As everyone knows, the biggest news of the week was the amazing rescue of the 33 miners in Chile. I watched them pull the first miner out and watched live on-line throughout the next day as more and more men came up to freedom. It was a joyous occasion and I still feel happy thinking about that wonderful moment. There was another story this week that didn’t get quite as much coverage but one that gives me the opposite reaction to the one about the miner’s rescue. The artist Sally Davies made the news by purchasing a McDonald’s Happy Meal and keeping it on a shelf for 180 days. She then photographed it each day and posted the photos to Flickr. Here is what a hamburger and fries looks like after 180 days
Looks brand new doesn’t it? To be honest, I had to choke back a gag as I saw this. According to McDonald’s, their food contains only natural ingredients and is wholesome and safe. Honestly, I don’t doubt their claims about their food sources. McDonald’s, as a food service company, takes food safety very very seriously. They really do have the gold standard when it comes to the safe handling of their foods throughout the production cycle. Keeping people from getting sick from their food is important to them because they are in the business of making money and if people associate their brand with sickness, it will harm their bottom line. I’m not saying they are keeping their food safe out of any altruistic attitude, but their concern with operating costs and making money for their shareholders has made them extremely aware of the problems that could come from mishandling the products that they sell to their customers. If I was forced to eat a fast food meal, I would probably make it McDonald’s just because of this fact alone.
The question remains, why would the food look like this after six months of sitting on a shelf? I think it has to do with the cooking methods and the amount of fat/salt that is kept in their foods. Salt has been used as a preservative for thousands of years. Rome used to pay its soldiers with salt. Wars were fought over who got to control salt resources. Once upon a time, salt was so hard to get but so important that it shaped world history the same way that oil does now. What we see in these pictures is a good representation of just what salt can do to a food product. It makes it so salty that bacteria cannot grow in it so it doesn’t mold or rot the way that you’d expect it to. McDonald’s may take their food handling procedures very seriously, but they certainly don’t take the health benefits of their food that serious. The last time I ate one french fry from McDonald’s I couldn’t believe just how salty it was. I tasted nothing but salt. I had to grab my water and downed about half the bottle to wash the taste from my mouth. I have personally seen the buns from these burgers get this way because once upon a time, a child left one in the back of a car and when it was found some unknown amount of time later, it was still obviously a bun from a happy meal burger. I’m not sure what kind of salt content there is in one of the buns but I’m sure they’re using a lot in it too.
For now, I think I’ll be happy that when my kids do want to eat at McDonald’s, they get chicken nuggets and apples with white milk (or chocolate if they beg and we are really wanting to give them a treat). I may have to try an experiment like this with the nuggets to see how they hold up over time. I have a feeling they’ll do the same thing.