McDonald's urban legends

Urban legends about the fast-food chain McDonald's abound. These legends include claims about the food and allegations of discrimination by the company.

Funding terrorismEdit

In the late 1980s, rumours persisted in the United Kingdom that McDonald's was covertly funding the Provisional IRA, which was designated as a terror organisation, via NORAID. The source of these rumours was eventually traced to a CNN talkshow in which the company was praised for its generosity in providing funding for employees via Individual Retirement Accounts, or IRAs.[1]

Unusual ingredientsEdit

Large companies have been the subject of rumors that they substitute unusual or unethical substances in their products, usually to decrease costs. McDonald's is not immune to such claims.


Dating back to at least 1978, this rumor claims that McDonald's restaurants use earthworms in their hamburgers.[2][3] This "worm-in-the-burger" rumor was originally attached to Wendy's burgers.[5][6]

Cow eyeballsEdit

One belief is that McDonald's uses cow eyeballs in its products, permitting it to brand them as "100% beef".[7] However, the USDA mandates that all beef by-products, including cow eyeballs, be appropriately labeled. McDonald's, has asserted that its products contain "100% pure USDA inspected beef; no additives, no fillers, no extenders." In addition, cow eyeballs are actually more expensive than the more commonly eaten cow parts, due to demand from scientific institutions for experiments.[8]

A related claim is that McDonald's buys its meat from a company called "100% beef", making it possible for McDonald's to call beef by-products and soy products "100% beef".[9] During the McLibel case it was found that once imported beef was cleared by the authorities it lost its country of origin identity and gained the status of "U.S. graded beef", so this claim may have emerged from the lack of effective country of origin labelling in the U.S.[10]

Mutant laboratory meatEdit

Around March–April, 2000, an Internet rumor spread via e-mail in Brazil claimed that McDonald's meat was actually made from a genetically modified animal maintained in a laboratory. The e-mail stated that "the few who saw it assure it is a very unpleasant sight: they have no limbs or horns, no bones (undeveloped cartilage instead), no eyes, no tail and no fur; its head is about the size of a Baseball; they are fed through tubes connected directly into their stomach".[11]

The e-mail carries on saying that "some irreversible health damage can be done by eating this meat, resulting in diseases who manifest themselves in a way similar to AIDS, and have symptoms related to Alzheimer's Disease" and ends encouraging the reader to boycott McDonald's until it sells actual beef. The urban legend has also been attributed to other fast-food chains and animal products, such as KFC and mutant chickens.

This rumor is a plot point of the science fiction novel The Space Merchants, by Frederik Pohl (w/CM Kornbluth).

Pig fatEdit

This rumor is that McDonald's uses pig fat in its milkshakes, ice cream, and fried potatoes. McDonald's provides complete ingredient lists for all of its products on each of its regional websites: this includes unidentified fats within the ice cream used to make soft serve cones and sundaes.[12][13] McDonald's Australia, however, specifically mentions that "there is definitely no lard or pig fat in the McDonald's Soft Serve."[14] This rumor should not be confused with the fact that McDonald's has in the past used beef tallow as its frying oil.[15]

Choko pieEdit

There is a rumor in Australia that McDonald's Apple Pies were made of choko, not apples.[16] This eventually led them to emphasize the fact that real Granny Smith apples are used in McDonald's pies.


Rumors in 2011 proclaimed an image shows a McDonald's sign announcing a $1.50 surcharge for African-American customers. This was proven to be a hoax.[17]


Fake news websites since 2015 have purported that McDonald's restaurants in Colorado are converting children's playgrounds to lounges for on-premises cannabis consumption. The story has been disavowed by a McDonald's spokesperson.[18]


  1. ^ "Topics of the Times - The IRA you say". The New York Times. 30 November 1989. Archived from the original on 2010-01-29.
  2. ^ a b Mikkelson, David (5 July 1999). "Worm Meat Used in McDonald's Hamburgers? Does McDonald's use worm meat as filler in their hamburgers?". Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  3. ^ Urban legends: Worms as 'Filler' in Fast Food
  4. ^ Howell, Gwyneth Vernoica James (2006). Using the Informational Processing Paradigm to Design Commercial Rumour Response Strategies on the World Wide Web (PDF) (Ph.D.). The University of Western Australia.
  5. ^ Koenig (1985) apud[2] and G. V. J. Howell (Ph.D. dissert. 2006)[4]
  6. ^ Fine (1980), p. 228.
  7. ^ Mikkelson, David (1999). "McDonald's: World's Largest Purchaser of Cow Eyeballs?". Retrieved 7 January 2020., updated 5 April 2015.
  8. ^ "McEyeballs". Retrieved January 16, 2006.
  9. ^ Snopes staff (24 January 2011). "Are McDonald's Hamburgers 100% Beef?". Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  10. ^ Chief Justice Bell (June 19, 1997). "McLibel Verdict". Retrieved June 15, 2018. Dr Nations' and Mr Shane's understanding of U.S. beef labelling laws appeared to be the same as Mr Secrett's. They thought that a problem arose because under U.S. law once imported beef was cleared by the authorities it lost its import identity and gained the status of U.S. graded beef. Thus if the meat was purchased by a broker for resale, the next or final buyer only knew the U.S. grade of the product and not necessarily the country of origin. Efforts by some U.S. environmentalists to have Congress enact a labelling law designating beef's country of origin had been unsuccessful.
  11. ^ "If you think you're eating something natural". Portuguese article, contains the original e-mail.
  12. ^ Williams, Ruth (Apr. 20, 2004)."McSalads bring back health".
  13. ^ Sanghera, Sathnam (Dec. 16, 2005). "McDonald's bid to sugar its image will do it a fat lot of good". FirsTnews.
  14. ^ Top FAQs section of Archived 2016-10-03 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved January 12, 2007.
  15. ^ "McDonald's To Settle Suits On Beef Tallow In French Fries". 9 March 2002. Retrieved 9 September 2016 – via
  16. ^ "'We must never forget choko'". The Daily Ripper. Australia. December 17, 2004. Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
  17. ^ "McDonald's racist Twitter message was hoax". CBS News. 15 June 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  18. ^ NOT REAL NEWS: McDonald's not adding pot-smoking centers, Associated Press, April 17, 2018

External linksEdit