Why Nobody Noticed McDonald's Changed Its Ice Cream

Starting in 2016, fast food chain McDonald's began to quietly make changes to some of their classic menu items that you may, or may not have noticed. In a report on the company's plans, USA Today stated that McDonald's was phasing out all artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives from many menu items, and by 2017, had almost completed the sweets-focused phase of the sweeping ingredient reforms. The outlet states that McDonald's shakes, McFlurries, and ice cream cones in over 14,000 restaurants throughout the United States are now free of the artificial ingredients and additives. 

Incidentally, this move represents the second food quality improvement implemented by the company, after their first step to remove all preservatives from the signature menu item Chicken McNuggets. USA Today says that McDonald's next step is to switch to using cage-free eggs by 2025, and that the chain then plans to begin using only chickens that have not been treated with antibiotics which are used for human health

McDonald's highest priority was making sure the ice cream still tastes great

CNBC claims that almost no one noticed the changes made to the vanilla ice cream until after McDonald's announced them in 2017, nearly six months after they went into effect and were being implemented in almost all locations nationwide. McDonald's informed the outlet that the vanilla ice cream is used in more than 60 percent of the chain's desserts. 

Darci Forrest, the senior director of menu innovation for McDonald's at the time, told CNBC that during the summer of 2016, McDonald's customers purchased over 68 million ice cream cones, so keeping the flavor the same was of the highest priority. The company's culinary team worked very hard to "ensure taste was not impacted" by any of the ingredient changes made. In addition to the changes made to the sweet treat base, McDonald's has now removed the high fructose corn syrup from their chocolate and strawberry shake syrup, and made their whipped topping without artificial ingredients, colors, or preservatives as well.

This move towards preservative free ingredients is happening across the menu

Alongside these sweets based changes, The Takeout asserts that McDonald's has made some alterations to their sandwiches and burgers as well. In 2018, the chain began using fresh beef patties for their burgers instead of the frozen meat they had been using previously. The patties were already preservative-free, but the cheese, buns, and sauce have seen improvements to their ingredients list. One ingredient, calcium propionate, was previously used in the buns to prevent molding, so the company has had to rethink the way they store their newly-natural products. Other ingredients that have been removed, according to McDonald's chef Mike Lingo, are potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, sorbic acid, and calcium disodium EDTA. While the changes are for the most part menu wide, some sandwich ingredients (like pickles) will be unable to join the ranks of the all-natural preservative free menu items due to the way they are manufactured.

Meanwhile, looking to try McDonald's new and improved, preservative-free ice cream? But, the last time you visited a McDonald's, the machine was broken and you were out of luck? Well, you might just get that cold treat you're craving on your next Mickey D's run.

McDonald's has made changes to the ice cream machines as well

The chain, which has historically been known for having frequently-broken ice cream machines, recently began upgrading the appliances across locations. People reports that software company Kytch has invented a device for the fast food chain that can be added to existing McDonald's ice cream machines. The gadget is designed to help workers avoid some of the more regular problems that cause ice cream production to be temporarily suspended, including some of the most common issues employees report, like poorly-timed cleaning cycles (which can take up to four hours!), and correcting for minor errors like over or under-filling the appliance. The new technology can also reportedly predict when some parts of the ice cream machine are going to break, and warn McDonald's staff about the problem.

These new additions began appearing in McDonald's locations in March 2019, though the fast food chain is not forcing its restaurant owners to purchase the ice cream machine upgrade. One McDonald's franchisee, who owns three locations and has decided to implement the new device, told People "This is a stressful job, so if I can reduce unnecessary stress on the managers or the crew, then that's a good thing." He feels he has seen positive results from staff using the new apparatus. If it means we get to eat McDonald's ice cream, we are all for it!