25 Years of Food Follies: 1987-2012

We're looking back at oddball food trends and nutritional nonsense. By: Jenny Everett

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What explains the mummification of a burger?
Photo: Yasu & Junko

2010 | What explains the mummification of a burger?

Mostly for a lark, a New York photographer releases pictures of a Happy Meal that did not rot after six months at room temperature. Could chemical preservatives cause the failure to decay? Global publicity extends all the way to the Hindustan Times. Weirdly, one guy reports he has been keeping non-rotting burgers in his basement since 1989. Only problem with the chemical theory: It's wrong. Kenji Lopez-Alt, of SeriousEats.com, sets up his own experiment, in which neither homemade nor fast-food burgers actually rot. "There's not enough moisture, and bacteria needs moisture to grow," he says. "Truth is, a burger made at McDonald's, because of all their systems, is probably cleaner than one made at a mom-and-pop shop."

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