Thursday, November 11, 2010

Food: Misunderstanding Science Misrepresents Food

If you haven't heard the story of the McDonalds Hamburger that's over a decade old let me send you off to read the original story.

Now I don't know what you think of the story but I find it absolutely incredible that someone who is teaching kids about nutrition can be so wrong. Yes... Karen Hanrahan has a McDonalds hamburger from 1996. Yes... it's preserved and not rotten after more than a decade. Yet from that she spouts things like:
Ladies, Gentleman, and children alike – this is a chemical food. There is absolutely no nutrition here.
Not one ounce of food value. Or at least value for why we are eating in the first place.
Or how about this one:
McDonalds fills an empty space in your belly. It does nothing to nourish the cell, it is not a nutritious food. 
Is it just me or am I the only one who thinks that a piece of cooked food allowed to cool and dry off and left in dry environment will stay self preserved for much longer than you might expect. To me this isn't amazing or shocking. It's expected.

As for McDonalds being chemical food... that's your proof? No chemistry or analysis? Just uneducated and unproven claims? And what the heck is "food value" anyway? Is she saying there is no nutrition at all in a McDonalds hamburger? That there are no useful calories?

Please don't let people like her anywhere near my kid. I'd rather have the educated teach the young instead of the overly reactionary.

Let me debunk this in two ways. First lets consider McDonalds and the quality of their food. McDonalds does more than you might expect to make sure their food is of the highest quality. You may not like the results but you can't fault McDonalds for not taking food quality and safety seriously.

I'm not suggesting that McDonalds has our best nutritional interests at heart. That's not what I said. I said they take food quality and safety seriously. Not only because it's how they work with suppliers, McDonalds pioneered the concept of working with providers to deliver a guaranteed profit on goods sold as long as they were produced and prepared to McDonalds standards. But also because McDonalds knows how bad a public relations nightmare an outbreak of unsafe food would be.

It's in their corporate best interest to keep their food as safe as possible. It may not be the most nutritional meal on the planet but that's not what their selling. They are selling burgers. With patties made of nothing but lean beef. With toppings and a bun.

And for that we assume it's the worst meal on the planet and scare our kids away with bogus claims that it is "chemical food"?

No wonder I fear for our kids. It's not them I worry about. It's the people who educate them.

As for the burger "self-preserving" itself... may I turn things over to J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats with The Burger Lab: The Myth of the 12-Year Old McDonald's Hamburger and The Burger Lab: Revisiting the Myth of The 12-Year Old McDonald's Burger That Just Won't Rot (Testing Results!). Who dispels the myth that McDonalds burgers do this because they something special. Any thin beef patty that is cooked and allowed to dry out quickly will resist rotting.

Amazing how a quick experiment (with different burgers both homemade and from fast food restaurants) can completely overturn over the top unproven rhetoric anytime.

Now can we get back to enjoying our food please? Or at least discussing food issues based on facts and science and not the random wailings of someone who should know better?

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