McDonald’s fries: good for a lifetime

We had someone send us the link for the YouTube video below. It’s made by Morgan Spurlock of Supersize Me! fame, so mcdonalds-fries.jpgtake what you see with a grain of salt.

I’ve heard it said (and I’ve even said it myself on interviews) that you should only buy foods from the grocery store that would go bad in a few days were the power to go out. In other words, buy fresh produce, meats, and dairy products–all items that would go bad quickly without refrigeration. Don’t buy Cheerios, corn flakes, canned foods, candies or any of the other foods that would still be good after a long power outage.

If there is merit to this idea, and I think there is, then it would probably be a real good idea to avoid McDonald’s French fries. At least if the semi-journalistic experiment below was really done as shown.

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19 thoughts on “McDonald’s fries: good for a lifetime

  1. I can tell you that I spilled some in the car and then when I got home, I put them out on the ground, thinking birds or ants would eat them. They laid there for two weeks! No ants and no birds. I can throw old bread out and it’s gone by the end of the day. I ended up picking up the fries and throwing them out. I can tell you the fries didn’t get mold on them. At least not at the two week mark.. They did get very hard. Needless to say, I quit eating them.

    Hmmm.  Interesting.  It’s an experiment we all could do.  But then I would have to buy McDonald’s fries.

    Cheers–

    MRE 

  2. Interesting, but a couple questions for those with more science than me:

    1- Is it possible that the fries were moldy with an internal mold or something that wouldn’t be visible to the naked eye?

    2- Is it possible that the double frying of McD’s fries somehow insulates them?

    Last thought here: Food that molds is good, right? But Spurlock makes this out like the rotting of the sandwiches is some kind of knock on McD’s. FWIW, I thought SuperSize Me was really entertaining and an interesting experiment with tons of flaws. But at some point, you have to move on to another target, right?

    Sorry, other last thought. In SSM, the woman from McDonald’s who he is always trying to get in touch with, I saw her speak as part of a panel at the Net Impact conference in 2004. Net Impact is an organization of graduate students in business concerned with sustainability and responsibility (same thing, but still). On the panel, she sat next to a guy from Starbucks, and it was pretty clear that Starbucks is one way and McDonalds is a whole ‘nother deal. At Starbucks, Corporate Responsibility is it’s own division, with a board level director. At McDonalds, it’s a division of the marketing department. Draw your own conclusions.

    Hi Max–

    I think Spurlock did make the point that foods that mold are good.  The hamburger and fries from the local burger joint were, one assumes, made with fresh ingredients, and, as a consequence, they got moldy first and had to be tossed as they were becoming an oleaginous mess.  The McDonald’s burgers, on the other hand, lasted much longer (and the fires, apparently, forever), leading to the conclusion that there must be something there chemical-wise to prevent the molding.  Not a particularly appetizing thought.

    Cheers–

    MRE 

  3. I like the suggestion to, “eat only foods that will spoil, but eat them before they do,” as they put it on the Weston Price site. But I do consume some things that don’t fit that description: wine, various saturated fats (lard, suet, clarified butter, coconut oil all keep for ages), food preserved in those fats – like duck or pork confit, salami, parma ham … even the fresh beef I buy is often hung for around a month at fridge rather than freezer temperatures. I’d hate to have to apply the concept literally and miss out on all those good things!

    Hi Janet–

    I knew as I typed those words that a comment similar to this one would come winging in.  You are right, of course, but since most of the things you mentioned aren’t typically sold at the local Piggly Wiggly, the general statement holds pretty true.

    Cheers–

    MRE 

  4. This explains the strange compulsion I have felt to eat the well-preserved, months-old McFries that I used to find under the seat of my car!

    Inquiring minds want to know: did you succumb to the compulsion?  If so, how were they?

    Cheers–

    MRE 

  5. Thought occurred to me. Everything goes bad eventually, save rocks, chemicals and one “whole” food item. Since we do eat a rock (salt) and this whole food item, I dunno, are they out.

    As I understand it, Bee Vomit (aka honey) never goes bad. I think I had heard they found some quality honey buried with the Egyptian pharaohs, still edible 5000 years later. Now, maybe in year 6000, the mold really sets in, but, I wouldn’t bet on it.

    So, Honey and Salt: In or out? I’m confused.

    Uh, I would say that salt is definitely in. Obviously honey is edible after it is centuries old, but I don’t know that I would want to.  I don’t think it did the pharaohs a lot of good.  Bad teeth, obesity, heart disease, and all the rest of the diseases we associate with modern living were rampant among the ancient Egyptians.  And they had no sugar, only honey.

    Cheers–

    MRE 

  6. Well, even humans won’t decay when they’re dried out or encased in enough salt (ice, or preserving media). I noticed the fries look quite dry compared to the other food, perhaps there isn’t enough moisture there to let other organisms do their thang.

    Also… it seemed like Spurlock was implying that food breaks down in a similar manner in the digestive tract.

    Hi Nancy–

    Yeah, that was his real fallacy.  Food doesn’t just sit around in the digestive tract waiting until it decomposes.  Still, whatever keeps the fries looking so good for so long, I don’t necessarily want in me.

    Cheers–

    MRE 

  7. Yeah, I’m thinking it’s the lack of moisture in the fries that kept them from going moldy. From what I can see, there was no condensation on the sides of the jar they were in unlike all the other ones. The other fries were big and meaty in comparison.

    I’m glad I’ve never liked potatoes. I never could see the appeal.

  8. In answer to your query, no, maybe because by the time I found them I had converted to low-carb and fries were off-limits!

    Charles

    Glad to hear it. 

