The stars at night are big and bright...

The stars at night are big and bright...
The stars at night are big and bright...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Zombie Cheeseburger

WINDSOR, Ont. — Whenever Melanie Hesketh's kids get a hankering for junk food, all she has to do is point to the kitchen counter.
That's where she keeps an unwrapped cheeseburger that celebrates its birthday Thursday, and it looks pretty much the same as the day it came off a McDonald's grill 12 months ago.
Mould, maggots, fungi, bacteria — all have avoided the tempting meal that sits in plain view.
"Obviously it makes me wonder why we choose to eat food like this when even bacteria won't eat it," said Hesketh.
The meat patty has shrunk a bit, but it still looks edible and, with a faint but lingering greasy, leathery odour, she said it "still smells slightly like a burger . . . it hasn't changed much."
As a professional nutritionist at Windsor's Lifetime Wellness Centre, Hesketh was already armed with the education and all the proper facts and information to steer her children — ages 13 and 15 — toward the best food choices.
But what self-respecting teen is going to listen to well-meaning lectures from mom, especially on a product sold by the millions annually?
The Internet and social media are filled with tales of fast-food products made for quick consumption but seemingly immune to the ravages of time, and that's how Hesketh got the idea on how best to educate her own kids.
It's worked marvellously. Despite peer pressure to hang out at the cheap and fast burger chain outlets popular with young people, Hesketh said her oldest son has been back "maybe twice" to McDonald's over the past year.
"It's made him more aware, and he makes better choices, definitely," said Hesketh.
The experience has triggered other healthy changes around the Hesketh household, including the family's decision this year to create a garden and start growing some of their own fresh food.
The tough cheeseburger travels well and Hesketh has brought it to work to show off to those, like her teens, who need visuals for extra convincing.
"It's a great eye opener . . . We use it to educate our patients that what they're putting into their bodies may not be healthy," she said.
"I think most people who see this are swayed," said Michelle Prince, a chiropractor who runs Lifetime Wellness Centre.
Calls Wednesday to McDonald's Restaurants of Canada Ltd. went unanswered, but the world's top-selling burger chain, whose menu is increasingly populated by healthier meal choices, has lashed out before against similar criticism.
"Despite the myths out there, our meat is very real!" the company says on its website, adding McDonald's Canada "uses only 100 per cent Canadian, CFIA-inspected beef."
The patties are "sprinkled with salt and pepper at the restaurant during cooking. That's it. No additives, fillers or binding agents," the website says.
But Hesketh points to the "astronomical" salt content in many fast food products when asked to explain how a burger can last so long and still look so good. A McDonald's cheeseburger weighs in at 115 grams at the time of cooking, but delivers 200 calories and 750 milligrams of sodium.
Meat patty aside, Prince points to the perfectly preserved bun and the slice of cheese as areas of concern.
What's described on McDonald's "Food Facts" webpage as simply "regular bun" can actually contain 32 or more ingredients, including everything from polysorbate 20 and sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate to calcium propionate and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides, many of them long names to describe additives, preservatives and emulsifiers. The processed cheese slice has 15 ingredients.
"Ideally," said Hesketh, she would have liked to have seen some mould eventually growing on that still-perfect (yet hardened) bun. At the time of purchase, she ordered her cheeseburger plain, without ketchup and mustard, but there's been no special handling or storage over the previous 365 days.
Asked what she plans to do now with her yearling burger, Hesketh responded: "I'm going to keep it forever — it's a good conversation piece."
Prince and Hesketh said a lot of the patients they see at their Windsor clinic suffer from high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels and diabetes.
"All of it can be attributed to what they are eating," said Hesketh, who hopes her burger helps serve as a reminder for people to "take more consideration" in what they consume.
"People forget what real food is," said Prince.

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Personally, I've been out on McDonald's since I watched "Super Size Me" and "Food, Inc".

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