What Preservatives Are In A McDonald's Happy Meal And How Long Does It Stay Fresh?

Let’s find out! I purchased a fresh boys Happy meal from Mcdonald’s on May 4, 2010. I was in the drive through less than 2 minutes before I had a piping hot Happy Meal. A month has now passed and the Happy Meal looks just the same as the day it was purchased. It is a bit dry looking, and the bun is not 100% hard (although it is still semi-soft).

Bookmark this article and check back each month as I refresh the picture of the Happy Meal and examine the preservatives and additives used in this meal. It could all go wrong though and the Happy Meal mold and decay. However, my sources tell me this will not happen and the meal will look perfect well over a year from now.

Click here to view the Happy Meal Experiment photo’s.

As a Oklahoma City Personal Trainer, fast food is an enemy. Clients are constantly bombarded with ads about fast food. I find it curious that smoking is not chic any longer and out of favor, but people gorge themselves on fast food and drive up healthcare costs for all without any type of public outcry. I think I know why, the media doesn’t want you to give up fast food because it’s how they pay their bills. Just watch TV or Radio and take an interest in the types of ads you are hearing for one afternoon. I think you will find a predominance of fast food ads. The media has no interest in stopping fast food in the way they crusaded against smoking. Remember, it was illegal to advertise smoking products via TV or Radio.

High Calories, Artificial Flavors and Poor Nutritional Value
Calories from calorically dense foods that are also low in nutrient density is a major problem in the United States. Consuming large amounts of these foods results in an empty stomach shortly after eating, low amounts of vitamins and nutrients, and low amounts of fiber.

Consider the following caloric intake combined with poor overall nutrition provided by the Happy Meal:

Small French Fries
1% Low Fat Chocolate Milk

Total Calories: 700, Fat (g) 27, Saturated Fat (g) 9, Trans Fat (g) 1, Cholesterol (mg) 45, Sodium (mg), Carbs (g) 88

Source: McDonald’s

Wow! That’s more than a professional body builder would take in for one meal. Keep in mind, this is going in a 5 or 10 year olds body, this is way too many calories and the nutritional value is nil.

Southampton University (UK) researchers have found that children who ingest certain additives are more likely to be over-active, impulsive and unable to concentrate. This is not new news, but worth reminding everyone about. Researchers mentioned that many of these additives are on the menu at McDonald’s: sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), ponceau 4R (E124) and sodium benzoate (E211).

If you are a parent, you should be concerned because the Big Mac, cheeseburger and quarter pounder with cheese contain a preservative discovered to worsen hyperactivity in young kids.

McDonald’s Doesn’t Tell You All Ingredients?
It’s hard to say if McDonald’s is being completely honest on the additives and preservatives they use. Based on the following quote, I have my doubts if they are listing everything. McDonald’s publishes the following quoteon a Hong Kong version of their website.

The Question of Additives
At McDonald’s, what we leave out of our food is as important as what we put into it. The additives used in McDonald’s foods are those already included by the supplier to maintain quality, and fall entirely within guidelines set by the Department of Health. Similar additives are found in most foods sold through retail outlets and in other restaurants.

I am guessing from this quote that they don’t list all the ingredients since they did not personally add them to the foods they sell. Hmmm…. I guess the additives in the meals they sell don’t exist? If they contain no additives or preservatives, why don’t they sell them as Natural or Organic? Seems like they are passing this off to their suppliers and are taking anything the supplier gives them as acceptable – even if it’s bad for you.

One thing I’m finding difficult to understand is that the meat of the burger has not yet decayed. McDonald’s claims no additives or preservatives are added to the meat itself as listed below. However, why is the burger not decaying? It should be showing some signs of fungus or mold growing on it by now, wouldn’t you think?

I found the following ingredient list for the cheeseburger in the Happy Meal located on the McDonald’s website. I built the cheeseburger based on the ingredients they listed.

100% beef patty, bun, American cheese slice, ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions, salt, pepper

Broken down by Ingredient(s):
Beef Patty:
(Regular hamburgers, Quarter Pounders, Big Macs) 100% pure USDA domestic beef, no additives, no fillers, no extenders
Regular & Quarter Pounder Buns:
Enriched bleached wheat flour (malted barley flour, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, iron, folic acid), water, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated soybean oil), yeast. Contains less than 2 percent or less salt, wheat gluten, calcium sulfate, ammonium chloride, ascorbic acid, azodicarbomide, diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides, corn flour, soy flour, calcium peroxide, mono- and diglycerides, propionic acid, phosphoric acid, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, wheat flour, silicon dioxide, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, fungal enzymes, calcium propionate (as a preservative), sesame seeds on the Quarter Pounder Bun.
Sharp Pasteurized Processed American Cheese (slice):
Cultured milk, water, cream, sodium citrate, salt, sodium aluminum phosphate, sorbic acid (preservative), sodium phosphate, cheese culture, artificial color, acetic acid, enzymes, lecithin.
Tomato concentrate from red ripe tomatoes, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, salt, natural flavors (vegetable source).
Pickle Slices:
Cucumbers, water, distilled vinegar, salt, calcium chloride, sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate (preservative), natural flavor (vegetable source), alum, polysorbate 80, turmeric.

It’s not McDonald’s Fault
I’m not saying all of McDonald’s food is bad, and they are trying a bit harder to help health nuts like myself find alternatives in their stores. However, this will not dramatically change until the public demands more of them. McDonald’s is only responding to what people are buying. My hope is that McDonald’s and other fast food chains can keep innovating and drop the additives and preservatives their meals contain.

Let your voice be heard by voting with your wallet. If you do go to McDonald’s, please take advantage of their healthier alternatives and drop the Big Mac. Only when enough of us do this will they try harder.

Christian Henning, NASM-CPT
To get your free 5 Steps to Jump Starting Fat Loss report, check us out our Online Personal Training at http://www.getfitokc.com.