Ever wondered what would happen if you left fast food out to rot for a couple years?
Well, the short answer is: nothing. Nothing at all.
At least that’s the case in the Vaughn Chiropractic clinic in Waterford, Michigan. Dr. Jaqueline Vaughn reports buying a cheeseburger and fries from McDonalds on January 8, 2013, and a chicken soft taco from Taco Bell just a few weeks later. The fast food items were left uncovered in the office of the clinic, and according to the employees and some disturbing photos, the stuff looks just as tasty (or repulsive, depending on your point of view) as the day it was purchased.
Dr. Vaughn described the fast food items as “basically mummified,” noting that there is no noticeable smell, and that bugs have no apparent interest in consuming the free lunches. (Bugs, we’re with ya on that one).
A similar experiment is documented in the film Supersize Me, during which creator Morgan Spurlock compares the breakdown of several McDonald’s menu items to similar food items from a “regular” diner, which decomposed much more quickly. In fact, the McDonald’s fries he used in his experiment looked identical to fresh fries over 10 weeks later.
Naturally, this leads one to wonder why this food doesn’t break down and rot the way, say, a banana or a sandwich you forgot in your backpack does. Dr. Keith Warriner, a food scientist who spoke out on behalf of McDonald’s, claims that the food loses moisture during normal cooking procedures, and that without moisture food cannot rot. He also claims that if the same experiment is done with a homemade burger with “similar moisture content as a McDonald’s hamburger,” that “you’ll probably get the same results.” You can read more of his explanation here.
Other food scientists who do not represent a particular fast food company have offered other potential explanations, some listing the use of preservatives as the reason why the food did not decompose.
While we can’t give a certain answer for why the food didn’t rot, we can say that we have never been more motivated to skip the drive through and stick to our healthy eating New Year’s resolution. We’ll stick to burgers, tacos, and fries that rot and smelly like normal foods until further notice.