.
IF there was a huge nuclear explosion somewhere on this planet, it’s possible that all living creatures would be wiped out. Well, except for the cockroaches not exposed to the immediate force of the explosion – nothing could survive that – and the lucky ones amongst us who have a nuclear fallout shelter in our backyard. So that would probably mean that we’d only be left with Barack Obama and his family, Bill Gates and his family, Tiger Woods and his ... and his golf clubs, and millions of cockroaches.
After surviving on instant noodles and baked beans for an extended period, Barack and company would probably think it safe enough to venture out and look for something different to eat. If everything in the White House kitchen had decayed and the only thing edible in the pantry was more baked beans, they need only make their way to the nearest McDonald’s outlet to get something cooked and ready to go.
After all, if a McDonald’s burger can survive for 12 years in a plastic box in someone’s kitchen cupboard, it can surely survive for a lesser period sitting on a McDonald’s counter top – assuming for the sake of this story that Barrack’s local McDonald’s outlet is in a nuclear-free zone that no one else knows about.
And yes, a McDonald’s burger did survive for 12 years. Or at least, that’s the claim. According to a 2008 report, wellness educator and nutrition consultant Karen Hanrahan had a McDonald’s burger that she’d been keeping since 1996 just to prove that it wouldn’t decay. Although this Dorian Gray of burgers had dried out a bit and had “the oddest smell,” it apparently hadn’t changed much in 12 years.
I don’t know about you, but if I’d kept a burger for just 12 days without any signs of decay, I would have come to the same conclusion as Ms Hanrahan, without having to make a permanent space in a kitchen cupboard for a fast food fossil. I’m not sure if she still has the burger (in which case it would be 14 years old now), or if she finally gave in to temptation, zapped it in the microwave oven and wolfed it down with a side order of fresh French fries.
There are obviously some who doubt the authenticity of Ms Hanrahan’s claim, because many copy cat experiments have since been carried out. Indeed, six months ago, a woman walked into a McDonald’s outlet in New York, purchased a Happy Meal comprising a burger and fries, took it home, placed it on a table and took a photo of it. The following day, she took another photo of it. And the day after that, yet another ...
“After a week or two, the photographs were very boring, as nothing was happening at all,” said Sally Davies, a New Yorkbased photographer, who was carrying out her “McDonald’s Happy Meal Project” for her own amusement.
Like, what did she expect to happen? Mould growing as long as elephant grass after a couple of days? Or maggots writhing happily on the meal?
Nonetheless, she continued taking photos, but only every couple of weeks.
“The Happy Meal stopped smelling of anything after only a couple of days, and the only change that really seemed to occur was that it essentially plasticized,” she said. “At six months old, the food is plastic to the touch and has an acrylic sheen to it. The only change that I can see is that it has become hard as a rock.”
These are the sorts of stories that sell newspapers. People read such stories and say: “I knew it; there’s just so many preservatives in that junk. No wonder it doesn’t rot. It’s corporate greed at its best! That’s it! I’m never going to eat another burger, ever again.”
I think we should cut back on our burger consumption simply because eating too many of them can clog our arteries and make us fat, and not just because of a photographer’s little project to amuse herself, entertaining though it may be.
In all fairness to McDonald’s, and I’m certainly not a fan, this was not an experiment carried out under scientifically-controlled circumstances. I’m now wondering if a burger and fries wouldn’t decay if they were placed in a humid enough environment. I’m also wondering what would happen to most non-wet food stuffs if they were placed in a dry enough atmosphere. Perhaps they might not rot either.
If I’d just crawled out of my nuclear fallout shelter and someone offered me a radiation-free burger, I wouldn’t eat it. A glass of wine and a piece of Camembert, yes, but I’d leave the other stuff for the cockroaches.
But then again, maybe the cockroaches wouldn’t eat it either.