McDonald's urban legends

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

Terrorist funding[edit]

In the late 1980s, rumours persisted in the United Kingdom that McDonald's was covertly funding the Provisional IRA 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 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]

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 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.[5]

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".[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. 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".[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.

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

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.[8][9] McDonald's Australia, however, specifically mentions that "there is definitely no lard or pig fat in the McDonald's Soft Serve."[10] This rumor should not be confused with the fact that McDonald's has in the past used beef tallow as its frying oil.[11]

Choko pie[edit]

There is a rumor in Australia that McDonald's Apple Pies were made of choko, not apples.[12] 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.[13]


  1. ^ "Topics of the Times - The IRA you say".
  2. ^ Snopes: McSquirmies
  3. ^ Urban legends: Worms as 'Filler' in Fast Food
  4. ^ Snopes:Cow Eyeballs
  5. ^ "McEyeballs". Retrieved January 16, 2006.
  6. ^ Snopes:100 % beef"
  7. ^ "If you think you're eating something natural". Portuguese article, contains the original e-mail.
  8. ^ Williams, Ruth (Apr. 20, 2004)."McSalads bring back health".
  9. ^ Sanghera, Sathnam (Dec. 16, 2005). "McDonald's bid to sugar its image will do it a fat lot of good". FirsTnews.
  10. ^ Top FAQs section of Retrieved January 12, 2007.
  11. ^ "McDonald's To Settle Suits On Beef Tallow In French Fries". 9 March 2002. Retrieved 9 September 2016 – via 
  12. ^ "‘We must never forget choko’". The Daily Ripper. Australia. December 17, 2004. Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  13. ^ "McDonald's racist Twitter message was hoax". CBS News. 15 June 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 

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