October 15th, 2010
09:15 AM ET
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Forget “where’s the beef?” - where’s the mold? It’s the latest front in the fast food wars: What does a Happy Meal look like after it sits out for six months?

A New York City photographer took a Happy Meal burger and fries and photographed it every few days for more than six months. The result: day one's photo looks almost identical to day 180. No mold, no decay - it’s the Happy Meal fountain of youth.

“The Happy Meal Project” has raised a ruckus. People love it or hate it, just as they love or hate fast food.

As it turns out, lots of folks have been saving Big Macs and other fast food fare to bolster the argument that they must be full of preservatives - one guy even has a hamburger museum. But, a neutral food scientist we talked to blames the lack of decomposition on low moisture rather than anything dastardly.

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Filed under: Business and Farming News • Fast Food • News • Think • Video • Weird News

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soundoff (204 Responses)
  1. t1 internet

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon on a daily
    basis. It will always be interesting to read articles from other writers and use
    something from their websites.

    July 9, 2014 at 10:30 am |
  2. Monica Hughes

    Sorry to disappoint you. Food rots. Yes, even McDonald's.


    November 6, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  3. KrissyStar

    OOOOOO... yummy... Even if i ate meat i would not poision myself with this nasty crap....

    October 23, 2010 at 6:48 pm |
  4. none

    think that's gross? can anyone tell the difference between new and old candy corn? i'm convinced the last batch was made in the 70s, and so few people like the stuff that they continue to try and sell that same batch, lol.

    October 18, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
  5. RLF

    Low moisture is the culprit, eh? I don't buy it. If I leave a slice of whole wheat bread out on my counter in my air conditioned house it begins to show blue mold spots in a matter of days. As for cooked beef, well, I haven't tried it on the counter, but if I leave it in the fridge for a week it lets me know it's there!

    October 18, 2010 at 12:18 pm |
  6. Adam

    We have a hamburger on display (in the open) in our Nutrition Club in Wisconsin that was purchased in September of 2009. No mold!

    October 18, 2010 at 11:09 am |
  7. alek

    Watch what is really happening to a mcdonalds cheesburger streamed LIVE at: http://www.watchmyburger.com

    October 17, 2010 at 9:07 pm |
  8. enness

    This experiment started in April in this lady's NYC apartment. So the six months would include the whole summer. Wasn't it a very hot summer in NYC? I wonder if she ever used her air conditioner...which, as some of you may know, can act somewhat as a dehumidifier...which everyone I know who suffers from mold allergies says is a tremendous help in keeping growth down!

    Come on, people.

    October 17, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
    • alek

      our test shows the burger LIVE, with a thermometer and humidity meter next to it.

      October 17, 2010 at 9:09 pm |
  9. Sarah

    Why couldn't they wait until Monopoly month was over????

    October 16, 2010 at 8:47 pm |
  10. Kevin

    The fact that it looks the same is a testament to its lack of moisture. If it had moisture, it would shrivel up. It becomes hard because the oil solidifies, I think. Mold needs the right environment to grow and its possible that the combination of oil and salt is not very hospitable.

    October 16, 2010 at 1:27 am |
    • Kevin

      Then again, i found a leather belt of mine with green mold covering it once. Mold likes leather belts over McDonald's. What are we thinking?

      It could be proven by hydrating a french fry. My guess is that McD's food is moisture-free so it can be stored for a long time. Pan fry a hamburger from the store once.. You'll see that there's a lot of water in the pan. Fast food just replaces water with grease

      October 16, 2010 at 1:34 am |
  11. BlenderBabe

    What is really disturbing about all of this is...

    October 16, 2010 at 12:14 am |
    • Jenna

      Wow... That's really gross. You just took the "happy" out of "happy meal"

      October 17, 2010 at 1:28 am |
  12. The 10 Year Old Happy Meal

    This is OLD news. In fact, this news is 10 YEARS old. Take a look at an interview made in 2008.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IGtDPG4UfI – McDonald's 4 Year Old Cheeseburger Video

    This woman has documented a 10 year old happy meal and 6 year old happy meal she owns. (Since now it is 2010). GROSS!

    I can't eat McD's without feeling sick later and I'm still in my 20s. The food is so processed I can't do it any more. This is the only fast food chain that makes me feel ill later. Take heed to the movies Super Size Me and Fast Food Nation. This is pure crap we are eating.

    October 15, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
  13. Cheffie

    I live in the desert were the moisture is exceedingly low. The bread that I make, without preservatives, will go moldy in three days and dry in four, and the mold will still be there and continue to grow if I leave it as is. When I used to by sliced bread with preservatives, it would last at least a week and a half. Just saying. Also, a while back there was a program on TV that explained the reason that fast-food items taste and smell so GOOD when you first buy them, but if you save them and re-heat them for later consumption, they taste and smell are completely off...Apparently there are laboratories that do nothing but spend their time and money on finding "additives" which enhance both the aroma and the flavor of these "foods", to make them more appealing to the consumer, but they only function so long as the food is "fresh" and hot. The effects wear off as the food cools.

    I agree with MrsMC...A trip to one of these outlets for a Happy Meal and some fun time for the kids once in a while won't kill anyone, but then again, should we be using food outlets that we know are unhealthy for our children as "rewards"? Better to cook real meals at home and save up for a decent meal once in awhile at a reputable restaurant as a treat for the family, IMO.

    I really have to wonder if the latest generations of people in Western society in particular are not suffering from all the health problems and educational problems that they are because of the abuse and misuse of food preservatives in our food chain in general, and especially giving the proclivity of people taking advantage of fast foods as a quick way to feed the family.

