You Can Stop Sharing That Viral McDonald's Happy Meal Post Now

by Ashley Austrew

A popular Facebook post claims a McDonald’s Happy Meal hasn’t decomposed at all in six years.

There’s a new viral post about the horrors of McDonald’s making the rounds, just in case it’s been a few minutes since someone shamed you for feeding your kid a hamburger. An Alaska woman shared a photo of a Happy Meal on Facebook last week that she says is decomposing more slowly than the box it came in.

The photo was posted by a woman who works in chiropractic office who says the meal has been sitting on their shelf for six years. In the image, you can clearly see petrified French fries and chicken nuggets beside a box with an attached receipt that says the meal was purchased in January 2010. The photo’s caption reads:

“It’s been 6 years since I bought this “Happy Meal” at McDonald’s. It’s been sitting at our office this whole time and has not rotted, molded, or decomposed at all!!! It smells only of cardboard. We did this experiment to show our patients how unhealthy this “food” is. Especially for our growing children!! There are so many chemicals in this food! Choose real food! Apples, bananas, carrots, celery….those are real fast food.”

Since the photo was posted, it’s been shared almost 250,000 times and dozens of people have commented on how “sad” it is that people eat this stuff. One person even tagged a friend in it and wrote that it should make them “think twice” about what their kids “insist on eating.” I’m sure they appreciated that unsolicited advice.

The thing is, it’s not surprising that McDonald’s — or any fast food, for that matter — is unhealthy, so why do we insist on continuing to share this fear-mongering garbage? The myth that McDonald’s food is uniquely horrible and “never rots” has been debunked time and time again. This exact photo is proven false on Snopes, and similar claims about non-rotting food have been made so many times that McDonald’s even has a section on their website explaining the phenomenon. They say:

“Food needs moisture in the air for mold to form. Without it, food will simply dry out – sort of like bread left out on a counter overnight to make croutons for stuffing. You might have seen experiments which seem to show no decomposition in our food. Most likely, this is because the food has dehydrated before any visible deterioration could occur.”

A writer for Serious Eats who did an experiment on McDonald’s burgers backs up their claim. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt tested both McDonald’s hamburgers and similarly sized homemade hamburgers to see if they would decompose. Left out on the counter, neither decomposed. Placed into a Ziplock sandwich bag, they both got moldy. The reason? Moisture. It’s not evil chemicals and preservatives. It’s just the simple fact that McDonald’s food is small and thin enough that it dehydrates too quickly for mold to grow. Similarly sized homemade food behaves in exactly the same way, so yay science! We can all stop sharing bullshit now.

If you want to hate fast food, there are plenty of good reasons. Hate it because it contains tons of sugar and salt, which contribute to a host of serious health problems. Hate it because it’s all some people have access to and they have no choice but to repeatedly feed their kids food they know isn’t great. Hate it because employees still ask whether you want the “girl toy” or the “boy toy” in your kids’ meal and perpetuate ridiculous gender stereotypes. Hate it because most restaurants overwork their employees and refuse to pay them a living wage.

Don’t hate it because of debunked Facebook posts based on bad science and fear-mongering that serve no purpose other than to shame people for their eating habits while simultaneously making the person who shared the post feel morally superior. We all know fast food is unhealthy, and we don’t need to be told that apples are more nutritious than French fries. If you’re truly concerned about the state of nutrition, figure out a way to effect real change. Leaving a Happy Meal on a shelf for six years is nothing more than a gimmick.