You Can’t Tell How Healthy Your Food Is by Whether It Rotts or Not.

Every creature, noble as it may be, is eventually eaten up by microbes.This is the cycle of life ! So how do we explain the pieces of plants and animals that make up a McDonald’s burger or twinkie? Why do n’t they rot? It turns out they’re not nearly as immortal as viral Facebook memes.

Let’s be clear: McDonald’s and Twinkies hamburgers last a long time, but not because the foods are “not food” or because they are full of “toxic chemicals.” The truth is much less scandalous. And yet, these are claims that spread every time someone’s old Happy Meal goes viral. Here are the latest :

It’s been 6 years since I bought Happy Meal at McDonald’s. All this time it has been in our office and has not rotted at all, has not merged or decomposed !!! It only smells like cardboard. We conducted this experiment to show our patients how harmful this “food” is. Especially for our growing children !! There are so many chemicals in this food! Choose real food! Apples, bananas, carrots, celery … this is real fast food.

And here is a message from Len Foley , who runs a “museum” of hamburgers of various ages:

[Question:] What did you do to keep these burgers for so long?

My answer is nothing. These hamburgers are not food (as we usually think of food), they are chemical mixtures that contain the look, taste and smell of food, but don’t be fooled … there is nothing “food” in them at all.

No , no , no , no . McDonald’s burgers are made from the same material as any other burger . Beef cutlet with salt and pepper, period. The buns are like the pre-packaged bread or hamburger buns you buy at the grocery store.

Yes, it’s food. And yes, it’s also full of chemicals. In case you missed the first day of your chemistry class, everything in the world is made of chemicals . Water is a chemical. Protein is a chemical. And yes, calcium propionate (found in a bun as a preservative, but not in a burger) is also a chemical. But this does not threaten your health .

Let’s ponder this line of reasoning for a moment. If what does not rot is harmful to health or is not considered food, we should also not eat:

  • Jerky
  • Raisin
  • Honey
  • Rice (kept dry)
  • Whiskey

This is not the world I want to live in! And if mold growth qualifies something as food, does that mean we can eat shower tiles?

Remember that humans have stored food for centuries, so in many cases the food does not rot but remains edible. Jerky is probably the closest analogy to the McDonald’s burger patty: it’s meaty, but stored under the right conditions and can last almost forever.

McDonald’s burgers are dry

The microbes that cause food to rot need water to live. If you remove most of the water from something and store it in a dry place, it won’t rot. Here’s what’s going on here.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats did the right experiment :

So so so. It turns out that not only did ordinary McDonald’s hamburgers not rot, but homemade hamburgers did not rot either. Samples one through five narrowed slightly (especially beef patties) but showed no signs of decomposition. What does it mean?

This means it’s no surprise that McDonald’s burger doesn’t rot. Any burger of the same shape will work the same way.

And before blaming salt, he also included a no-salt burger. The same results. In fact, when he compared two different sizes of McDonald’s burgers, the larger one had some mold, the smaller one didn’t. This makes sense since the larger one retains more of the original moisture.

Still uncertain? The food blogNoms and Sciunce did the opposite experiment , comparing a McDonald’s burger stored outdoors to a hamburger stored in an airtight container (to retain moisture). The dry burger continued; the burger is moldy.

This way we can rule out claims that McDonald’s hamburgers are non-food and hamburger conspiracy theories that contain dozens of hidden chemicals. It turns out that McDonald’s burgers obey the same laws of physics and nature as any other burger.

Twinkies don’t last long

The Twinkies story is a little different. Their estimated shelf life is family guy joke territory, but there are no viral photos of the petrified twinks. In fact, Twinkie engineers only recently figured out how to make pseudo-cakes last a whopping 45 days by filling packages with low oxygen gas. It’s like the nitrogen gas technique used to keep wine fresh , and no one tells wine snobs that their favorite drink is inedible.

In fact, of Twinkies is carefully processed, artificially created, possibly unnatural product – unlike beef burger patties to McDonald’s – but they are still eating. As the independent Twinkie expert Steve Ettlinger told NPR:

“Perhaps disappointing for gourmets, it’s mostly flour and sugar.”

Twinkie’s ingredients include preservatives and a variety of other chemicals (remember, chemicals don’t automatically scare you) to mimic the taste and texture of dairy and eggs. Real dairy products and eggs will spoil cakes faster. The NPR article has more details, and Ettlinger’s book contains as many of Twinkie’s secrets as he could have learned without being killed.

And further? Twinkies rots. At George Stevens Academy , a high school in Blue Hill, Maine, there are twinks in a glass display case. In the picture, 37 years old , he looks gray and crumbly. Definitely not edible.

So Twinkies really go bad, and McDonald’s burgers are just as edible as homemade burgers. Germs, like us, will eat them if given the opportunity. To the guy who said, “There is only one species on planet Earth that is stupid enough to think that McDonald’s hamburger is food,” I guess you don’t have a dog.

When you feel the urge to share the latest non-rotting hamburger meme, remember this: If you want to give up fast food, you have a lot of good reasons. These burgers, dried or otherwise, are full of saturated fat ( possibly unhealthy) and are served with buckets of sweet soda (which, we can all agree, is unhealthy ). You can also say that you just don’t like the taste or you don’t want to support industrial farming. You decide. You have a lot of good arguments at your disposal, so you don’t need to back up your opinion with something fake.

Vitals is a Lifehacker health and fitness blog. Follow us on Twitter here .


Leave a Reply