Sunday, October 17, 2010

Newsy: The Indestructible Happy Meal

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A McDonald’s Happy Meal just turned six months old after sitting uncovered on a shelf since April, and isn't showing any signs of decomposition.

A McDonald’s Happy Meal has been getting a lot of attention this week. The meal just turned six months old after sitting uncovered on a shelf since April -- and so far shows no sign of decomposing. Artist Sally Davies tells ABC she bought the burger to settle an argument with a friend.

DAVIES: “I went out and I bought the burger, I brought it home, I put it from the bag onto a white china plate, which it’s still on, and I took a picture of it.”
ANCHOR: “And another picture, and another. Six months’ worth, she says. So how does that burger and fries look on day 180? Well, about the same.”

The meal lost its odor after a few days, and Davies’ dogs lost interest, but the media has been enthralled. Here are some of the headlines:

(The Christian Broadcasting Network asks:) “The Everlasting Happy Meal?”

(From MSNBC:) “Oh, 180-day-old Happy Meal, why won’t you rot?”

(From OC Weekly:) “The Scary Tale of the Undead McDonald’s Happy Meal”

And, of course The Daily Mail asks, “You want flies with that?”

McDonald’s released a statement addressing Davies’ project, saying decomposition only occurs under certain conditions, and we shouldn’t be surprised about the meal’s longevity: “If food is/or becomes dry enough, it won’t grow mold or bacteria. In fact, any food purchased from a restaurant or grocery store or prepared at home that lacks moisture would also dehydrate and see similar results if left in the same environment.”

But some aren’t buying McDonald’s explanation. Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz writes: “It's hard to believe that a burger sitting [in] a living room in New York for six months can get mummified, like McDonald's is implying. Even with the A/C unit on, the humidity in NYC is extremely high, especially during the summer months.”

Still, a food scientist tells CNN’s Jeanne Moos McDonald’s story is plausible.

MOOS: “Food scientist Dr. John Lucey says it’s just dehydrated food.”
LUCEY: “If you took a steak home and cooked it and then forgot about it, you’d get something similar like this.”
MOOS: “How about the bun? Regular bread gets moldy."
LUCEY: “Yeah, but the burger buns are different because they’re made to be lower moisture content because they have to be tougher.”

The whole situation, Davies’ project, McDonald’s response, and the media buzz is bizarre to say the least. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein captures the irony in two sentences: “McDonald's is currently trying to convince people that its burgers can, in fact, grow mold. This is considered a selling point, at least in the modern world.”

Writer: Steven Sparkman


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