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This crap always gets to me… (or McDonalds Food isn’t eternal)

March 31, 2010

I don’t mean to sound like I really care about this, because I don’t, just that when we waste our energy implying facts that aren’t evident, we end up wasting all of our time.

So, What am I annoyed with now?

It is this article about a 1 year old happy meal that didn’t rot.  Sure, it is a cute blog entry and well written, but it makes some ridiculously false assumptions about the food she has preserved.  First and foremost, I am not a fan of McDonald’s (at least not in the sense that I think they are a good eating choice, or that their high calorie density foods have helped our society, because neither of those things is true.  Still I do salivate when I think of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, or their fries, hot fudge sundaes, everything on their breakfast menu… you get the picture) so I don’t enjoy coming to the aid of McDonalds and pointing out the foolishness of the conclusions that Nonna Joann makes regarding her experiment.  Further, I think Nonna Joann’s quest to change picky eaters into healthy eaters is an excellent one, more than excellent, exalted!

My problem is that when you see the picture of her happy meal it is as dry as a freakin’ desert.  I couldn’t have eaten that meal on day one without a quart of ketchup.  Dry things don’t rot, they desiccate.  In fact that is the whole theory behind mummification.  They dry the body out so it doesn’t rot.  They get rid of the internal organs as well, because, well, these are soppy, blood soaked sponges of potential rot (equivalent to those condiments on a burger).  Okay, talking about mummification really isn’t the best imagery when talking about food, but you get the idea.  In fact it happens all the time in nature (okay, all the time is pushing it, but it does happen), human remains end up in a very dry area and instead of rotting, they become preserved.

So, the happy meal starts out very dry, without the bath of ketchup my kids would have put their hamburger patty and fries in.  Does she store it in a humid area?  Let’s see…

Because Colorado has an arid climate, over the year the moisture has been slowly pulled from the Happy Meal. The bread is crusty and if you look closely, you will see a crack across the top. The hamburger has shrunk a bit and still resembles a hockey puck. Yet, the French fries look yummy enough to eat. I never had an odor problem, after a couple of weeks, I couldn’t even smell the fries.

That may explain some things…  Here in Vancouver, I can grow mold on a wall, and there isn’t much to eat on a wall.  I am guessing this happy meal would have lasted all of about 10 days in Louisiana or Georgia.  Even coming from Vancouver, I was shocked at how much green stuff grew on every surface when I was in Atlanta.  Bread gets moldy in Vancouver, regardless of the preservatives in it.  Cereal gets stale and soft if you don’t close the bag that is inside the box.  This is all because of a high humidity.  You need water to get things to rot.

In fact that is the principle behind all decomposition or composting.  According to http://www.compostmanual.com (emphasis is all mine):

The rate at which breakdown occurs depends on several factors: oxygenation, temperature, water content, particulate surface area, and the carbon to nitrogen ratio. If you pay attention to these things, the temperature will rise to around 130-140 degrees, ensuring rapid decomposition. Moisture is key—your compost should feel damp, but never wet. When it’s over inoculated, it limits the oxygen that bacteria require. The rule of thumb is that it should be as wet as a well-wrung sponge. Similarly, if your compost is too dry, bacteria cannot survive, thereby slowing down the decomposing process.

There is no way that that desert burger was ever as wet as a well-wrung sponge, and if maybe it was when it left the heat lamps, the dry Colorado air sucked that water right out of it.  That is why it didn’t rot.  On a slight side note, this bothered me for entirely different reasons:

When I was a kid, I remember our garbage pail for the left over food scraps was kept by our back door. After a couple of days, flies deposited their larvae (maggots) in the meat. When I would lift the lid, I would see the recently hatched maggots wiggling on the putrid mess.

I have no recollection of the garbage at my family’s house ever being a wriggling, putrid mess.  I am not sure how often her garbage was dumped or what was going on, but that scares me…very much.  If I had to see that as a kid, I probably would have gone vegetarian, god forbid….

