McDonald's: Our food does rot, just ask the scientists

The chain is referring reporters to food-science experts about claims made on social media that its Happy Meals do not rot, even over a period of more than five years.

The McDonald's Happy Meal in question -- six years later.
The McDonald's Happy Meal in question -- six years later.

OAK BROOK, IL: McDonald’s is urging reporters to speak to food-science experts to get the facts about claims that its food does not rot.

The fast-food chain has been fighting such claims for at least the past 10-years, but a Facebook post last week purporting to show images of a six-year-old Happy Meal that had not decomposed went viral, bringing the issue into the public eye again. As of press time, the post had been shared more than 300,000 times on social media and reported on by major media outlets such as Fox News, Fortune, and USA Today, as well as UK publications such as The Sun.

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...

Posted by Jennifer Lovdahl on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

McDonald’s director of media relations Lisa McComb told PRWeek that some outlets have reported inaccurately on the customer’s claims.

She is referring reporters to food-science experts, such as Dr. Roger Clemens, cofounder and EVP of PolyScience Consulting and chief scientist for Daedalus Humanitarian. He is also a part-time faculty member in the University of Southern California’s regulatory science program, where he is an adjunct professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences.

"While not knowing the conditions in which the food was kept in this specific claim, what is scientifically known is that decomposition of food happens under certain conditions," said Anita Boddie, McDonald’s global scientific affairs lead. "Without sufficient moisture – either in the food itself or the environment in which it is held – decomposition is unlikely."

She added that this kind of incident is not unique to McDonald’s.

"Any food – whether homemade, store bought, or from a restaurant - can dehydrate in a dry environment, and therefore not decompose," she said.

McDonald’s media relations department is also referring reporters to the chain’s FAQ page on Chicken McNuggets. Another section on McDonald’s website answers questions such as, "Why doesn’t your food rot?" The explanation: "Actually, it can. 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."

McComb explained that the FAQ content on this topic was posted on McDonald’s website in fall 2014.

Last month, McDonald’s was on the receiving end of a social media backlash after some customers bit into their mozzarella cheese sticks and found they were hollow. The chain said at the time only a "low volume" of customers expressed concerned about the mozzarella sticks, and the media had over-reported on the issue.

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