McDonald's told Fox News that despite looking fine, the burger had definitely undergone some changes internally.
“In the right environment, our burgers, like most other foods, could decompose,” said Anne Christensen, Director of Field Brand Reputation for McDonald’s. “But, in order to decompose, you need certain conditions — specifically moisture.”
“Without sufficient moisture – either in the food itself or the environment – bacteria and mold may not grow and therefore, decomposition is unlikely. So if food is or becomes dry enough, it is unlikely to grow mold or bacteria or decompose. Food prepared at home that is left to dehydrate could see similar results. Similarly, this particular burger is likely dried out and dehydrated, and by no means the same as the day it was purchased,” she added.
Donald W. Schaffner, Ph. D., professor and extension specialist for the Food Science graduate program at Rutgers University, told Fox News that the explanation provided by McDonald’s was an “entirely factual response.” He outlined, however, that there’s still a lot of information we don’t know about how the burger was stored in the years after it was initially bought, as under the right conditions any burger, not just a fast-food burger, could be preserved like this.
According to Schaffner, as McDonald’s cooks their burgers well-done, that would likely dry the burger out and kill off many (but not all) of the micro-organisms that would cause decomposition. He added that Utah typically has a very arid environment, so it’s entirely possible that the burger dehydrated before the bacteria could start the decomposition processes.
“If you were to rehydrate that burger somehow,” he explained, “the micro-organisms could start the dehydration process.”
Whipple said he originally purchased the burger to use in a demonstration about enzymes and deterioration. It was stored in a tin and first shown to the world back in 2013. After that, however, it was put back in a tin, where it was stored until recently. According to KUTV, aside from the pickle, which is gone by this point, the burger and bun still look relatively the same. The major difference, Whipple said, is that the burger now has a faint cardboard smell.