To prove a friend wrong, New York artist Sally Davies left a happy meal out on her counter for six months. Yesterday, several media outlets reporting on the shocking results: the burger and fries showed very few signs of decomposition.
The tone of the articles as well as the response to the Happy Meal Art Project have ranged from shock and amusement to horror.
A Triumph of Food Technology
While it may seem “unnatural,” food preservation is responsible for a substantial increase in the quality of life for human beings. Salting meats, dehydration, and canning have significantly contributed to the increase in the quality of food and the prevention of disease. That Sally’s burger and fries show no signs of mold or rot indicates that they resisted spores for the entire six months. That is an amazing achievement! A human being could presumably consume that meal, absorb the calories, turn the calories into energy, all without becoming ill. Most likely, the salt in the foods has caused it to be resistant to mold spores and bacterial growth. Though it isn’t certain that the food is free of bacteria, it is more likely that the six-month-old dehydrated burger has less bacterial growth than a week old tomato.
What happens when we consume foods with bacteria growing in them? A few infectious diseases are caused by such bacterial growth, such as cholera, anthrax, respiratory infection, and tuberculosis.
The horrified response to this artist’s experiment is misguided and potentially dangerous. As the food police begin to forcibly limit the use of salt in food processing, our foods are becoming more and more susceptible to bacteria. As people become more and more resistant to antibiotics used in treating the aforementioned diseases, preventing infection will become an essential step to saving lives.
Those believing that food preserved too well is a horrible thing ought to think back to a time when winter food options were limited and disease was far more prevalent.
Preservation of food is the preservation of life.
Image via Sally Davies Flickr stream