Anna Gragert
February 19, 2016 8:46 am

Recently, a photo of a McDonald’s Happy Meal has made its way around the internet. Why? Because it was purchased on January 8th, 2010 and, to this day, it has not spoiled.

Anchorage chiropractor Jennifer Lovedahl posted the original photo on Facebook a few weeks ago, writing that she’s kept the meal sitting in her office for the past six years to “show our patients how unhealthy this ‘food’ is.” She states that the food has not “rotted, molded, or decomposed at all” and that “it smells only of cardboard.”

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While this is one of the more recent images we’ve seen, this isn’t a new phenomenon. Plenty of people have been saving fast food to see whether or not it rots. In the end, they want to find out if this meal truly is unhealthy, to establish if it’s really something you should be putting in your body.

Paramount Television / Giphy

McDonald’s response, which is posted in their FAQ section for all to see, reads:

Brookwell-McNamara Entertainment / Giphy

Dr. Keith Warriner – the University of Guelp’s Food Science and Quality Assurance program director  – confirms McDonald’s statement, telling The Independent,

NBC Productions / Giphy

In other words, when the hamburger patty is cooking, it loses water. The bun, when it’s toasted, loses water as well. This means that, once the hamburger is prepared, it is pretty much devoid of water and won’t allow for mold to grow. In addition, when the food is left out in the open, it loses any water that’s left, since many buildings’ humidity is at 40% and this would cause the food to continue to dry out.

Serious Eats agrees, saying, “The reason a McDonald’s burger doesn’t rot has nothing to do with chemicals, lack of nutrition, or anything else you should be scared of. It all comes down to water activity.” So, the same thing will happen to your box of Cheez-Its, or your Fig Newtons. Any shelf-stable food won’t decompose if it’s not exposed to humidity. It doesn’t mean you should eat it, but it doesn’t mean that it’s pseudo food, either.

The lesson in the end? While McDonald’s should definitely not be consumed every day, it seems like this whole food experiment is another case of Don’t Believe Everything You Read (or See) on the Internet.