Why is happy meal thing a problem for me and you?:

Okay, so, why do I have a problem with this whole non-rotting McDonald’s food?  I have a problem because all over the internet  you see articles that suggest one of two things.  Either McDonald’s food is so non-nutritious that even microbes won’t eat it, or McDonald’s food is so full of preservatives that it will never rot.  Neither of these things are true, but arguing about them wastes time and energy that could go into making our foods healthier.  What is worse, is when we start making up false definitions of nutrition, or imagine chemicals and preservatives that aren’t there, we end up with these bizarre theories that we are getting fat because of the additives in foods, not because of the food choices themselves.  This is simply wrong.  I will examine each of the two arguments about McDonald’s food below and hopefully we can put this sensationalism to rest.

Argument #1: McDonald’s food is so non-nutritious that even microbes won’t eat it

In fact, Nonna Joann makes the former argument herself:

Food is broken down into it’s essential nutrients in our bodies and turned into fuel. Our children grow strong bodies, when they eat real food. Flies ignore a Happy Meal and microbes don’t decompose it, then your child’s body can’t properly metabolize it either. Now you know why it’s called “junk food.”

I think ants, mice and flies are smarter than people, because they weren’t fooled. They never touched the Happy Meal. Children shouldn’t either.

Huh?  Because your food dries out we call it junk food???  The ingredients in a McDonald’s Hamburger:

Patty
100% pure USDA inspected beef; no additives, no fillers, no extenders.

Bun
Enriched bleached flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, reduced iron), water, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, yeast, contains less than 2 % of each of the following: salt, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, calcium silicate, wheat gluten, soy flour, baking soda, emulsifier (mono- and diglycerides, diacetyl tartaric acid esters of fatty acids, ethanol, sorbitol, polysorbate 20, potassium propionate), sodium stearoyl lactylate, dough conditioner (corn starch, ammonium chloride, ammonium sulfate, calcium peroxide, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, enzymes), calcium propionate (preservative).

Okay, I am not so sure  about that bun, but when I check what is in commercially available buns, I don’t see anything different, although I must admit I am stunned that there is that many ingredients in a hamburger bun:

WONDER, LIGHT ENRICHED BUNS, REDUCED CALORIE

INGREDIENTS: Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Barley Malt, Ferrous Sulfate (Iron), B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid), Water, Wheat, Wheat Gluten, Soy Fiber, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Oat Fiber. Contains 2% or Less of Salt, ethoxylated Mono And Diglycerides, Mono And Diglycerides, Soybean Oil, Calcium Sulfate, Dough Conditioners (Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Potassium Bromate, Calcium Dioxide), Xanthan Gum, Whey, Dicalcium Phosphate, Diammonium Phosphate Yeast Nutrients (Ammonium Sulfate), Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Propionate (to Retain Freshness). Sesame Seeds.

By the way, these are the same ingredients in all commercial breads, unless you buy an old fashioned baked bread, so check the labels if this bothers you.  The point is, Wonder hamburger buns eventually go moldy at my house.  So would a McDonald’s hamburger bun.  The beef is probably 100% beef as they say.  I have no reason to doubt this as I am constantly hearing that the rain forests are being cut down to provide farm land for cows for McDonald’s (here is a leaflet with these claims, and even more).  If McDonald’s could find something a little less environmentally damaging than cow meat (such  as worm meat or mutant laboratory meat – you can see the other variations here McDonald’s Urban Legends on Wikipedia), they could sell that as an environmental benefit.  100% beef will rot.  Cooking it will slow down that process, but if it has access to fluids, such as ketchup, the burger will rot.

Oh, and I am pretty sure that ants, mice and flies aren’t smarter than people, but that is a discussion for a different day I think…

The problem with McDonald’s food is that it is way TOO NUTRITIOUS.  It is too calorie dense.  It may lack some vitamins proportionately for the amount of calories it has, but it may not as well.  Why we get fat eating McDonald’s food is that it has way too many calories.  Calories are a measure of the energy of food.  Food energy is made up of Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins.  Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins are called Macro nutrients.  Don’t get confused here about what you are thinking when you talk about foods not being healthy for you.  Vegetables are high in micro-nutrients, but low in macro-nutrients.  That is good for us because we may get too few of the former and we do get too much of the latter.  McDonald’s food is generally low in micro-nutrients and high in macro-nutrients which isn’t good when you are trying to lose weight or even maintain a healthy weight.  This is just a case of people being confused over the definition of nutritious.  Nutritious does not mean healthy, it means full of nutrients.  This is just another case of the paradigm issues that I brought up earlier.  If you are trying to gain weight, then McDonald’s is a good choice (not a great choice though, I would go with Burger King, Hardees or Olive Garden).  If you are trying to lose weight, vegetables are an excellent choice.  What is desirable to eat for you depends on what you are trying to achieve.

You can see other examples of this claim on the internet:

Yahoo Questions:

Why won’t Mc Donald’s french fries rot,…?

Best Answer – Chosen by Voters

Resolved Question

Because they are sooo bad for you, even MOLD doesn’t want to go anywhere near them!!!
Haha! But really, it’s true. They are so full of grease and preservatives, and they are COOKED, not raw, potatoes, so all of the nutrients and good stuff that would rot quickly is fried out of them. Come to think of it, I don’t think ANY fried foods would really rot. They’d probably just get dried out and gross, and could probably still collect lots of bacteria and make you sick, even if they appear normal!

Hmmm… seriously, cooking food removes all of the nutrients and good stuff… Maybe inventing fire wasn’t a good thing…  It is a wonder we can even survive with all this cooked food around.

Argument #2: McDonald’s food is so chock full of preservatives it never rots

I can’t really prove that they don’t add tons of preservatives to their food, but it seems reasonable that they only add the amount that the food needs to get to market.  After all, preservatives cost money and if McDonald’s won’t give me enough ketchup packets to eat my fries without me begging repeatedly, why do you think that they would put unneeded preservatives in their food.  They claim they don’t put preservatives in the meat, yet they openly admit to putting preservatives in their bread and fries, the same preservatives that all processed food suppliers put in their fries and buns.  I have no reason to doubt their claim regarding the meat, as I have never heard any evidence to the contrary.  If they don’t put preservatives in their meat, and it doesn’t rot along with the fries and buns, then it isn’t the preservatives that keep it from rotting, but the environment in which it is stored.

All processed foods have preservatives.  Some are probably not very good for us.  We should identify these and see if we can find alternatives.  Some preservatives are harmless to us (vitamin C).  These we should be using more often.  I sometimes buy organic (preservative free) Virginia Ham at Whole Foods (I say sometimes because in case you aren’t aware, Whole Foods is expensive.  It isn’t called Whole (paycheck) foods without a good reason).  The organic ham has to be eaten in a day after it is cut from the hammock (I hope that is what the thing it is cut from is called, I don’t have a clue).  It will go bad after 1 day.  Do you realize how inconvenient that is?  Do you realize how hard it would be to survive without living out of cans if your food didn’t have preservatives?  That is the other reason why I don’t buy the Virginia Ham very often, it is tremendously inconvenient.  It tastes fantastic though!

Does McDonald’s use preservatives in its food.  Yes.  Do they pack their foods so full of preservatives that you won’t need an embalmer upon your death?  Of course not.  McDonald’s isn’t evil as so many people portray, it is simply a reflection of our society.  We are all guilty of wanting homogeneous tasting food, high in fat and salt that is super easy and cheap.  That is why there are so many McDonald’s.  They don’t care that we eat beef or if we don’t.  They had a veggie burger here or awhile (I don’t know if they still do or not).  They would be just as happy to sell you that and pay farmers to grow the vegetables that are part of it.  When we demonize McDonald’s or whatever, we are just trying to create a scapegoat, someone to blame for our culture of obesity.  McDonald’s isn’t to blame people, we are.  Scapegoats don’t work, so let’s stop trying to create them.

