The first time I heard an urban myth about food, I was nine years old. I had just finished soccer practice, and was at the grocery store with my father, shopping for dinner. We were on the way to the produce aisle when I saw them: a box of Hostess Twinkies.
"Can we get these?" I asked him.
"No!" he barked. "Don't you know that you could bury those things for 10 years, and they still wouldn’t rot?"
Of course, according to my father, it is acceptable to eat a big block of bleu cheese first thing in the morning, and a buried Twinkie is also capable of fermenting and becoming vodka, so his food claims are not necessarily to be believed. However, questions regarding the shelf-life of a certain famous company's food products have long been on curious consumers' minds.
And now the question has resurfaced. On April 23, reddit user standbacknow posted a photo of what is claimed to be a 10-year-old McDonald’s meal that still hasn’t rotted.
“This girl I know bought this McDonald's Cheeseburger and fries 10 years ago this month,” standbacknow said of the photo, which features a hamburger and a box of fries. “It looks fresh out of the drive thru.”
As Opposing Views notes, there was some debate as to exactly how fresh the pictured food appeared (with the top voting comment reading, “yeah... that does not look fresh…”). Still, a banana left out for more than a week turns into a gooey pile of brown sludge. So how is a McDonald’s meal able to keep its structural integrity so well?
Well, according to McDonald’s, the answer lies in the moisture. The company has been asked the question “Why doesn’t your food rot?” so many times (and according to Telegraph, that same question turns up more than 280,000 results on Google) that the golden arch's corporate team took the time to address it in the FAQ question of its website.
“Food needs moisture in the air for mold to form. Without it, food will simply dry out – sort of like bread left out on a counter overnight to make croutons for stuffing,” McDonald’s writes. “You might have seen experiments which seem to show no decomposition in our food. Most likely, this is because the food has dehydrated before any visible deterioration could occur.”
Still, the idea that a McDonald’s meal’s low-moisture content can keep it looking pretty for longer periods of time doesn’t necessarily mean you should make dining at the establishment a daily habit. As another reddit user commented:
“I'm more grossed out by the fact that she's been holding on to fast food for ten years just to prove a point that everyone already knows: McDonald's isn't healthy.”