What Ingredient Rumors About McDonald's Ice Cream Could Mean

Yesterday, McDonald's had to confirm to Snopes that their ice cream will not kill your dogs. Why this had to happen is a textbook example of how rumors can come from nothing. On April 12, the Virginia-based Paws and Purrs Pet Grooming Facebook page posted a PSA stating, "It is being posted that McDonald's has added Xylitol to their ice cream ... Xylitol is deadly to dogs! Please use caution until it is confirmed or denied." Later, the page posted an update that McDonald's Canada has denied using xylitol — a sweetener that humans can consume but is dangerous for pets, per the FDA — in its products.

Though the groomer's post did not cite any official news sources or even any rumor sources, that did not stop more than 1,000 people from sharing the post, fueling the rumor's spread. This forced Snopes to run a fact check. They found that xylitol is a non-sugar sweetener that can indeed harm a dog. But when Snopes reached out to McDonald's USA to ask about the matter, the company stated that they do not use xylitol.

Of course, you might want to refrain from giving dogs ice cream anyway. As The Spruce Pets covers, adult dogs cannot handle lactose well. "This inability to deal with dairy can lead to bloating, gas, diarrhea, and vomiting," the piece notes. "In most cases, your dog will probably just be a bit gassy." However, enough people pamper their pets that the unconfirmed rumor has sparked a small panic. 

Why would people suspect this?

The problem in part was that there's enough room for doubt as McDonald's doesn't have to be utterly transparent about their ingredients. For example, some people did challenge the grooming company's Facebook claim. "My question is where is the source that states McDonalds is adding it to their ice cream," one wrote. "The ingredients on their menu does not have it listed there." However, if you're feeling conspiratorial, McDonald's could include it under the vanilla soft serve's "natural flavor." Healthline explains that xylitol is a non-sugar sweetening compound found in fruits and vegetables. This means it falls under the FDA allowance of natural flavors, which just means that its a flavoring agent from a non-synthetic source.

Moreover, McDonald's has changed its ice cream ingredients without telling anyone before, when it replaced all the ice cream's artificial ingredients with natural ones without anyone noticing (per CNBC). No further change seems to have been made since then. But between the initially secretive manner in which McDonald's introduced the new ice cream recipe and government regulations that allow companies to be opaque about their ingredients, it's not surprising that some panicked. However, McDonald's has confirmed to Snopes that it does not use any xylitol at all, and considering the PR headache that would occur if their products began to affect dogs en masse, it seems reasonable to take them at their word.