This may be old hat…

When I die, will it take longer for me to rot because of all the preservatives in the foods I consume?

Ham. How long will a man lie i’ th’ earth ere he rot?

Clown. Faith, if 'a be not rotten before 'a die (as we have many pocky corses now-a-days that will scarce hold the laying in, I will last you some eight year or nine year. A tanner will last you nine year.

Ham. Why he more than another?

Clown. Why, sir, his hide is so tann’d with his trade that 'a will keep out water a great while; and your water is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body.

“non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem”

It probably doesn’t make that much difference. A good deal of the preservatives don’t stay in the body; those that are there are not really enough to retard decomposition. Since the rate the body decays depends on many factors (type of coffin, etc.), it would be difficult to see if there was any difference or not, in any case.

Along these lines I believe it was Unca Cece who taught me that airtight coffins are a bad thing with respect to decomposition. A corpse placed in an airtight container will putrefy rather than rot, due to the action of anaerobic bacteria. Putrefaction essentially turns the body into an unimaginable liquid mess.

I’m embarassed to say I was watching a rerun of “CHiPs” the other day which included opening a casket following an exhumation. There was a puff of a air (can you imagine?) as the casket was opened and the “assistant coroner” (there was some uncertainty who he really was) said, “Ah! Airtight! Good construction!”

As Robert Pirsig once said, “It’s not very factual about motorcycles either.”

“non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem”