This crap always gets to me… (or McDonalds Food isn’t eternal)
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:
100% pure USDA inspected beef; no additives, no fillers, no extenders.
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:
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:
Why won’t Mc Donald’s french fries rot,…?
Best Answer – Chosen by Voters
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.
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.