  9. I just read a seattlepi article that disscusses the widespread (and unfortunately, growing) prevalence of PBDE’s. The last recommendation in the article is to eat less animal fat since PBDE’s accumulate in fat. Personally, I will continue to eat lots of animal fat because I personally believe that not eating fat is more unhealthful than ingesting PBDE’s. Nevertheless it is distressing to hear.

    This is especially true since the only thing local stores sell, and the only thing my pocketbook can afford, is standard supermarket beef and pork. What, if anything, should I do to reduce my exposure? Also, do you think a “fat flush” a la Orlistat would be helpful?

    Here is the article.

    Your assistance is greatly appreciated

    Hi Freddy–

    Unfortunately, PBDEs, like organochlorines, are persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that are lipophilic (fat loving) and accumulate in the fat tissue.  When you eat the fat of animals you are getting all the POPs that the animal accumulated over its lifetime.  But, most animals we eat don’t live very long–cows for a year, maybe; chickens for a few months–so they don’t have time to accumulate a whole lot.  It’s better to eat range or grass-fed because they accumulate even less.

    If you eat fruits and vegetables you get the stuff directly.  Strawberries, for example, have huge amounts of pesticides on them that are difficult to get rid of because of all the littles nooks and crannies on the surface.  Organic strawberries have a tiny bit–as do all fruits and vegetables–because of the POPs in the groundwater and even in the rain, but the organic berries have much, much less.

    We humans, unlike the animals we eat, live a long, long time and tend to accumulate these POPs in our fat in large amounts.  The only way we can get rid of them is by the orlistat or olestra fat flush that I’ve written about.  There is evidence that calcium and green tea increase the fat in the stool, but not nearly to olestra or orlistat-driven amounts, so taking a calcium supplement should help over the long run.  There is a debate going on now about whether calcium in the form of supplements or in the form of dairy products is the best.  I would come down on the side of the supplements because dairy products are pretty high in fat and one of the ways animals have of getting rid of their POP burden is through their milk, which is where all dairy products come from.  Which reminds me–one thing MD and I ALWAYS buy organic is butter, heavy cream, half and half, etc. for this very reason.

    I’m planning on posting soon–maybe today–on yet another way to flush the fat.

    Cheers–

    MRE 

  10. I have had honey go bad on me. It may require a certain set of conditions, especially where crystallization is concerned (changes the concentration of water in the liquid portion to where it can support microbes like C. botulinum), but it is certainly possible. And believe me, if you don’t know it’s happening for a while, it makes an awful mess.

    Now vinegar, on the other hand, except for being chemically volatile and evaporating if exposed to open air, is good forever. I mean heck, the extra vecchio balsamic that will be bottled this year was first barreled before I was born.

    Hi Bradley–

    Okay, we’ll add vinegar to the list of acceptable foods should the power in the store go out. 

    Cheers–

    MRE 

  11. Honey is imho worse than sugar, it contains more fructose than glucose and is probably comparable to HFCS. The damage from it is certainly less than from HFCS because it is quite expensive in comparison, and thus less consumed.

    Hi gallier2–

    As I understand it, honey is an invert sugar, which means that, like sugar,  it has equal amounts of glucose and fructose but, unlike with sugar, the glucose and fructose are not hooked together.

    Cheers–

    MRE 

  12. My experience with Mcdonalds fries (thankfully from about 10 yrs ago) Was that they served them pretty fresh. The fries have a pretty quick turnover. I would think the deep frying would kill any spores or bacteria on them. If Morgan got them fresh and put them into the jars quickly there was probably little or no “stuff” to grow. Not trying to defend the fries, but might explain the magical mystery of the fries. Also, I heard once that most American’s consider french fries as part of their 5 servings per day of veggies, has anyone else heard this scary tid bit?

    Hi David–

    You may be right about the McDonald’s fries, but I would think the deep frying of the other fries in the experiment would have provided the same protection. It could have been, I suppose, that Spurlock put the McDonald’s fries in when they were just freshly cooked while he let the others sit around for a while. Then we have the report from Charles about finding old McDonald’s fries under the seat of his car that looked as good as new…

    I have heard the same report that French fries are considered one serving of vegetable in the US. I just asked MD, and she has heard it too. I don’t know if it’s true or not or just one of those urban legends, but potatoes are vegetables…

    Cheers–

    MRE

  13. Don’t forget the catsup on top of the fries would constitute another serving of veggies…

    Didn’t they try to classify catsup as a veggie serving back in the Reagan days?

    I hate that stuff with a passion and wouldn’t you know it, I ended up married to a guy who has a bottle of it welded to one hand.

    Yep, I’ve heard about the catsup too.  So fries and catsup are TWO servings of veggies.

    Cheers–

    MRE 

  14. Hey, this is nothing new. I had spilled a few Micky D’s fries in my car and they lasted forever under the floor mat. Admittedly, back in the day, McDonalds had the best fries.

    Peace,
    Mary

  15. Side thought about McD’s fries…

    Since transfats are bad, and the other fully hydrogenated fats are probably as bad if not worse, maybe there’s a shot they will go back to beef tallow for the fat, like in the old days. Sure, the vegetarians will complain, but let’s just say that what a vegetarian complains about is not really high on my list of reasons to donate some Orlistat side effects.

    FWIW: before PP, I had occasion to leave the country to some place less concerned with health (and therefore healthier) where I had some McD’s fries, made with the beef tallow mixture as a frying oil. They really were better.

  16. Ever since I saw that in the Supersize Me DVD I stopped eating fries from ANY fast food place, rarely eat fast foods anymore.

  17. I did the experiment that the guy did in the video, but the french frys I used molded. It was freaky wierd. I totally used mcdonalds frys but they molded. So I did the experiment like this, I had 4 jars and 1 box of mcdonalds frys and my moms homemade ones. I left them in the jars for like a week then they all molded.