Examples on the internet:

  • So if their products consists mostly of chemicals… how can they still call it food? My answer: It’s not food. They are chemicals that create the illusion of food. Read Fast Food Nation for a more comprehensive analysis of what McDonalds calls “food” products.
  • Why does McDonalds put so many chemicals in their food? Are they an evil company?My answer: Not evil, simply efficient. McDonalds has over 33,000 restaurants worldwide. The only way they can make their hamburgers and fries taste virtually the same at every restaurant is by taking the “uncertain variables” out of the food service equation: namely, they replace food (which has a tendency to taste different depending on the season, environmental conditions, and quality) with CHEMICALS, which ALWAYS look, smell, and taste the same.
  • 1996 McDonalds Hamburger – Unchanged because of preservatives
  • Ladies, Gentleman, and children alike – this is a chemical food. There is absolutely no nutrition here.  Not one ounce of food value. Or at least value for why we are eating in the first place.
  • There’s been no preservatives added to the burger, which tells me that McDonald’s packs enough preservatives to make you go bald and other nasty things.

In Conclusion

This 1 year old happy meal made huge news.  For a day it was all over the internet.  A 1 year old burger is nothing though, here is a 14 year old hamburger…  Notice the lack of condiments on it too.  This guy even gives advice on how to preserve your own burger (Note, after buying the burger, the most important thing is to put it in a fairly dry location).  I applaud Nonna Joann Bruso for promoting her books on helping kids to eat healthy.  Again, I cannot impress enough upon everyone with kids, good eating habits are developed as kids.  If you can get kids to like vegetables, they have a chance to not grow up to be obese.  That said, we don’t need myths replacing knowledge in our decision making processes.  Eating at McDonald’s is rarely a healthy choice because they have so few non-calorie dense foods.  If you can, prepare your own healthy meals.  If you can’t, choose carefully when dining out, and speak to the manager while you are there.  Tell them what you would like to see on the menu, and most importantly, when you see healthy choices, buy them instead!  Finally, get on the right page when talking about what is healthy and unhealthy, what is nutritious and what isn’t and what we need to eat more of and what we don’t.  If you don’t speak in the proper language, you are not going to be able to solve the problem of obesity, for yourself or for others.

By the way, check out Nonna Joann’s Top 10 ‘Worst’ Foods (not sure why worst in in quotes) by the way, it is a good list.

Oh, and McDonald’s, stop advertising to our children.  It should be illegal to give out toys with foods that are as high in calorie density as yours.  We have a problem saying no to your food, we hate listening to our kids whine and they in turn have a problem saying no to your food, toys and play places.  I understand that teaching our kids what is right and what is wrong is our responsibility and it comes with a fair amount of whining and saying no, but the last thing I need is you making it harder than it already is by making your food look like a kid’s loot bag and your restaurants look like a kid’s birthday party!  Just stop getting in my way while I try to get myself and my family fit!

By the way, I have begun an experiment to see if fast food does in fact rot.  You can read about the methodology and watch the ongoing experiment here, or by clicking on the burger rot topic on the right hand side.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2010 1:39 pm

    Thank you so much for all of that. The Happy Meal story made me a little crazy and suspicious. Like you, I think it’s great to say “Eat healthier–and feed your kids more healthful food,” but I definitely hated the impression that the food was somehow scarier for its inability to decompose, when the conditions surrounding its decomposition were far more controlled than “normal.” I, too, have found moldy Wonder bread in my bread box, so that bun alone had me asking questions. There certainly couldn’t be more preservatives in the bread that McDonald’s is using than in Wonder bread. Wonder has more preservatives than any other bread I’ve seen. It does give one pause though. I mean, what does it take to make bread? Water, flour and yeast? Some seasoning? So why are there 97 ingredients on the bag? My mom always bought bread and put a loaf in the freezer anyway, so why not just make it yourself and freeze it without all the added chemicals? Convenience, of course, is the answer. That and the fact that unless you’re a single person living alone, you don’t get into the habit of freezing your bread and thawing out two pieces here and there. So fresh bread won’t last as long outside the freezer without the preservatives. Still… I think it would last long enough. I may just experiment with this one day.