    October 15, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
    • enness

      You may well have varieties that are better adapted to the desert. Judging by the other kinds of animals and plants that tend to survive in deserts (i.e. cactus and camels), that's not an unreasonable assumption.

      October 17, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
  14. MrsMC

    Awwww, come on, you guys. I've known that MickeyD's isn't actually food ever since I was a kid (about 1985). My friends and I used to hang out heads out the car window and yell, "It's not real meat!" as we passed by.

    This isn't even really news, is it??? Surely there's something more relevant to debate. A McMeal and a trip to the Playplace once in a while probably isn't going to kill you. And if you're stupid enough to eat it often, as if it really were food, I'll put you in for a Darwin Award.

    October 15, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  15. BrightBetty

    We compost and we've found that McDonalds fries do not decompose even in compost. Ewwwww. That was enough to convince me not to eat there again.

    October 15, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  16. Absurdist

    captain dangerous,
    People only do that crap because they know that customer service workers get paid to be nice, so they have to sit and be humiliated and take it if they want to keep their job. It's a cheap way to make yourself feel superior.
    There's a special section in Hades reserved for people who are mean to service industry workers.

    October 15, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
  17. Absurdist

    Hey, anybody out there consider WHY McDonald's stuff doesn't have moisture? Shouldn't a burger and fries have moisture? Try frying some up yourself, then leaving them out on the counter for a while, see what happens. Heck, try doing that with some Five Guys (more calories and fat, less chemical preservative nastiness). You know what? It will mold and rot.
    The fact that McDonald's food doesn't have enough moisture to mold is kind of the POINT, that means it's UNNATURAL CRAP. You want to be fat and have a heart attack? Eat a REAL burger. Want to be fat, have a heart attack, AND have cancer? Eat McDonald's. There ya go.

    October 15, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  18. captain dangerous

    i saw a customer throw a burger at an employee once cus he asked for no onions and they put it on anyways.

    October 15, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
  19. heath

    As a gag, someone in my family gets a McDonald's burger for Christmas every year...usually the person farthest from the fam is responsible for sending the burger. They're never in bad shape (even when sent from Asia or Europe) and we've even kept the same burger going for a few years. They just don't rot...they petrify. The same can't be said for the apply pies though. Try sending one of those in the mail...nasty.

    October 15, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
    • RichardHead

      Heath,It's kinda like the Christmas Fruitcake. A Gift that keeps on giving year after year.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  20. ChatChatProductions

    Um, ChatChatProductions is doing a story about this today on YouTube. If its not up today It will be up tomorrow. Come and type in "ChatChatProductions" to hear our side of the story.

    October 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
    • RickSanchez

      Your production Dept is about as fast as SI-NN's. I'll think about it.

      October 15, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
  21. VeganFox

    Seems like these kinds of experiments bring out
    the village idiots with all sorts of stupid comments...

    Life is too precious to follow anyone's advice but
    those in the know.

    As a post-doctoral fellow, and nutritionist, and vegan
    I wouldn't touch the garbage those fast food restaurants
    sell if my life depended on it.

    Who are we kidding? Your life does depend on what
    you eat! Check out the CANCER rate in our most
    technologically advanced and most sophisticated nation.

    Are we a nation of sophisticated IDIOTS?

    October 15, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
    • Sir Isacc Newton

      Your boyfriends NUTS are covering your eyes in a sophisticated way of course!

      October 15, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
    • Give it a rest already...

      Vegans are worse than the freakin evangelicals when it comes to being annoying...

      October 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  22. Andii

    More McDonalds propaganda on the heels of the other stuff earlier this week? Really? Did someone not hire these people to work fast food as teens and this is their revenge? To be whiny and bitter, make useless studies and write equally useless articles?
    Seriously folks ... live healthy, eat healthy, die poopin' in your pants and not remembering who you are. Just like in "Super Size Me", eating just about anything in excess is going to cause odd issues. Look at vegetarians. They all look pale, sick and like the wind is about to take them out. RETARDED stories like this aren't going to keep me from eating Mickey D's. Then again, unlike the morons that study rotting speeds of food, I have a life.
    I'll be eating a burger in your honor.

    October 15, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
    • Eienstein

      If it's in my honor please put some chili cheese and onions on it.

      October 15, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • Jacob

      Methinks you don't know that many vegetarians...

      October 19, 2010 at 11:00 am |
  23. Eienstein

    Is that why a dog turd turns white and quits smelling after 3 days?

    October 15, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
  24. Stephanie

    Another ignorant article by yet another ignorant person. Anyone with a brain knows that food will not decompose without moisture. Please do your research on the decomposition of food before running off at the keyboard. It amazes me of all the crap people will believe without doing their own research.

    October 15, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
  25. JeramieH1

    Salt is a preservative.

    Mankind has only known about it for a few thousand years.

    October 15, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
  26. JoeSchmo2000

    Why is this surprising people? This person who did this "experiment" obviously just has no knowledge of how and why things decompose.

    I'm not one for defending McDonalds, but this is retarded. You can leave any food out if it isn't fresh fruit or vegetables. If the air is dry enough ANYTHING dries out and just gets hard. There has to be moisture and the general area has to have a certain level of humidity to promote the growth of mold and bacteria that breaks it down. This is basic science.

    Want to see something TRULY disturbing? Leave a BUCKET of margarine OUTSIDE. And then wait. You can wait as long as you want, no animals will touch it, no insects, and it won't change at all. Possibly melt a little if it is hot enough out. But yea, much worse than a burger and some fries turning hard. It's because margarine is 1 molecule away from plastic. Look it up.

    October 15, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
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