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Is that right? The McDonald's Happy Meal project

Okay, we get it. McDonald's food is weirdly impervious to the ravages of time. That's the finding from several amateur exercises, most recently one conducted by New York artist Sally Davies.

Davies (who, by the way, says she's a vegetarian), in April bought a McDonald's Happy Meal, brought it home and placed it on a white china plate. She left it there for months, photographing the food daily and posting the photos on line. As you can see, the food hasn't changed much in appearance, though this television interview suggests the chow has hardened up considerably. Much has been made over the fact that neither the roll nor the fries has become moldy.

There are various theories as to why McDonald's food refuses to rot. McDonald's itself seems to find this a head-scratcher: In its response to these much-publicized projects, the corporation issued this response, which emphasizes that McDonald's food is made from high-quality ingredients.

A McDonald's Happy Meal complete with a "Star Wars" toy. New York City artist Sally Davies bought a Happy Meal six months ago. After observing and photographing it daily, the meal showed no sign of decomposition. (Afp/Getty Images/Karen Bleier)

To her credit, Davies refrains from calling her project an "experiment." While her photos and those of others who've documented McDonald's foods' longevity don't make me want to rush toward the Golden Arches, I'd find them more convincing if any had included a control plate of food, too. How about if somebody (science fair project, kids?) cooks a store-bought preformed beef patty and fries some matchstick fries, douses both with salt and sticks the burger in a standard grocery-store bun -- and lets the concoction sit alongside the Happy Meal for a few months? That I'd find interesting.

(If anyone does try this at home, please be sure to let me know about it!)

In other McDonald's news, fans of the fabled McRib sandwich rejoice: The ballyhooed sandwich will return for six weeks starting Nov. 2. Here's where McDonald's lists nutrition facts for the McRib, which contains no ribs at all but rather a pork patty shaped sort of like a rack of ribs. In short, the sandwich has 500 calories, nearly half from fat, and 980 mg of sodium. Not exactly health food, but hardly the worst fast food out there, either.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | October 15, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right?, Nutrition and Fitness  
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I would like to know how the bun doesn't get moldy, but other than that, I would think it takes much longer than a few months for food to rot; particularly with the preservatives restaurants and fast food places have to have.

If I had known they were giving out Star Wars figures I would have bought a Happy Meal!

Posted by: hebe1 | October 15, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

The real angle on this story should be, "If you want to preserve your life (or at least your body) eat lots of McDonalds food and you won't rot!"

By the way, does anyone wake up one morning and say, "Gee, let me go eat at McDonalds so I can benefit from all that nutrition!"? The constant harping that fast food is not nutritious comes as no surprise to anyone except the health nuts who are chagrined to discover that a McFatBurger with Salt Fries isn't necessarily healthy eats.

Posted by: ODIrony | October 15, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

The McRib is coming back?! Don't get between me and the nearest Micky D's on November 2!

Posted by: blackforestcherry | October 15, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Taking pictures at never-rottening Macfood may be an interesting art project for Sally, but is FDA doing any real tests?

Posted by: beachbum50 | October 15, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Don't know why everybody doesn't leave McDonald's food alone. We all know when we go there that the food is not the healthiest we can find. But do we care? I sure don't. I've lived a very long time not knowing what the caloric value of my food was, and I sure don't want to start now.

Posted by: mbrumble | October 15, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

If you check the extra features of the Supersize Me movie, they do a comparison of McDonald's food to a local burger joint. The food from the burger joint starts going bad pretty fast. Not the case with the food from McD's.

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Posted by: oneshopping29 | October 15, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

old news. see Super Size Me movie features.

Posted by: SheilahDC | October 15, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Yes, agree with SheilahDC. Supersize Me had a control burger and fries from a place that used fresh meat and potatoes and looked disgusting very quickly. If I recall correctly, a staffer ended up throwing it out of the office before 'the experiment' was over, but the fries remained unchanged for months.

Posted by: cherylot | October 16, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

The lack of mold on the bread actually isn't all that surprising since the buns dry out really quickly to the point of being crumbly after a day or so. No water, no mold.

Posted by: EricS2 | October 16, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

The Catholics should be renaming the Happy Meal, the "Incorruptable" and proclaiming it a miracle.

Posted by: veerle1 | October 16, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

The food we eat is very questionable, but worthy of saving for months?? I don't think so:

Posted by: BlenderBabe | October 16, 2010 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Photos could be altered, burger could be replaced.
watch the burger streamed LIVE, and see for yourself what is happening to a mcdonalds cheesburger.

Posted by: olby2k | October 17, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the ammonia in their hamburgers acts as a preservative.

I don't know about the fries.

Posted by: solsticebelle | October 18, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

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