Happy Meal

A 5-year-old McDonald's Happy Meal is on display at Papillion's The Bridge Chiropractic and Wellness. The meal was purchased to educate people on healthy eating habits.

Remember that really old McDonald’s Happy Meal?

You know the one. It’s on display at The Bridge Chiropractic and Wellness in Papillion.

On the second anniversary of its purchase date, the cheeseburger and fries still looked fresh enough to eat. Maybe.

Well, the fast food meal is still going strong. It marked a milestone birthday last month: 5 years old.

And, for the most part, it still looks like it came straight from the drive-thru. The shriveled, lone pickle on the cheeseburger has seen better days, and the ketchup is more brown than red. But the bun, patty and fries look the same.

Andrew Rivera, director of the practice, purchased the burger and fries as a way to promote healthy eating. He’d seen the experiment conducted elsewhere and decided to give it a try.

The meal, displayed in a glass case, survived its first year mold-free. Rivera said he wasn’t shocked to see it last another four years.

“Isn’t that crazy?” he said. “It’s funny. We have it here at the office, and it’s a center of attention.”

Others across the country have conducted similar experiments. One food blogger tested the theory and determined the lack of decay was due to a lack of moisture.

Registered dietitian Jill Koegel agreed, saying that it’s not necessarily preservatives keeping the burger intact.

“If there’s no moisture available, no rotting can occur,” said Koegel, who also writes for livewellnebraska.com.

The same is true of crackers, croutons or anything well-sealed in a pantry. A lack of mold or rotting doesn’t mean it’s OK to eat, she added.

“It is another reason why maybe you want to avoid fast food,” she said. But the important reason to skip the drive-thru is because of the high saturated-fat content and sodium levels in most meals, Koegel said.

Rivera intended the not-so-happy Happy Meal to be used as an educational tool. Clients are often shocked to see how little the fast food meal has deteriorated.

“Everyone does have an idea that processed foods, fast foods aren’t good for you,” Rivera said. “When they see it, it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, my gosh. Is that real?’”

Sometimes Rivera fears the french fries, still tucked in their paper bag, will look a little too appetizing to youngsters in the office. He said he keeps an eye out for any hungry or curious kids looking to snack on the display.

Rivera doesn’t plan on tossing the aging meal anytime soon.

“We’re going to keep Mr. Happy Meal around for a long time,” Rivera said. “It’ll be our centerpiece of trying to educate people on better nutrition choices and promoting healthy eating.”

kelsey.stewart@owh.com, 402-444-3100, twitter.com/kels2

Kelsey covers health and fitness for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @kels2. Phone: 402-444-3100.

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