Dark secrets McDonald's tried to hide

McDonald's is one of the largest fast food companies in the entire world, which is really saying something when you consider how many fast food chains are out there. It's wildly popular for so many reasons: the french fries are delicious, the Big Macs are a fast food staple, and the whole brand is basically an American classic. McDonald's is a beloved institution, with tons of fans, and it's not going anywhere anytime soon. Still, that certainly doesn't mean the entire company is perfect. 

Just like any other huge company, McDonald's has its fair share of dark secrets that they would probably rather not be shared with the rest of the world. Unfortunately for them, most of them have been revealed in one way or another. There are employee confessions online that might make you rethink ordering something there, there are lawsuits that they've tried to cover up, and there are certain foods that just aren't quite what you probably think they are. Take a look at some of the biggest McDonald's secrets ever.  

They don't always wear gloves in the kitchen

Since some McDonald's employees are working with food and also handling other things (such as the cash register, money, and their own personal items), one would hope that they're wearing gloves whenever they're preparing your food. But one former employee claimed on Reddit that many of the workers didn't "understand germ theory" and didn't always wear gloves. The employee said some people would "wear the same pair until they were told to change them," which kind of defeats the purpose, and some had holes in the fingertips. 

Another Reddit user, who said they had worked as a cashier and manager of McDonald's for over seven years, explained that employees don't always wear gloves at their location because they have a "hand-wash system in place." They explained, "Every hour, we take the time to send each employee to the sink station to wash their hands until every employee has. Using gloves would not be much more sanitary, because the bacteria that would build up on ungloved hands would also build up on the gloves if they weren't replaced every hour (or more) too." Does that really make you feel better?

Of course, it's important to remember that most McDonald's are franchise-owned and they aren't all run the exact same way. It's also important to note that wearing gloves might actually help spread germs more than prevent them. Still, there's just something unsettling about bare hands touching your Big Mac

The ice cream machine is almost never cleaned

If you were thinking about ordering ice cream from McDonald's, you might want to give that a second thought. Many employees have told Reddit that the ice cream machines are rarely properly cleaned. One user, who said they were a former employee, explained on Reddit that the ice cream machine had to be "cleaned thoroughly or else the bacteria will grow… rapidly." However, they said it was a "tedious" job that many employees didn't put much effort into. 

Another user who said they worked at a company that made the ice cream machines fast food places like McDonald's use, said, "regardless of what chain it was, the inner parts of the machines seldom got cleaned, parts never replaced. Because of that they would leak ice cream inside and become moldy and rotten."

A Wall Street Journal report from 2017 seems to back up those claims. The report goes into detail on the tedious, long, and often frustrating process of thoroughly cleaning the ice cream machines, suggesting that that was one of the reasons why employees often say the machine is broken. It's not broken… it's just gross. After that report, and lots of complaints from customers who saw pictures of moldy machines online, McDonald's promised to change their machines out. However, many restaurants have yet to see the new equipment

Food sits out for a long time before getting served

If you're ordering McDonald's food, note that it may not be very fresh. On Reddit threads, countless employees have talked about how long McDonald's food sits under heat lamps before it's given to customers. One former employee explained that although they were supposed to throw away "bad meat" if it sat for about 20 minutes, they would just reset the timers and leave it for another hour or so before tossing it. They added, "saved so much time at the cost of some gross food becoming grosser." 

Another employee said that while the store was generally very clean, the food was usually pretty old. The user said they would leave fries under heat lamps for 15 to 20 minutes instead of the required seven, and sometimes even re-fry them instead of throwing them out. They added, "Specifically you never ever want to have a Filet O' Fish unless you ask for it fresh. Other food is still 'ok' tasting but the Filet is disgusting." McDonald's has never commented on this practice, and, of course, it's important to remember that we're only talking about stories from employees at certain stores. Still, it might not be a bad idea to request fresh food if you're not there during a busy time.

Some of their salads have more calories than some of the burgers

Trying to save on calories and eat a little healthier? Then you probably don't want to order some of the McDonald's salads, even though that seems like the most obvious option. According to a report by CBC in 2016, the McDonald's "Keep Calm, Caesar On" chicken salad (which is available in Canada) actually had more calories, fat, and sodium than a Double Big Mac. So, in this case, you could actually eat a Double Big Mac and be better off than with a kale salad. The salad is made with baby kale, "real Parmesan petals," and crispy chicken, but according to CBC, it's the dressing that really makes this meal unhealthy. The Asiago Caesar dressing that comes with it has 730 calories, 53 grams of fat, and 1,400 milligrams of sodium — all worse that what you'll find with a Big Mac. Toronto registered dietitian Shauna Lindzon told CBC, "Health-wise, I think it's fat and sodium overload." 