    I have a friend who is convinced that there is a link between preservatives in food and the booming trend toward autism. I think there may be something to that–certainly worth a study. Though I also wonder if there aren’t so many “more” autistic children in the country, but rather that we now recognize more subtle varieties of autism than in the past, and now CALL those children autistic, where before they’d have been undiagnosed and just considered “socially awkward” as they grew older.

    Meanwhile, McDonald’s may claim not to add preservatives to their meat, and it may be USDA 100% beef or whatever, but God knows we do enough wacky things to the animals with the feed we give them, and the hormones we inject into them… preservatives might just be a “natural” byproduct of the process at this point. Scary. The whole industry is scary. Yet I cannot give it up. But I do try to limit. And I do try to make better choices. It’s amazing the difference between a fresh burger and something you get at McDonald’s or even BK. And their food is supposedly fresh, or frozen fresh, but… If you have a Five Guys Burgers and Fries near you, I highly recommend them. My recent maiden voyage was eye-opening.

    I love Whole Foods, too. I wish they could find a way to lower their prices. It seems like it shouldn’t have to cost more to eat better food. Meanwhile, buy that ham and freeze some of it. 🙂

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      April 1, 2010 5:08 pm

      Thanks so much for the comment. I find that I agree with you on just about everything. Yes, the number of ingredients in bread is disturbing, and bread should be simple. You can find the ingredients in tons of your foods at this website: http://www.labelwatch.com/ and hopefully you can find simpler foods there. The autism thing I wonder about as well. I lean towards better diagnosis, but I am open to environmental causes too. I try to eat organic meat and milk whenever I can as I do worry about hormones in our food supply. I don’t know if I should or not, but I do. I just searched for Five Guys Burgers and apparently one just moved into my local mall… I don’t know if I will eat there as I am trying not to add new great tasting calorie dense foods to my life given that their bacon cheeseburger is 920 calories before condiments (which appears like a strangely honest value for a nutrition chart put out by a restaurant), I think I am going to pass. I have a rule, if I am not yet addicted to it because I have never eaten it, I am not going to get that monkey on my back. Whole foods is so good, but obscenely expensive. In fact it may not be so expensive, but what we know is that processed, mass manufactured, non-organic food is cheap and that is who they are competing with…
      Thanks again for the comment, it was great to get!

      M.

      • April 1, 2010 7:55 pm

        LOL–I wasn’t suggesting you add them to your life. Just figured if you ever had a BK type craving, they’d be a better option to know about. 🙂

        I added you to my Google Reader. I need to focus a bit more on good food and exercise (not gonna leave my life story in a comment, but I’ve gone back and forth a few times between both extremes), and your blog seems like a good source of both knowledge and inspiration.

    • FallenAcorn permalink
      October 18, 2010 6:42 pm

      Frankly, your comments on autism are offensive.

      So, you honestly think that maybe we’re just better at spotting the 5-year-olds in diapers, not talking, screaming their heads off? Really?

      F*ck you.

      Our entire food supply has been contaminated with this synthetic, GMO non-food.

      • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
        October 18, 2010 10:23 pm

        I don’t think there is any need to be either so offended by the comment above, nor direct that much anger at the person who made it. I am sorry if you are struggling with the frustration of dealing with people who are ignorant and intolerant of autism. I don’t think that the comment above has any of those characteristics though. According to Wikipedia, her comment is consistent with current beliefs:
        “The number of people diagnosed with autism has increased dramatically since the 1980s, partly due to changes in diagnostic practice; the question of whether actual prevalence has increased is unresolved.[8]” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism

      • newsongweekly permalink
        October 19, 2010 12:42 am

        I’m sorry if you found the comment offensive–I definitely didn’t mean it that way. However, I do stand by the idea that as we evolve as a country, as we learn more, as science continues to refine ideas from the past, we are obviously going to identify things that were unidentifiable or unnameable in the past. To think that all autistic persons are “5-year-olds in diapers, not talking, screaming their heads off” is arguably far more offensive than anything I said in my comment.

