While this drama plays out (and it will most certainly play out), San Franciscan children will just have to endure without all that “happy” in their meal. But that should be OK, considering recent evidence that has set the blogosphere a blaze with excitement. New York-based photographer, Sally Davis, after reading online about a school teacher with a 12-year-old McDonald’s burger that had not yet decomposed, decided to conduct the experiment herself. Six months ago Davis (an avowed vegetarian) purchased a McDonald’s Happy Meal and began documenting the degeneration (or lack thereof). Essentially nothing happened, and the Happy Meal under documentation remained unchanged for months (and is still going strong –see pictures here). This bit of amateur science got picked up by just about every blog and media outlet, in an effort to illustrate how McDonald’s food resists the natural order of things, and therefore must be wholly unnatural itself. Strangely enough, another documentarian Morgan Spurlock, best known for his public skewering of McDonald’s in his film Super Size Me, had done a similar experiment some years back with very different results (see video here, part one, and part two). As is evidenced here, the McDonald’s French fry is the only item that is seemingly impervious to the elements.
Nevertheless, detractors have sounded off, and other experiments have followed; this time using a control to make the experiment somewhat scientific. Food detectives over at a Hamburger Today did a similar experiment with a homemade burger, and observed near-identical results. Some thought it might be the sodium or fat content of the burger, according to the Hamburger Today investigators, it’s not the salt that does it, it’s all about surface area and moisture loss. A regular hamburger, McDonald’s or otherwise, is just too flat and well cooked to retain enough moisture to let mold grow (see their detailed results here). While I have some difficulty swallowing this explanation in its entirety, the fact that (if you are to accept this evidence) all hamburgers seem to be impervious to decay does not exactly instill confidence about consumption.
Whether Happy Meals are slated for the cultural trash heap, to become fossilized and eternal like Styrofoam packing material, we just can’t be sure. What is for certain is that the McDonald’s corporation will be working overtime to keep the Happy Meal viable and available (no matter what form it may be in).
The fact that McDonald’s food is seen as unhealthy is hardly news, but does any of this news influence your eating habits. Lord knows, it’s not just the Happy Meals that resist entropy. Do you think it is inappropriate for local government to step in and decide what is healthy for children? And San Francisco? Really? Isn’t this probably the place that sells the least amount of Happy Meals? Shouldn’t this ordinance be put in place somewhere where the obesity rate is far higher? Is it too little too late? Is there nothing enduringly happy about the Happy Meal?