How long does a Happy Meal stay fresh?

Let’s find out! I purchased a fresh boys Happy meal from Mcdonald’s on May 4, 2010. I was in the drive through less than 2 minutes before I had a piping hot Happy Meal. A year has now passed (May 4, 2011) and the Happy Meal looks just the same as the day it was purchased. It is a bit dry looking, and the bun is now hard. It appears to be dried out, but still looks like you could pop it in the microwave and eat it. NO SIGNS OF MOLD, FUNGUS OR DECAY OTHER THAN THE HARDNESS OF THE BUN.

UPDATE: May 4, 2011
A year has passed and the Happy Meal looks exactly the same as when it was purchased. It still looks like you could put the Happy Meal in your microwave and heat it up. There are zero signs of mold or fungus or rotting. I can’t imagine it to decay much beyond what has occurred. The preservatives used in the foods we eat are pretty scary. What would normally decay in a few days has lasted a full year and appears to still be going strong.

Bookmark this article and check back each month as I refresh the picture of the Happy Meal and examine the preservatives and additives used in this meal. It could all go wrong though and the Happy Meal mold and decay. However, my sources tell me this will not happen and the meal will look perfect well over a year from now.

As a personal trainer in the Oklahoma City and Edmond area fast food is an enemy. Clients are constantly bombarded with ads about fast food. I find it curious that smoking is not chic any longer and out of favor, but people gorge themselves on fast food and drive up healthcare costs for all without any type of public outcry. I think I know why, the media doesn’t want you to give up fast food because it’s how they pay their bills. Just watch TV or Radio and take an interest in the types of ads you are hearing for one afternoon. I think you will find a predominance of fast food ads. The media has no interest in stopping fast food in the way they crusaded against smoking. Remember, it was illegal to advertise smoking products via TV or Radio.

Happy Meal Day 1 (May 4, 2010)
May 4, 2010

Happy Meal After 1 Month (June 7, 2010)
May 4, 2010

Happy Meal After 3 Months (August 3, 2010)
May 4, 2010

Happy Meal turns one

Happy Meal turns one year old and looks ageless

High Calories, Artificial Flavors and Poor Nutritional Value
Calories from calorically dense foods that are also low in nutrient density is a major problem in the United States. Consuming large amounts of these foods results in an empty stomach shortly after eating, low amounts of vitamins and nutrients, and low amounts of fiber.

Consider the following caloric intake combined with poor overall nutrition provided by the Happy Meal:

Small French Fries
1% Low Fat Chocolate Milk

Total Calories: 700, Fat (g) 27, Saturated Fat (g) 9, Trans Fat (g) 1, Cholesterol (mg) 45, Sodium (mg), Carbs (g) 88

Source: McDonald’s

Wow! That’s more than a professional body builder would take in for one meal. Keep in mind, this is going in a 5 or 10 year olds body, this is way too many calories and the nutritional value is nil.

Southampton University (UK) researchers have found that children who ingest certain additives are more likely to be over-active, impulsive and unable to concentrate. This is not new news, but worth reminding everyone about. Researchers mentioned that many of these additives are on the menu at McDonald’s: sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), ponceau 4R (E124) and sodium benzoate (E211).

If you are a parent, you should be concerned because the Big Mac, cheeseburger and quarter pounder with cheese contain a preservative discovered to worsen hyperactivity in young kids.

McDonald’s Doesn’t Tell You All Ingredients?
It’s hard to say if McDonald’s is being completely honest on the additives and preservatives they use. Based on the following quote, I have my doubts if they are listing everything. McDonald’s publishes the following quoteon a Hong Kong version of their website.

The Question of Additives
At McDonald’s, what we leave out of our food is as important as what we put into it. The additives used in McDonald’s foods are those already included by the supplier to maintain quality, and fall entirely within guidelines set by the Department of Health. Similar additives are found in most foods sold through retail outlets and in other restaurants.

I am guessing from this quote that they don’t list all the ingredients since they did not personally add them to the foods they sell. Hmmm…. I guess the additives in the meals they sell don’t exist? If they contain no additives or preservatives, why don’t they sell them as Natural or Organic? Seems like they are passing this off to their suppliers and are taking anything the supplier gives them as acceptable – even if it’s bad for you.

One thing I’m finding difficult to understand is that the meat of the burger has not yet decayed. McDonald’s claims no additives or preservatives are added to the meat itself as listed below. However, why is the burger not decaying? It should be showing some signs of fungus or mold growing on it by now, wouldn’t you think?

I found the following ingredient list for the cheeseburger in the Happy Meal located on the McDonald’s website. I built the cheeseburger based on the ingredients they listed.

