Happy meals for­ever

A McDon­ald’s burger kept for 12 years has shown no signs of de­cay.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE - MARY SCHNEIDER

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.

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