A quick look at nutrition facts for the salads available in the United States prove they aren't much better. The Bacon Ranch Salad with Buttermilk Crispy Chicken has 480 calories, with 28 grams of fat and 1,120 milligrams of sodium. The Southwest Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Salad has 520 calories, 25 grams of fat, and 960 milligrams of sodium. A McDouble, on the other hand, has 390 calories, 18 grams of fat, and 850 milligrams of sodium. Again, in that case, the burger is the better choice than either of the salads. 

The McCafe machine isn't properly cleaned either

McDonald's has become quite well-known for their McCafe beverages, which include a fashionable range of coffee and lattes. But unfortunately, that's another machine that may not be cleaned as often or thoroughly as it should be. One McDonald's employee told Reddit that the McCafe machines are "routinely neglected in practically all the McDonald's." They explained that the staff and even management aren't properly trained on how to clean it either. They added, "A couple of times I stuck my hand in the machine to pull out a literal fist-full of black soot to show to the managers that it's not in proper condition, and nothing has come of it." 

As terrifying as this sounds, a few other employees chimed in to say that the McCafe machines are their stores were cleaned nightly and in a much more thorough way. So, while some of the stores may not clean them properly, it may not be the case for every store. That's kind of comforting? 

Chicken McNuggets are kinda gross

At one point, a photo of pink slime circulated the internet. Many claimed it was the stuff the Chicken McNuggets at McDonald's were made from, but McDonald's Canada created a video to put that rumor to rest. "We don't know what it is, or where it came from, but it has nothing to do with our chicken McNuggets," Nicoletta Stefou, a McDonald's supply chain manager said of the pink goo. To prove it, they showed exactly how the McNuggets are actually made. The process is better than that pink slime, but it's certainly not fantastic. In the video, you can see that the McNugget process starts with a real chicken carcass. From there, the breast meat is removed and put through a grinder to be mixed with chicken skin and seasoning until it turns into a strange chicken putty. Once it's all mixed, it's shaped into McNuggets. 

Business Insider has also reported that the frying oil they use contains a small amount of an additive called dimethylpolysiloxane, which keeps the oil from foaming and spattering all over. But it's also used in non-food products, like putty. McDonald's claims that the ingredient is perfectly safe, no matter how strange it sounds. 

There are way more ingredients than there should be in the fries

In the end, it may not be the McNuggets you need to be worried about when it comes to ingredients. Apparently, The Daily Meal says that the famous french fries have almost 20 ingredients, which certainly seems like a lot for something that is literally just a fried potato. Ingredients include potatoes, a variety of oils, salt, citric acid, natural beef flavor, wheat, and milk — basically, it's just a whole load of chemicals. 

In a video from McDonald's Canada on exactly how the fries are made, the company says that they do indeed begin the cooking process with real potatoes. They peel and cut the potatoes, then blanch the raw fries to prevent a variation in color. After that, they add a dextrose solution and an ingredient to prevent them from graying — and that's still a long time before they get to your bag (or even your local McDonald's). They still have to be dried, fried, and frozen before they're shipped. What this proves is that they may be delicious, but they sure aren't anything close to healthy. 

There's a lot of controversy about what they pay employees

In 2013, McDonald's caused an uproar when they created a sample budget to help employees make the most of their wages. The budget didn't include essentials like child care, groceries, or even gas for someone's car, and went on the assumption that the employees were working two jobs. It also only budgeted $20 a month for health insurance, which seems laughable for many. The budget did the opposite of what McDonald's intended, and basically proved how difficult it was to live off of their wages.

In April 2015, McDonald's announced plans to raise the minimum wage for United States corporate-owned stores by at least $1 an hour above the local minimum wage. Three years later, in 2018, Fortune reported that some employees claimed that McDonald's hadn't exactly followed through with that announcement. Instead, it seemed like it was just a one time pay increase that happened that year — while minimum wages have slowly risen over the years, wages at many of the Golden Arches have not remained at $1 above that wage floor. Recent pay stubs for McDonald's employees in eight different cities showed that they were actually getting paid less than a dollar above the current local minimum wage. This caused The Fight For $15 (an effort by the Service Employees International Union to get more stringent wage laws for fast food workers) to say that the 2015 announcement had just been a publicity stunt by McDonald's.

They changed their apple pie, but they didn't make it as healthy as you think

In 2018, McDonald's announced that they would be debuting a new apple pie recipe, something that caused quite a stir because of its status as a menu classic. But FoodBeast soon revealed that although the company tried to make it seem like the new apple pie recipe was a lot healthier than the older one, that wasn't really the case. While the pie press release wording made it seem like they had cut the sugar and created a better dessert option, a look at the nutrition labels for both old and new apple pies shows that the differences are minimal — and may even be less healthy than the older version. 

As FoodBeast pointed out, the biggest change was replacing high fructose corn syrup with apple juice concentrate, which is essentially just removing one sugar ingredient to add another one. They also noted that the sugar content had actually increased by three grams. While McDonald's did get rid of some artificial ingredients, and the calories are now slightly lower (the old one was 248 calories while the new ones are 240 calories), the difference is not as significant as they may have made it seem. Toronto-based dietitian Amanda Li told National Post, "Bottom-line, I guess the new version is 'better' since now it actually lives (up) to the name 'baked apple pie' and has 10 calories less than the original recipe." But if it's the amount of sugar you're concerned about, this new apple pie is no better than the old one.

They've been accused of ignoring sexual harassment claims

The minimum wage issue isn't the only legal problem McDonald's has dealt with. In May 2018, Reuters reported that ten different women who work at McDonald's in several major cities across the U.S. had filed sexual harassment complaints against the company, and they claimed they were all ignored or "retaliated against." The employees claimed that co-workers and even supervisors had harassed them by doing things such as groping them, exposing themselves, or sexually propositioning the women. Employee Kimberley Lawson said, "I felt I had no choice but to tolerate it." Reuters also reported that similar sexual harassment accusations against McDonald's were filed with the EEOC two years ago. 

According to Forbes, several women admitted that they had been on the receiving end of sexually inappropriate comments and were groped, but their complaints about the situation were ignored. They were also told they would "never get anywhere" with their accusations The complaints led to a major issue in September 2018, when Forbes reported that McDonald's workers would be going on strike as their way of standing with the victims and sending a message that the sexual harassment claims wouldn't be tolerated any longer.

The McRib has 70 different ingredients

The McRib has been a McDonald's classic for a very long time, and was even brought back to the menu after a long hiatus. But apparently this sandwich includes a lot more than just ribs and bread — according to The Week, it has about 70 ingredients. The meat is apparently made of "pig innards and plenty of salt." Time reported that the bun alone has 34 ingredients, including a whole list of chemicals.  According to Chicago Magazine, this includes all different parts of a big, including the tripe, heart, and scalded stomach. One thing that's not there is bones — meaning it's not even really a rib at all. 

A McDonald's video on how the McRib was made (via CNBC) shows that the meat goes through grinder and is then formed into the shape of a rack of ribs. Employees don't seem very thrilled with it either. In a Reddit thread, one McDonald's employee said, "It's literally a preformed slab of processed meat that sits in a trough of BBQ sauce waiting for someone to order it. It usually sits in the heat cabinet longer than most of the other products." That definitely isn't more appetizing! 

Some of their food never visibly rots

You've probably seen the proof of this one online. One undeniably weird thing about McDonald's food is that it never seems to rot visibly. That doesn't mean that the food doesn't go bad — it does — but in many experiments, it appears to look completely normal even after sitting out for years. In 2008, the blog Best of Mother Earth shared photos of a hamburger she had bought in 1996 and saved for over 10 years, and it looked good as new — and that's just one example of people doing similar experiments.

Serious Eats looked into the reason the food doesn't seem to rot, and came to this conclusion, stating, "McDonald's burgers don't rot because they don't dry out." Basically, there is so much salt in the food that it preserves it in near-perfect condition. As the site says, it's not about the chemicals or the lack of nutrition, it's just about "water activity." The smaller burgers dry out before they can even begin to rot, and the site notes that larger burgers, like Quarter Pounders, will begin to mold when sitting out. 

McDonald's gave a statement to back this up, stating, "The reason our food may appear not to decompose comes down to a matter of simple science." The statement essentially says the same thing Serious Eats said: there's not enough moisture for bacteria and mold to grow in the food. Even though its' all scientifically legit, it's still not comforting to know your burger will always look like that… unless of course, you eat it.