The Cheeseburger Experiment Revisited
October 19, 2010 12 Comments
It has been over 6 months since Snack Girl posted this article: McDonald's Burger Left for Two Weeks and the photo above. A couple of other people have started similar experiments and I wanted to share my thoughts.
In the last 6 months, I have thought quite a bit about the meaning of my experiment. And, recently, Sally Davies (an artist) started a Happy Meal Project which has got a lot of press. Basically, she keeps photographing a dried out Happy Meal from McDonald's.
Now, Serious Eats has decided to join the party. Before I go any further, I want to say that I LOVE Serious Eats. The photos, the writing, the restaurant reviews.... This site is absolutely yummy! (and brilliant)
In this experiment: The Burger Lab: The Myth of The 12-Year-Old McDonald's Hamburger - Kenji attempts to better answer the question of whether a McDonald's hamburger will rot. He tries to isolate a bunch of variables (scientific sounding) to debunk the myth of the rotting hamburger.
Kenji, I love ya, but you are missing the point! First of all, my experiment (and the others) were never meant to be scientific. As a veteran of bench science for 9 LONG years, with a PhD and publications under my belt, I think I know real science when I see it.
My experiment was an "illustration" of the difference between fast food and homemade food. The difference here was that the McDonald's burger didn't rot after 11 days in a plastic bag and the homemade burger did. What does this illustrate?
Well, it shows that the McDonald's burger lacks microbes (bacteria, fungi, and other organisms) that may aid in our digestion of this burger. I followed up this post with another (which Kenji fails to mention): Stanford University Scientist Comments On Burger Experiment
Dr. Sonnenburg states:
And if you review the ingredients in the burger and the response from McDonald's regarding my experiment - it all makes sense!
There is no way McDonald's is going to allow a MICROBE near this food. They can't! The wrong microbe gets in there (for example a bad strain of E. Coli) and you will make THOUSANDS of people sick.
Food without microbes can be a problem for some people because microbes aid digestion. Dr. Sonnenburg stated that food without microbes is "not optimal for our health".
Finally, I think that where Kenji really goes wrong is that he states that his experiment is "scientific" and going to answer all the questions about the rotting hamburger. Really?
I would love to critique Kenji's experiment on Serious Eats if he would let me. Hey, Kenji, you got the stomach for it?
Update: Kenji wrote me yesterday to say - YES! - he would love to give me a chance to talk about my experiment, and to comment on his. - hurray!
Please share your thoughts on the cheeseburger experiment.