The Gross Reason You Should Skip The Sauce Dispensers At Restaurants

A squirt of sauce to top off some French fries or add extra flavor to a tasteless burger might be irresistible in fast food restaurants, but you should always check to make sure there isn't anything nasty lurking in the depths. At reportedly a McDonald's restaurant in Cheltenham, United Kingdom, one customer made a disgusting discovery of maggots wriggling around inside a ketchup dispenser, posting the video to Facebook.

In a clip filmed by the customer, the tiny larvae can be seen moving around inside a clear tube that has ketchup layered at the bottom of it. Some of the ketchup was dry, suggesting that it may have been in there for a while. In response to the maggot outbreak, McDonald's explained that the ketchup dispensers were removed from public use and cleaned, adding that they are washed daily, reports the New York Post. The chain released a statement, "Food safety and hygiene is of the utmost importance to us. We're extremely disappointed to see that we have fallen short on this occasion."

This McDonald's customer was lucky enough to spot the creatures, but a person in a hurry might have received some unwelcome guests sharing their meal. If McDonald's had followed basic cleaning methods, perhaps the problem wouldn't have happened.

Harmful bacteria can be prevalent in sauce dispensers

Hygiene is important in all situations, but especially in restaurants (and arguably even more so if that restaurant is part of an international corporation). A study by Ryerson University published in 2017 found that 50% of condiment bottles in Toronto restaurants were contaminated with bacteria above safe levels, showing just how easy it is for dispensers to become health risks.

McDonald's explains that all of the equipment in its restaurants is cleaned throughout the day, with further cleaning taking place every day, week, and month. Sauce dispensers should be disassembled and scrubbed thoroughly with a brush in hot, soapy water to ensure they are sufficiently clean.

It's not clear why the McDonald's ketchup dispenser became laden with larvae, but certain flies that lay maggot-producing eggs, such as fruit flies, are attracted to sweet liquids and vinegar — a key ingredient of McDonald's ketchup. Other flies seek out rotting food (ketchup should keep for up to a month once opened if it is stored outside of a refrigerator). A persistent nuisance, flies can be countered by closing windows and doors or with traps.

Mickey D's, it seems, has had more than one problem with maggot-ridden sauce dispensers

The maggoty ketchup situation we described in the first slide seems to have taken place in 2022, so we were deeply disturbed to find a very similar video shared on several social media platforms several years earlier. This 2018 maggot infestation also occurred at a McDonald's in the U.K., this one in Cambridge, and again it involved a ketchup dispenser. In this case, the maggots had been living in the ketchup so long that some had apparently evolved into flies.

While the disgusted customer said she pointed out the creepy, cruddy ketchup to a McDonald's employee, the icky indecent was probably above their pay grade (whatever Mickey D's U.K. pays its low-level employees, it can't possibly be enough to deal with this). Corporate apparently became involved at some point, though, and even the local health inspectors were called in. It seems that the restaurant passed the health check, most likely after a thorough dispenser cleaning, but it may be that the chain's claim that the sauce dispensers were maintained in pristine condition was a bit exaggerated. Some employees allegedly admitted that old (and possibly bug-infested) ketchup has been returned to these containers again and again until it finally runs out, although we'll add a disclaimer here that we have no idea where these anonymous employees were located, so we can't say for sure that either U.K.-based incident involved such a practice.

It's not only the sauce dispensers that may be maggot-infested

While the sauce dispensers may be obvious breeding grounds for Mickey D's maggots as we've described in such disturbing detail, it's possible for the bugs to branch out a bit. One intrepid insect, also in the U.K. (Barnwell, this time) even found its way into a man's food in April of 2022. According to a post that the horrified hamburger eater also shared on social media (how else would we have found out?), he bit into his sandwich but was disconcerted to see something wiggle. When he opened it up to investigate, lo and behold, the wiggler was white and wormy and undeniably alive. The man understandably lost his appetite for the next few days and needless to say, he does not intend to patronize those Golden Arches ever again.

2017, in particular, must have been a particularly bad year for maggot-ridden McDonald's in Australia. Although we didn't unearth any sauce dispenser-specific incidents during this Antipodean infestation, there was a man in Queensland who also experienced a maggot-ridden burger, while just a day later, a woman in New South Wales found maggots in a carryout order of chicken nuggets. As she related to 9 News, she and her young daughter most likely consumed some of the creepy crawlies. Her complaints, however, were met with nothing but corporate denial, thus heaping intolerable insult upon inglorious insect injury.