- A TikTok of a pantry full of two-year-old junk food got over 3 million views.
- In the video, Elif Kandemir explains that her mother keeps the food to see whether it will “go off.”
- It sparked a debate about whether a lack of mold means the food is unhealthy.
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A video tour of a pantry filled with two-year-old junk food including Domino’s pizza and McDonald’s burgers went viral on TikTok.
Elif Kandemir has over 7,000 followers on TikTok at the time of writing. But on July 13, her account caught the attention of millions when she posted about her mother’s long-running experiment to test whether fast food actually rots.
Her video got 3.7 million views and stirred up a debate about whether the lack of mold was evidence of how unhealthy the food is.
In her TikTok, Elif, who’s from the UK, says her mother, Leyla, is a nutritionist “helping to tackle obesity.” She describes the food in the cupboard as “ultra-processed” and says most people in the UK eat it regularly.
Leyla, who says she is also a trained psychotherapist, told Insider she began storing fast food after discovering a half-eaten pizza that her son and his girlfriend ordered in 2019. She was in her second year of university doing a lot of work on trans fats, ultra-processed foods, and fast foods.
When she saw the pizza, she thought, “Let’s just see if what I’m studying is real,” Leyla said.
“I put them in a cupboard, and a month later I went back to look at the food – which had meat on it, sausages and all different sorts of things – and nothing had gone off,” she said. Since then her experiment has snowballed, and now the pantry is filled with everything from old McDonald’s fries to sausage rolls and doughnuts, which she said she uses for her dietary counseling.
Some people who came across Elif’s video questioned Leyla’s theory. In a follow-up TikTok posted on July 14, Elif addressed a comment left by someone saying that all foods are fine in moderation.
“Though it is true that you can have anything and everything in moderation, 80% of a person’s diet should not be made up of these foods,” Elif said in the video. “No food is off-limits. My mom is simply trying to encourage people to make better food decisions and live a happier, healthier lifestyle.”
Wendy Bazilian, a registered dietitian, told Insider that the lack of mold on the junk food could be down to a lack of water present. She also said the video had likely stirred up controversy because food is “so personal.”
“Likely many people feel like this solidifies or champions their opinions, while others feel almost confronted or assaulted because they eat this way sometimes or often, or feel they can’t afford to eat otherwise, or don’t have the time to eat otherwise,” Bazilian added.
Addressing the debate, Leyla told Insider that she loved controversy. “Look where it’s got the TikTok: It’s divided a nation, and we’re all talking about it,” she said. “That’s such a good thing.”
Leyla told Insider that as a former teacher, she hopes to one day be able to use her experiment to tackle obesity in schools. “We need to get out there and we need to educate people that this food, while you can eat it in moderation, you can’t have it be 80% of your diet,” she said.
Bazilian says she doesn’t necessarily agree that “scare tactics” would work with young children. “I don’t think it’s a good approach or could work well,” she said.
“But I do think visuals are compelling and can be used to good nutrition education principles,” she added. “We need a multipronged approach to tackle the very real health concerns around overweight and obesity as it relates to poorer health outcomes in children.”