When David Whipple bought a McDonald’s hamburger on July 7, 1999, the burger cost 79 cents and Bill Clinton was president.
Today, 14 years later, another Clinton is eyeing the presidency, not much can be purchased for less than $1, and Whipple still has his hamburger, which looks practically the same.
“The patty feels like concrete,” Whipple said of the burger he has held onto for 14 years, first on purpose, then by accident, and then for a good laugh.
Whipple, 63, of St. George, Utah, was living in Logan, Utah, and trying to lose weight when he first purchased the hamburger to prove to his friends that fast food was not real food.
“It was nothing real scientific,” Whipple said. “We were talking about enzymes and we knew what a good food like a banana would do but weren’t sure what a hamburger would do.”
Two weeks later, Whipple got his answer. The burger’s pickles and onion toppings had begun to shrink but the bun and hamburger “looked exactly the same,” he said.
The father of seven and grandfather to 21 stuck the hamburger back in its wrapper and in his coat’s pocket and promptly forgot about it until, two years later, when his wife, Beverly, discovered it in his coat.
“We looked at it and said, ‘Oh, my gosh. It’s two years old, it looks like it’s brand new,’” he recalled. “I said, ‘I wonder how long this thing is going to last?’”
The burger was placed back in its wrapper and forgotten about again until closer to six years later, around 2006, when the family moved 400 miles south, to Logan, Utah.
“We had seven kids so we had a lot of boxes and where we moved is warm and we don’t wear coats so they got put away,” Whipple said. “We were going to give the coats to Goodwill and we found the hamburger again.”
“It hadn’t changed,” he said.
By this point, the hamburger would not be forgotten again because it was a family joke and memento.
The Whipples put the hamburger up for sale briefly on eBay, attracting bids as high as $2,000; created a “Word’s Oldest Hamburger” blog devoted to it; and even considered a radio deejay’s request to let his co-host eat the burger, declining the request only when the radio station wanted Whipple to sign a form stating the nearly two-decades old hamburger would not make the deejay sick.
Despite the infamous publicity the burger has attained, Whipple says he has never heard from McDonald’s.
In a statement to ABCNews.com. today, the Illinois-based company said:
“McDonald’s hamburger patties in the U.S. are made with 100% USDA-inspected beef. They are cooked and prepared with salt, pepper and nothing else – no preservatives – no fillers. Our hamburger buns are made from North American-grown wheat flour. These are the same foods that people buy every day in their local grocery stores.
“McDonald’s hamburgers are freshly prepared in our restaurants. While not knowing the conditions in which the food was kept in this specific claim, what is scientifically known is that in bacteria and mold only grow under certain conditions. For example, without sufficient moisture – either in the food itself or the environment in which it is held – bacteria and mold and associated decomposition, is unlikely. If food is/or becomes dry enough, it won’t grow mold or bacteria. In fact, any food purchased from a restaurant or grocery store or prepared at home that lacks moisture would also dehydrate and see similar results if left in the same environment.”
Whipple says his family still eats at McDonald’s and other fast-food chains, but chooses the “fresher items” like yogurts and salads.
The family also plans to hold onto the hamburger, which they recently took along on their family trip to Disney World, unless they get some kind of better offer.
“It’s not going to be thrown away,” Whipple said. “Somebody make me an offer. Maybe it ought to go into the Smithsonian.”