        And thanks, Mark, for the defense. I felt like I wanted to address it myself as well.

      • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
        October 20, 2010 12:16 am

        lol, it didn’t dawn on me how offensive the ‘5 year old diaper comment’ was until I thought about it after I responded… Wow… Great response.

  2. Jerry permalink
    April 1, 2010 3:48 pm

    Wow, you seem to really “not care” enough to write a novel about this 1 Year Old Happy Meal story. I happen to live in a more dry climate than most people and McDonald’s (or any highly processed) food never seems to go bad when left out. If I leave anything I made on the kitchen counter, it’s usually moldy or starts to decompose fairly quickly. Stop defending CRAP food as “calorie dense foods” – you are doing everyone a huge dis-service. I can make a home-made pasta dish that is calorie dense…so that is the same as a Big Mac? There is a huge difference. And yes, look at the correlation between obesity and junk food supply in our society. Maybe you should look up High Fructose Corn Syrup and see what it is. Or maybe try to understand why Folic Acid is in everything and why it shouldn’t be.

    I wish I could have the last 5 minutes back, thanks.

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      April 1, 2010 4:47 pm

      I am not entirely sure that, from a weight gain point of view, your pasta would be any better than a big mac. To make the discussion worthwhile though, your pasta would have to have the same calorie density, fibre density and balance of fats, proteins, carbs and sugars. I believe that those are the things that cause us to gain weight, not preservatives. It could be preservatives, but I don’t think the evidence supports that theory, yet I believe it does support what I am proposing. I looked into the Folic Acid issue and didn’t find anything at first pass… What is the issue surrounding Folic Acid added to foods?
      High Fructose Corn Syrup is generally believed to be worse for you than sugar (http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Safety/chemical/high_fructose_corn_syrup_vs_sugar_2703101134.html), but I think arguing about that is again a bit of a waste of time because they are both terrible for you. “Studies by The American Medical Association suggest “it appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose” but calls for further independent research on the subject”-Wikipedia. I advise that people cut as many processed and added sugars out of their diets in Chapter 4 of my book. That includes HFCS.
      Unless you are actually eating a raw diet, you are eating processed foods. If you are eating a raw diet, good on you, I would be shocked to hear that you aren’t fit. Raw, unprocessed foods tend to have a lower calorie density and require preparation at home (when you are preparing your food, you tend to keep an eye on what goes into it, ie how much butter, etc). Eating a raw diet is so hard and inconvenient for almost everyone, I don’t propose it as a way to get fit. There are many people who do and who write books about it for those who are interested. If the lifestyle works for you then go for it). In any case, I would be very interested to see studies that showed that chemicals and preservatives were causing our weight gain and not the calorie consumption. If you have or know of some of these studies, please feel free to post them here.

      Sorry I can’t give you back those 5 minutes, and yes, you should see how much I write when I actually care about something.

      Take Care and thanks for the comment.
      M.

      • FallenAcorn permalink
        October 18, 2010 6:48 pm

        You need to stop thinking in singular terms of fat or thin.

        A calorie is not a calorie. Here’s some science:

      • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
        October 18, 2010 11:48 pm

        What an unbelievable video! Awesome. I couldn’t agree more. I am not sure if you have read my book or my blog entries, but I am a already convinced of the evils of sugar, and this video certainly explains why sucrose and high fructose corn syrup are a substantial problem. I couldn’t agree more though, a calorie isn’t a calorie, this is one of the important points of my book. Thank you so much for sharing this video. I am going to make it a blog entry so everyone can see it. Thanks!