100% beef patty, bun, American cheese slice, ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions, salt, pepper

Broken down by Ingredient(s):
Beef Patty:
(Regular hamburgers, Quarter Pounders, Big Macs) 100% pure USDA domestic beef, no additives, no fillers, no extenders
Regular & Quarter Pounder Buns:
Enriched bleached wheat flour (malted barley flour, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, iron, folic acid), water, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated soybean oil), yeast. Contains less than 2 percent or less salt, wheat gluten, calcium sulfate, ammonium chloride, ascorbic acid, azodicarbomide, diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides, corn flour, soy flour, calcium peroxide, mono- and diglycerides, propionic acid, phosphoric acid, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, wheat flour, silicon dioxide, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, fungal enzymes, calcium propionate (as a preservative), sesame seeds on the Quarter Pounder Bun.
Sharp Pasteurized Processed American Cheese (slice):
Cultured milk, water, cream, sodium citrate, salt, sodium aluminum phosphate, sorbic acid (preservative), sodium phosphate, cheese culture, artificial color, acetic acid, enzymes, lecithin.
Tomato concentrate from red ripe tomatoes, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, salt, natural flavors (vegetable source).
Pickle Slices:
Cucumbers, water, distilled vinegar, salt, calcium chloride, sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate (preservative), natural flavor (vegetable source), alum, polysorbate 80, turmeric.

It’s not McDonald’s Fault
I’m not saying all of McDonald’s food is bad, and they are trying a bit harder to help health nuts like myself find alternatives in their stores. However, this will not dramatically change until the public demands more of them. McDonald’s is only responding to what people are buying. My hope is that McDonald’s and other fast food chains can keep innovating and drop the additives and preservatives their meals contain.

Let your voice be heard by voting with your wallet. If you do go to McDonald’s, please take advantage of their healthier alternatives and drop the Big Mac. Only when enough of us do this will they try harder.

Christian Henning, NASM-CPT
Oklahoma City Boot Camp Trainer

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Leave A Reply (13 comments so far)

  1. kelly
    9 years ago

    Totally Agree!

  2. yourmom
    9 years ago

    You should cook a thin burger and some frys yourself and put them next to each other to have some sort of comparison.

  3. Christian Henning, NASM-CPT
    9 years ago

    Good idea. I’ve seen others where the McDonalds shows decay and the person seems to have cross contaminated the McDonalds with a home made burger. To avoid that, I just keep the burger completely on its own. I will cook a home made burger though and not have them anywhere each other for a true accounting.

  4. Sam
    9 years ago

    Who cares? I hate it when people rant about the nutritional values of fast food. If you don’t like fast food, don’t eat it. You don’t have to ruin it for the rest of us!

  5. Christian Henning, NASM-CPT
    9 years ago

    LOL.. Sam, you can eat whatever you want, we hope we didn’t ruin your happy meal time.

  6. Lois
    9 years ago

    Is there somewhere we could send it for testing to see what else it contains?

  7. Michael Reinders
    9 years ago

    So where is the July 2010 update with photo?

  8. kendall
    9 years ago

    Where is the July Pic is it still in one piece?

  9. Christian Henning, NASM-CPT
    9 years ago

    Michael & Kendall, I just updated the picture with the third month shot. It’s now hard (bun) but LOOKS 100% fine. I don’t think anyone would want to eat it, but the amazing thing is no decay. So maybe this is why sometimes when you go to McDonald’s the buns are kinda tough, maybe they been sitting in the back a few months….

  10. Laura
    9 years ago

    Yeah in Australia on a current affairs show called Today Tonight they did a story about this happy meal problem. They even showed a happy meal made in 1999 and it still looked alright to eat! No meat decay, fungus mould or anything (apart from looking dry). Mcdonalds shouldn’t miss lead their customers.

  11. Sal Ferreira
    9 years ago

    Very informative post. You sometimes wonder why so many additives are put in when the natural meat itself tastes fine. I feel places like McD’s and Burger King give the restuarant/fast food burger a negative direction when you can eat these sort of things while still maintaining a diet. For example, an Angus beef burger on a honey wheat roll with onions, lettuce and tomato with no salt or sauce added from McD’s is perfectly acceptable once or twice a week. One who is training intensely would actually benefit from it and still make gains while staying lean.

  12. april
    8 years ago

    It still looks edible … out of curiosity, does it stink up the closet? If it doesn’t smell, that would be a lnother huge indicator of preservatives

  13. Christian Henning, NASM-CPT
    8 years ago

    No stink at all… I’ve been tempted to try to reheat it and see if it returns to form.

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