Everything about the food at McDonald's is fast — it's made fast, cooked fast, and usually consumed fast — except for one thing: the rate at which it decomposes.
How on Earth do we know that? Well, a woman named Jennifer Lovdahl posted photos on Facebook claiming to show a six-year-old McDonald's Happy Meal — and it's pretty disturbing. Not because it's become a furry, moldy mess inhabited by creepy-crawlies, but because nothing has really changed.
The internet, of course, has gone berserk. The post has been shared over 280,000 times. But is the fury warranted?
The photos show four chicken nuggets, an order of slightly shriveled french fries, and an accompanying receipt dated January 8, 2010. And they look like they could have been ordered yesterday.
Lovdahl said she let the food sit for years in order to show people just how unnatural McDonald's food is.
"It has not rotted, moulded, or decomposed at all!!!" she writes. "It smells only of cardboard. We did this experiment to show our patients how unhealthy this 'food' is. Especially for our growing children!! There are so many chemicals in this food! Choose real food! Apples, bananas, carrots, celery.those are real fast food."
But Lovdahl isn't the first person to conduct this little experiment. In fact, stories about McDonald's hamburgers lasting years before rotting are frequently used as proof that fast food basically just a big pile of preservatives.
McDonald's, however, has another explanation:
In the right environment, our burgers, fries and other menu items could decompose. The reason our food may appear not to decompose comes down to a matter of simple science. In order for decomposition to occur, you need certain conditions — specifically moisture. Without sufficient moisture – either in the food itself or the environment — bacteria and mold may not grow and therefore, decomposition is unlikely. So if food is or becomes dry enough, it is unlikely to grow mold or bacteria or decompose. Food prepared at home that is left to dehydrate could see similar results. 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."
In other words, the microbes that cause food to rot need water to live, so if the burger loses its water and is kept in a dry place, it's not going to rot. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats actually tested out this theory, comparing the decomposition of McDonald's burgers and home-ground burgers, and found that, when left out in open air, neither the McDonald’s burgers nor the home-ground burgers rotted.
So, no, we can't say that all of McDonald's food is composed entirely of preservatives, but when presented with a highly processed McDonald's burger and an organic, grass-fed burger, we're pretty sure we know what you'll choose.