  3. Kim permalink
    March 7, 2011 5:35 pm

    I did the experiment with my children for a science fair experiment. Not to prove anything bad about McDonalds but just to check out for myself whether what I was seeing on the internet was true or not, as I am well aware not to believe everything that you see or hear on-line. We made a home made burger out of a pre-made patty, cheese slice and store made bun, no condiments. We bought a McDonalds Cheese burger with no condiments. We placed them in the same location in our house so that there would be no other variables to consider. We observed them, and found that they did dry out and no mold formed on either of the burgers due to the lack of moisture, which might explain the results that we were seeing on-line. But we still wanted to know the answer to the question “Do McDonalds Cheeseburgers rot” so after a couple of weeks we re-did the experiment only this time we placed the burgers in ziplock bags so that the moisture could remain so that rotting could happen. after 6 days the bun from the home made burger started to form mold and smell. Within a couple more days the bun really was covered with mold started getting fuzzy and really smelled horrible. The Mcdonalds burger still hasn’t started to change at all. I can’t say that the McDonalds burger is never going to rot as I cannot predict the future but will continue to follow this out of curiousity. But I can say that a cheese burger that I make at home certainly rotted in an expected amount of time where as a McDonalds Cheeseburger after two and a half weeks still looks and feels like a burger that was purchased today. Infact you would not be able to tell the difference. Which leads me to wonder why that would be? If you claim that there is no more additional preservatives added to McDonalds buns then a typical bun I would buy at my local grocer. What is your explanation for my observation?

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      March 7, 2011 10:45 pm

      Great job on the research. I really wanted to do the 2 burgers on the counter experiment after I finished my greenhouse burgers. So, explanations for one burger rotting and the other not.
      #1. They could have differing amounts of moisture in the two bags. A scientist with proper equipment would keep a constant humidity and temperature level in each of the two bags and control for that variable, but because you used 2 separate bags, you wouldn’t have been able to control for that. You could add a wet sponge to each bag, and make sure that there was enough moisture in each bag, but you wouldn’t know exactly how much there was.
      #2. Temperature. One bag could have been in a spot that got more sun or was further from a cold window. Although it is easier to control for temperature, I think temperature is a major factor for rot and even slight changes can have a huge impact.
      #3. Control for bacteria types. The question isn’t whether there are bacteria with the food, but whether the food will rot when exposed to bacteria. When you put the burgers in separate bags, one of the burgers may have been exposed to a bacteria and take spores with it into the bag, when the other has not. The solution to this would be to swab both of the burgers equally with a variety of bacteria.

      These are just some of the possibilities of what could have occurred with the burgers in your bags. That was why I stored the burgers together and included an organic tomato that might bring some bacteria of its own. The thing with science though is that this study has to be carried out repeatedly under different conditions until it is clear what is going on. I was worried in my experiment that the burger king bun wasn’t going to rot, but a few days later it just exploded into bloom. Try doing the bag experiment again, with the bags swapped positions regularly so they both spend the same amount of time in the two locations with equal access to sunlight, with a damp sponge in each bag and if any rot appears on one, swab it and put it on the other. If it doesn’t grow then the bun/burger is resistant and may have preservatives in it. Try putting 2 burgers in one larger ziploc and see what happens. Try 3 sets of burgers and see what variety of speed of rot, and variety of which one rots first. There are many options here, but the key is you want to control every variable except the ONE you are testing. Burger versus burger, control the variable for humidity, exposure, and temperature so that they are equal and see what happens.
      Good luck and great job! I love to see people exploring for themselves!

  4. January 14, 2013 6:23 am

    I can certainly guarantee that fast food does in fact rot as I have witnessed it first hand. Maggots and all. The remark concerning the moisture of the burger is on point, drying your burger into a piece of jerky between two sheets of card board would render it relativity inedible to most things. Leave a burger out in the open where it is subject to moisture and you will find many different creatures enjoying it.

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