A couple weeks ago, I was enjoying a packet of McDonald's apple slices when my friend turned to me in disgust. "I can't believe you're eating those, they're probably made in a factory. There's no way that those things can be good for you." In that moment, I started to think about what she said. How do these apple slices stay so fresh anyways?

I'm all about fast food chains taking the initiative to introduce healthier food options to their menus. Specifically, I have nothing against McDonald's substituting apple slices for french fries in their HappyMeals (especially since I'm a 19-year-old who still will occasionally order one). 

french fries, ketchup
Alex Frank

But looking at the back of the McDonald's apple slices, I noticed two ingredients: apples and Calcium Ascorbate. Calcium Ascorbate is a compound that mixes Calcium and Vitamin C, and is used for keeping the freshness and color of the apple slices. Nonetheless, I decided to do an experiment. I was curious to see how long it would take for these babies to brown.

Day 1

Casey Twomey

The look on the man at the McDonald's drive-thru's face when all I ordered was four packets of apple slices and nothing else (nope, not even a Coke) was priceless. But I digress. I started off this experimental journey with four packets of apple slices.

I tore two packets open and kept two of them sealed. One sealed and one open packet went in the fridge, while I put the other sealed and open packets on my kitchen counter. Then, it was time to watch and wait. 

Day 2

Casey Twomey

I went to look at my apple slices, anxious for at least some sort of change. To my disappointment, there was no change that I could notice. Sigh.

Day 3

candy, chocolate
Casey Twomey

Another day with no change. At this point, I was honestly starting to get a little grossed out. I mean, even the apple slices that have been sitting open on my counter haven't begun to rot one bit. That Calcium Ascorbate must be really strong to keep these apples so fresh. This might take longer than I thought. 

Day 4

beer, pizza
Casey Twomey

Okay, so I need to be honest. I didn't do the best job informing my family about my apple slice experiment. On Day 4, my mom ended up throwing out the open apple slices in the fridge, and then my brother ate the unopened ones in there.  

But nevertheless, I wasn't going to let that ruin my experiment. I continued on just documenting and observing the apple slices still sitting out on my counter. I should note: Even after four days, the apple slices looked no different than on Day 1. 

Day 5

chocolate, cake, candy
Casey Twomey

Maybe these last few days I have been over-anxious to see results. But yet again, I haven't seen much of a change. It was getting a bit disappointing — was this just a waste of my time? I just kept reminding myself that regular apple slices should be oxidizing (and rotting) by this point. This is weird, I need to keep going to find out if these slices are ever going to turn brown. 

Day 6

Casey Twomey

They still look the same as on Day 1. At first, I thought I saw little brown splotches on the opened packet in my photo, and I was ecstatic. But after further examination — it was just a glare. This was very anti-climatic, yet I couldn't believe it had been six days already.

Day 7

cake, cheese, pizza
Casey Twomey

After a full week of patiently waiting for these apple slices to rot, I began to lose all hope. I thought, maybe they just never rot! I read something once that a McDonald's Big Mac sat out for two years and hardly rotted (ew). 

But to my surprise, on Day 7, I noticed a slight change. On this day, with certain lighting, the apple slices that were open looked a little more brown than the closed packet on my counter. I thought that the difference was somewhat negligible. (In closer lighting, I could hardly see a difference between the two.) But any change was a change in my eyes. I took the photo of my apple slices and anxiously awaited the changes on Day 8.

Day 8

cheese, cake, tea
Casey Twomey

Was this what my life was coming to? I woke up each morning and the first thing I did was check on my McDonald's apple slices. Yes, my life had come to waiting around, slowly watching fruit rot. #Summer2017 has been wild, let me tell you. Sadly, Day 8 didn't look much different than Day 7.  

Day 9

Casey Twomey

Another day with practically no change. The opened packet was a bit more brown than the day before. Oddly enough, the sealed packet seemed like it had a little more air in it than the day before.  

Day 10

Casey Twomey

After countless days of seeing little progress, I was astonished to wake up on Day 10 and see the McDonald's apple slices in this state. The opened packet finally turned brown, while the sealed one expanded (but still wasn't brown). The change happened overnight — literally. At this point, the opened packet started to smell a little funky, so I just decided to put the apple slices in the trash where they belonged.  

As for the puffy unopened bag, I assumed that the puff came from the buildup of ethylene, a hydrocarbon gas that's produced as apples ripen, causing them to brown and soften. Gross or not, I was done with this fruit, so into the garbage they went. 

It was a long 10-day journey waiting for these apple slices to rot. But alas, I finally got some results. Though it took much longer than I expected, the McDonald's apple slices did in fact rot and I can conclude that Calcium Ascorbate is an effective preservative. However, I just can't get past the fact that these apples lasted so long — like, days longer than a freshly cut apple slice would last on its own before turning brown and rotting. 

So, What is Calcium Ascorbate and Is It Safe?

While the results of this little "experiment" may be pretty darn gross, you shouldn't be scared of Calcium Ascorbate. Calcium Ascorbate is totally safe to eat and was invented with the intention to preserve fresh-cut fruit. With this elixir, fruit can last for up to 21 days, which at first might sound freaky. But on the other hand, it does a lot of good, like saving fresh fruit from being wasted and providing a healthy option for kids' school lunches (and Happy Meals at McD's).

Beyond keeping fruit fresh, it can actually be commonly be found as an oral dietary supplement for those who have a medical condition caused by low levels of Vitamin C. 

The Food and Drug Administration approves of Calcium Ascorbate as an additive in foods. And so far, there has been no research done that has proven that Calcium Ascorbate is bad for you. But for me, personally, I'm just a little freaked out and going to stick to fresh and organic produce from now on.