This Is Why McDonald's Happy Meal Apple Slices Don't Turn Brown

It's almost an unspoken rule of apple eating that slicing an apple should be left until the very last minute unless you want slimy, browned, funky-smelling apple slices. Apples turn brown when they're cut because they chemically react with oxygen, causing them to oxidize rapidly and change their appearance, texture, flavor, smell, and even the nutritional value of the fruit.

Knowing this, it seems magical that you almost never get apple slices from McDonald's that have brown splotches. If anything, the slices are shining white, every single one of them. Spoon University put the apple slices from McDonald's to test to see just how long they'd take before turning brown. It took a week for an open packet of apple slices to start showing signs of browning and 10 whole days before they started to rot. Even then, the apple slices in the unopened packet didn't brown but the packet itself had puffed up.

A look at the ingredient list will tell you that it's not magic that keeps the McDonald's Happy Meal apple slices from browning but calcium ascorbate, which according to McDonald's is a mix of calcium and vitamin C that helps preserve the fruit. 

Calcium ascorbate is safe to use

Anything that has a remotely chemical-like name automatically makes it seem questionable in terms of how safe it is to eat. But put it in a fruit that is popularly consumed by children from one of the most popular fast-food chains in the U.S., and it's extra worrisome. However, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration recognizes calcium ascorbate as a safe chemical preservative.

The fact that calcium ascorbate could prevent apples from browning was found by Attila Pavlath, a senior emeritus research chemist for the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (via Forbes). Pavlath began looking for ways to preserve freshly cut fruits in a way that would keep the fruit's color, flavor, and texture intact, back in 1986. It was only 14 years later, that he found the blend of calcium with vitamin C, which when used to rinse freshly cut fruits could keep them fresh for about 21 days!

McDonald's has Pavlath to thank for its seemingly always-fresh Happy Meal apple slices!