It had the following caption: Our fast “food” display is now 2 years old. The word food is questionable, since the bread-like and meat-like substances have not molded or spoiled in any way. Bugs won’t even bother with it. Please think twice about giving this to your kids. You have a choice, but they don’t. We truly are what we eat.
— from LiveWell Wellness Centers
This is not the first time I have seen these things. A few years ago I saw something similar about how Cool Whip is totally disgusting because it doesn’t separate or decompose, vs. real whipped cream that barely lasts 10 minutes before it starts to separate and get kind of gross. The comments followed were the obligatory “Eww!”, “Yeah, I stay away from that because it’s all CHEMICALS!” and “OMG DISGUSTING!” It bothered me then and it continues to bother me now. When I saw the Cool Whip thing, my main annoyance was that claiming that something is bad because it has chemicals in it is possibly the dumbest overly simplistic statement you can make. You may as well say, “I have a personal problem with atoms”. Not to be a smart ass, but everything everywhere is a chemical. The air we breathe is made of chemicals. The water we drink is a chemical. WE ARE ALL CHEMICALS. Our minds and bodily processes are a series of chemical and electro-chemical reactions. DNA is a chemical. Do you get it? When you say “Chemicals are bad” you are betraying yourself as being ignorant and woefully misinformed about the nature of physical reality. Also, to equate “natural” with “chemical-free” is to deny that there are a whole lot of things in nature that will drop you like a bullet, but more nastily. Hemlock is natural. Arsenic occurs naturally in nature. Do I need to remind you about snake venom or the evil Brown Recluse?!? How about how elements of the air will suffocate you if they are in the wrong percentage? How about if you drink enough distilled water (free of horrible chemicals, other than water), your cells will burst and you will DIE! See what you’ve done? Now you’ve got my chemist up!
But, still, when I outlined the above rant, it didn’t seem to completely address the underlying issue that I have with claims like that. Making the entire argument be about how ignorant fear of “chemicals” makes no sense doesn’t really get to the heart of the problem.
So, I tried to think about it further. I went searching for links about this kind of thing and found this. The author sounds possibly intelligent for a little while, but then goes into the following tirade:
So why don’t fast food burgers and fries decompose in the first place? The knee-jerk answer is often thought to be, “Well they must be made with so many chemicals that even mold won’t eat them.” While that’s part of the answer, it’s not the whole story.
The truth is many processed foods don’t decompose and won’t be eaten by molds, insects or even rodents. Try leaving a tub of margarine outside in your yard and see if anything bothers to eat it. You’ll find that the margarine stays seems immortal, too!
Potato chips can last for decades. Frozen pizzas are remarkably resistant to decomposition. And you know those processed Christmas sausages and meats sold around the holiday season? You can keep them for years and they’ll never rot.
With meats, the primary reason why they don’t decompose ist heir high sodium content. Salt is a great preservative, as early humans have known for thousands of years. McDonald’s meat patties are absolutely loaded with sodium — so much so that they qualify as “preserved” meat, not even counting the chemicals you might find in the meat.
To me, there’s not much mystery about the meat not decomposing. The real question in my mind iswhy don’t the buns mold?That’s the really scary part, since healthy bread begins to mold within days. What could possibly be in McDonald’s hamburger buns that would ward off microscopic life for more than two decades?
As it turns out, unless you’re a chemist you probably can’t even read the ingredients list out loud. Here’s what McDonald’s own website says you’ll find in their buns:
Enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, enzymes), water, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, yeast, soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated soybean oil, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, wheat gluten, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated monoglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, guar gum, calcium peroxide, soy flour), calcium propionate and sodium propionate (preservatives), soy lecithin.
Great stuff, huh? You gotta especially love the HFCS (diabetes, anyone?), partially-hydrogenated soybean oil (anybody want heart disease?) and the long list of chemicals such as ammonium sulfate and sodium proprionate. Yum. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
Now here’s the truly shocking part about all this: In my estimation, the reason nothing will eat a McDonald’s hamburger bun (except a human) is because it’s not food!
