The Story of Iceland’s Infamous 12-Year-Old Big Mac

What should you do with a 12-year-old Big Mac from McDonald’s? You’d think the obvious—and really only—answer would be to throw it away. But that’s not what they’ve done Iceland. Rather than toss that old food in the garbage, the country pays tribute to its infamous cheeseburger by proudly displaying it. Because despite being made long ago, it still looks like it just got served. As do the fries that came with it.

An old Big mac and fries under glass on display in iceland
Ryan Stryker

Atlas Obscura shared the story (which we came across via The AV Club) of a notorious fast food order from 2009. That’s when Hjörtur Smárason bought himself a final Big Mac and some french fries the day before Iceland’s three McDonald’s closed for good. But he didn’t eat either. He forgot about the whole thing, and likely never would have even remembered the lost meal had he not moved in 2012. While packing up his garage he found the bag of food. Incredibly it remained totally untouched by mice and bugs. That wasn’t what made the discovery so remarkable, though. Even more amazing was that it looked like he had purchased both items that day.

Wisely he did not eat them. Instead he decided that because he had an “historical artifact” from the country’s last McDonald’s it should go in a museum. And for a year it did, residing in the National Museum of Iceland. Ultimately the museum feared it could not prevent the food from decomposing, so it moved to the Bus Hostel Reykjavik. After spending years on display there guests can now see it at the Snotra House. An unlikely testament to fast food’s…uh…enduring place in the world?

Knowing a burger and fries can last this long doesn’t make either sound appetizing. However, McDonald’s claims this isn’t a Big Mac deal. The company says the food hasn’t decomposed because it has steered clear of moisture. Not because of powerful preservatives, as many people think when they hear about old McDonald’s food lasting a long time. Which is common enough the company has a formal position on the matter.

How long will this Icelandic Big Mac last? That remains to be seen. But we just hope the fries last as long. It’s always nice when an historical artifact is totally intact.

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