Blogger and nutritionist Joann Bruso celebrated an unusual birthday this past March: the one-year anniversary of a Happy Meal on her office shelf.
Exactly one year ago, Bruso purchased a McDonald’s Happy Meal –something the nutritionist probably wouldn’t dream of eating or feeding to a child– for the sake of conducting a bit of a scientific experiment. The test was simple: place the Happy Meal on a shelf, right behind the computer where she does her writing, and wait.
And wait she did, for one entire year, as the burger, fries and drink moldered away on the shelf. Only, contrary to what one would expect of food left out in the air for twelve months, the Happy Meal didn’t gather any actual mold.
In fact, the Happy Meal looks mysteriously similar to how it looked one year ago. Bruso describes the miniscule changes that have occurred:
The bread is crusty and if you look closely, you will see a crack across the top. The hamburger has shrunk a bit and still resembles a hockey puck. Yet, the French fries look yummy enough to eat. I never had an odor problem, after a couple of weeks, I couldn’t even smell the fries.”
Bruso realizes that a Happy Meal exhibiting few changes after an entire year is not a good thing. Real food is meant to break down inside the body. If a burger can’t be decomposed even by microbes, then it is true, she asserts, that “your child’s body can’t properly metabolize it either.”
The reason for the lack of change in the year-old McDonald’s Happy Meal is the number of preservatives in the food. Whi
le McDonald’s has attempted to counter claims about its unhealthiness by posting calorie counts and featuring some slightly healthier menu items, the actual ingredients are something you won’t hear them touting in their ad campaigns.
While McDonald’s insists that they use no preservatives in their hamburger patty, the bun, pickle and french fries are a whole different story. In fact, for such a simple item, the list of ingredients for the humble pickle slice is lengthy: cucumbers, water, distilled vinegar, salt, calcium chloride, sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate (preservative), natural flavor (vegetable source), alum, polysorbate 80, turmeric.
The Happy Meal hamburger bun’s ingredient list is sadly too long to reproduce, but includes the preservative calcium propionate (which is what keeps that year-old bun looking daisy fresh), along with ominous sounding ingredients such as calcium peroxide and azodicarbonamide. Yum!
The next time you think about buying a Happy Meal for your kids, consider the fact that it might just contain some of the same ingredients as the toy it comes with.