McDonald's urban legends

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There are multiple urban legends centering around the fast-food chain McDonald's. These legends include claims about the food and allegations of discrimination by the company.

Funding terrorism[edit]

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

Unusual ingredients[edit]

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.[2]

Cow eyeballs[edit]

One belief is that McDonald's uses cow eyeballs in its products, permitting it to brand them as "100% beef".[4] However, the United States Department of Agriculture (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.[4]

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".[5][6]

Mutant laboratory meat[edit]

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, attributing the findings to the Michigan State University. The e-mail stated that the creatures kept were "figures without legs and without horns, which are fed through tubes connected to the stomach and which in fact have no bones, but a little cartilage that never develops", and "anyone who has seen them assures them that they are very unpleasant things, because in addition to remaining immobile all their "life", they have no eyes, no tail and practically no fur; in fact the head is the size of a tennis ball".[7]

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.[7]

Pig fat[edit]

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. The claim that McDonald's dairy products contain pig fat has been denied by the company in several occasions.[8][9]

Pink slime[edit]

Around 2014, a photo of "pink slime" or "pink goop" was widely shared and claimed to be what Chicken McNuggets were made of.[10][11] This has led to McDonald's Canada releasing a video showcasing how Chicken McNuggets are actually made in response.[12][13]


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.[14]


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.[15]


  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). "FACT CHECK: Is Worm Meat Used in McDonald's Hamburgers?". Snopes. Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  3. ^ Taylor, Kate (2016-01-21). "A viral rumor that McDonald's uses ground worm filler in burgers has been debunked". Business Insider. Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  4. ^ a b Mikkelson, David (15 April 2015). "McDonald's: World's Largest Purchaser of Cow Eyeballs?". Snopes. Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  5. ^ "Are McDonald's Hamburgers 100% Beef?". Snopes. 24 January 2011. Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  6. ^ "FAQS | Is '100% beef' a company owned by McDonald's (and therefore your beef products are not actually 100% beef)?". McDonald's UK. Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  7. ^ a b "As coisas da McDonald's: hambúrgueres são feitos de seres geneticamente modificados. (hoax)". (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  8. ^ Kelly, Debra (2020-07-16). "The Untold Truth Of McDonald's Ice Cream". Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  9. ^ "McSalads bring back health". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2004-04-20. Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  10. ^ Behr, Felix (2020-11-09). "Don't Believe These Myths About Chicken Nuggets". Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  11. ^ Mikkelson, David (2015-01-28). "Pink Slime and Mechanically Separated Chicken". Snopes. Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  12. ^ "McDonald's Shows How Its McNuggets Are Made: No 'Pink Slime'". NBC News. 2014-02-06. Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  13. ^ Tuttle, Brad (2014-02-05). "McDonald's Made the Right Move in Response to Gross 'Pink Slime'". Time. Retrieved 2022-07-05.
  14. ^ "McDonald's racist Twitter message was hoax". CBS News. 15 June 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2012.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ "NOT REAL NEWS: McDonald's not adding pot-smoking centers". AP News. 2018-04-18. Retrieved 2022-07-05.

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