Every so often, a familiar rumor about one of McDonald's signature menu items resurfaces online: Do the fast-food chain's burgers ever rot or are they nearly indestructible?
This week, McDonald's is setting the record straight about this perplexing quandary for the second time in five years. On Monday, the burger chain issued a statement on its website declaring that its burgers can, in fact, grow stale over time.
"In the right environment, our burgers, like most other foods, could decompose," the statement read. "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."
The announcement was posted just days after a TikTok video of a woman unwrapping what she claimed to be a 24-year-old McDonald's burger went viral last week.
In the video, which has garnered over 518,000 likes since it was first posted by TikTok user @aly.sherb, a woman is seen opening a shoe box labeled "hamburger." She tells viewers that it has been in her closet for more than two decades.
“So you want to see my hamburger? It lives in a box in my closet,” the woman says as she shows off the packaging that advertises a NASCAR race from 1996.
At first, she pulls out a packet of french fries that don't all that bad for being over two decades old. "The french fries look like they could've fallen under your seat a month or so ago, but never rotted or decayed," she says.
Next comes the pièce de résistance: The burger that's apparently refused to decompose after 24 years.
"The hamburger itself, the bread has never molded, the meat has never rotted, it's never even broken, it's completely intact," the woman says as she shows off the bun and patty. "Not sure what would happen if you ate it though."
When reached by TODAY Food, McDonald's confirmed that the company's latest statement was issued in response to the viral video. The fast-food chain explained that food is "unlikely to grow mold or bacteria or decompose" if it's dry or becomes dry enough, thereby explaining why a burger could appear to be almost good as new after 24 years ... if it's kept in relatively arid conditions.
"Food prepared at home that is left to dehydrate could see similar results. Look closely, the burgers you are seeing are likely dried out and dehydrated, and by no means 'the same as the day they were purchased,'" the company wrote.
The fast food chain went on to say that its burgers are made with only 100% USDA-inspected beef. "There are no preservatives or fillers in our patties and the only thing ever added is a touch of salt and pepper on the grill," the chain stated.
Fans of the chain might recall that this isn't the first time McDonald's has had to debunk this idea about its food. In 2015, the company issued an almost identical statement after Icelandic anthropologist Hjörtur Smárason shared a photo of a McDonald's burger that he claimed hadn't begun to decay after six years.
Smárason had been storing the burger and a packet of fries for years and even created a live camera feed that folks around the world could access to watch the food actively not decay.
In 2016, McDonald's customer Jennifer Lovdahl shared a photo of a Happy Meal with McNuggets she claimed to have ordered six years before posting about it.
"It's been sitting at our office this whole time and has not rotted, molded, or decomposed at all!!!" she wrote.
While several people have apparently tried to save their McDonald's meals for years to see what happens, one question remains: How does an ancient burger actually taste?