OK, come on now. Your argument is that the burgers contain a bunch of chemicals, in addition to organic matter (BTW, just to continue by smart ass trend, most of the additives in food are also organic chemicals. Organic means that they are based on carbon. Durpa do!) and so microbes and bacteria show up at the site of the burgers and go: Oh, I’m sorry, there’s too many chemicals in this.
Are you serious? Bacteria are intelligent now? If that’s true, we might be fucked. Look, perhaps they don’t necessarily go after all the Big Bad Big Words that only a chemist can pronounce (that’s what my entire education was for, btw…to learn how to pronounce things like sodium and look hella smart and also to dismantle the health of the American public. The secret is out!), but they will eat, you know, everything else. McDonald’s hamburgers are not made up entirely saw dust. They also include Grade Meat meat and soy and other things that sustain life. Bacteria love that!
In addition, just to remind you that my chemist is still up, just because something is hard to pronounce does not mean that it is evil. Yes, saying cheese is easy. Saying the names of the chemicals that occur naturally from the cheese making process is hard. It’s still cheese.
In addition to all this, I find it idiotic to say that food = decomposition. Shitty food is still food. Our bodies can digest them and extract useful stuff from it.
Of course, I am not the only person to answer these claims. I found this wonderful blog entry about a study debunking the whole thing. In short, if you leave a burger and a bun, any burger and a bun out in the air to dry out, bacteria will die because bacteria requires moisture to survive. As is mentioned in the article, dehydrating food is a proven preservation method. Beef jerky is simply dehydrated meat. Also, food like this is loaded with salt, a known preservative (that’s apparently “natural” because it doesn’t have too many syllables). In addition, under circumstances where a homemade burger and a McDonald’s burger were kept moist, mold grew on them both. It must be food then since bacteria are food critics or something.
Now, here’s what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that you should eat McDonald’s food. It IS bad for you. But, I shouldn’t even have to say that. Making the grand accusation to today’s modern public that McDonald’s is bad is as obvious a statement today as “Cigarette cause cancer, like, really”.
Today while looking at that picture, I kept asking myself why I was so annoyed. Clearly I agree that you should avoid this crap, that ingesting large amounts of it many times a week will lead to probable health problems. So what’s my problem? I mean, the underlying message that they’re promoting is ultimately correct even if the various associated beliefs are wrong, right?
And there it is. There is the problem. The sharing of these ideas makes you come across as a proper skeptic, not swallowing what the main stream wishes you to accept. The chemical industry, big business, everyone who stands to make a profit from the ignorance of the public are taking full advantage of it at all times. Not only do they not care about your welfare, but they wish to put it in danger. It is black and white.
Obviously. If there’s anything that’s black and white and not difficult to predict it’s nutrition or medicine or human physiology. That’s why it’s so easy for people to lose weight. I mean, if it’s just that humans are stupid and eat shit (while animals never do that, ever), then shouldn’t it be easy to lose weight and get healthy when you’ve cut out all the Bad Shit? Why isn’t it? Could it be that the obesity problem, the general health problems that people are more aware of now, all of that might be more complicated than fast food?
If you take these claims as fact without question, you are not a skeptic. Yes, you should question everything and you should require evidence that the ideas that the main stream have accepted are true. But why does that stop when the dissident perspective is presented? Is it not possible that the point of view is not particularly accepted because it’s actually bullshit? There are whack jobs on every side of an issue. There are people who spread misinformation in both conservative and liberal circles. People, regardless of politics or religion, will believe anything if they do not properly engage in a skeptical outlook.
Again, this is all a matter of skepticism being properly applied. I am bothered by the spreading of this woo woo, ignorant information with a general hint of truth because it is shared with an air of “we are smarter than them”, an arrogance fueled by a general misunderstanding of science. When you say that eating something because of all the chemicals in it and then say that the names of all the chemicals are hard to say, you don’t sound any better than the idiot claiming that evolution isn’t true because…THE BIBLE. You are saying that science is hard, that being science literate isn’t important. You just need to know enough to be scared and then avoid it all together. Yes, you are right in that you should not accept that everything the FDA says is edible will do you no harm, but you are wrong if you justify this skepticism with bullshit facts. This makes you just as bad as all the other ignorant people you feel superior to.