Top 10 Secrets of the McDonald’s Corporation

It’s no secret that McDonald’s food is unhealthy and the company is prone to scandals. You might be surprised at how unhealthy the company is and how many scandals they have. The company—the single largest restaurant corporation in the world and one of the largest in general—has a long history of mistreating its managers, employees, customers, and even the food itself. As a result, they’ve stacked up a lot of skeletons in their many closets around the globe. Though every secret in this list is a matter of public record, it’s surprising how few people are aware of them. For McDonald’s, secrets are less about ‘is the information out there’ and more about ‘can we make people forget about it with our new, creepy Hamburglar.’ Here are ten open secrets that McDonald’s would love you to ignore.

10 Vegetarian Options that are not Vegetarian

For decades, McDonald’s listed its french fries as vegetarian options. After all, it’s just potatoes, salt, and vegetable oil, right? Wrong. McDonald’s fries contain 19 different ingredients, one of which is beef fat. The company tried to hide this by listing the beef fat as simply “natural flavoring” for years but they were eventually found out.

Several prominent Jewish and Muslim organizations sued McDonald’s for false claims. McDonald’s’ use of beef fat was neither kosher nor halal, and so by lying about it, the company had forced millions of people to unknowingly violate their own religious beliefs. McDonald’s was forced to settle for undisclosed tens of millions of dollars with an assortment of groups but only removed the beef fat from non-U.S. fries.

9 “Super Size Me” Actually Worked

In 2004, Morgan Spurlock released his documentary “Super Size Me,” in which he ate only McDonald’s for an entire month to demonstrate the unhealthiness of its food. Fitting the film’s name, Spurlock always supersized his meal if an employee offered. As expected, Spurlock’s health was atrocious at the end of the month. Many viewers were left thinking ‘well, duh’ and moved on. But the film did have a significant effect on McDonald’s.

The supersize option, which had existed for 12 years at that point, was removed from the McDonald’s menu just six weeks after the film premiered. The company denied that it had any influence on its decision, but the chances of that happening by itself are very slim.

8 The McAfrika

The name might suggest that there was a controversy over racism. But, the McAfrika was actually a story about poor marketing and poor management. In 2002, McDonald’s released the McAfrika, and every aspect of its release was flawed.

For one, the burger—which was just beef, cheese, and tomatoes on pita bread—was marketed as an “authentic” African recipe, which makes you question if McDonald’s knows the definition of the words “authentic,” “African,” “recipe,” and “pita.” And the sandwich was released at the height of a severe famine in South/Central Africa, so selling fattening food named after the area was a bad look. Worse, the burger was only released in Norway, a country that is almost as non-African than it gets and one the wealthiest nations in the world. The burger did in fact not live for very long.

7 They Don’t Clean Their Machines

This is a strange one as there are two secrets hidden in this one. The McDonald’s ice cream machines are famous for always being out of service and the company is constantly mocked for it. The truth is that often when an employee tells a customer that the machine is out of service, it’s actually because the machine is in the middle of its nightly four-hour self-cleaning process. This seems reasonable, as four hours of cleaning per day should make the machines extremely clean.

The machines can get filthy. The self-cleaning process for ice cream machines cleans only the main chambers and not any trays or nozzles. And it’s not just the ice cream machines. At any given point, there is a decent chance that most of the machines in any McDonald’s location are dirty. Many employees have admitted to it on Reddit, Quora and other anonymous locations. Many machines are difficult to clean and employees won’t do much to clean them.

6 Just How Often They’re Sued

Answer: Continually. You can think of every reason. Aside from the beef fat incident mentioned above, a lawsuit was raised because supervisors in three locations had complained that there were “too many black people in the store” and fired most of their black employees. Then there’s the time that 52 former owners of over 200 stores sued McDonald’s for being forced into “financial suicide missions” when white owners were not.

Then there’s the time that one franchise had forced workers into 25-hour shifts without overtime pay, which the company defended. You can find many other major suits in news outlets, including the most famous, the hot coffee incident.

5 The Hot Coffee Incident Was Their Fault

The hot coffee incident was a widely publicized case in which an elderly woman sued McDonald’s because its coffee gave her third-degree burns. Stella Liebeck was ridiculed heavily in the media. Major outlets called her claim a textbook frivolous suit. In reality, McDonald’s lost the case and was forced to pay Liebeck damages.

Liebeck was (mostly) right, despite the fact that the media demonized her. McDonald’s coffee was actually almost 40 degrees hotter than normal coffee, and literally, hundreds of people had complained about its temperature to McDonald’s before. Liebeck had even to undergo skin grafts to repair the skin that was ripped by the hot coffee.

4 Their Health Initiative is Totally Fake

Over and over, McDonald’s promises to make their menu healthier in one way or another, and it always comes with a big asterisk. A recent marketing campaign claimed that McDonald’s burgers would no longer contain preservatives. Only about a third still contain preservatives. The campaign to get rid of high-fructose corn syrup was a success. But it was only in the buns. It can still be found in dozens of other items including all sauces that are served on those buns.

About the same time as the removal of supersizing, McDonald’s started offering salads. A quick glance at the nutritional facts will reveal that salads have more calories than burgers, once the dressing is added. Another campaign was launched around the same time, promising to simplify menu items and reduce their number of ingredients. Another example of how dishonest their claim was is the look at the official ingredients list on their website. (I tallied the ingredients in a standard Big Mac. It was a staggering 70. This includes the high fructose Corn Syrup they claimed to have removed.

3 They Served Tainted Meat and Didn’t Care

A reporter secretly filmed inside an OSI Group food-processing plant in China in 2014. He found horrible conditions. Workers touched food with their naked fingers, dropped it on the ground, repackaged it and even repackaged dead meat. The OSI Group supplied meat for many major Chinese fast-food chains. After learning of its poor conditions, all workers cut ties. All except one.

McDonald’s responded to the controversy by blatantly lying, saying that they had never received any meat from that plant or any other OSI-owned plant. This was quickly proved to be false. In defiance of common sense, the company decided that they would continue to use the OSI Group for chicken and beef in China. And again, every single other company—Burger King, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, KFC, and others—had cut ties with the OSI Group immediately.

2 There’s a Best Time (and Way) to Eat There

This holds true for most restaurants as well. Corporates rely on secret shoppers, undercover agents who review items and rate food, cleanliness, and customer service. It’s a common practice, and anyone who has ever helped run a restaurant can tell you: the shoppers tend to come at certain times. These are the best times of day to eat at a restaurant.

Employees are taught, directly or indirectly, to be on the lookout and give their best to mystery shoppers. Mystery shoppers are known to be busy at meal times, ordering in similar ways. They are required to order a specific number of items and must always leave with a receipt. So ordering from McDonald’s at the busiest times and asking for an itemized receipt is likely to nab you the best service possible.

1 The Monopoly Game was a sham

The McDonald’s Monopoly game was a favorite of mine as a kid, so it’s heartbreaking to hear that, for five years, it was all fake. From 1995-2000, almost none of the top prizes were awarded to McDonald’s customers. The winning pieces simply weren’t on public items.

Instead, the most important pieces were given to Jerome Jacobson’s family and friends. Jerome was the head of security at Simon Marketing, the company with which McDonald’s ran the game. He was able access the pieces before they were distributed and kept the most valuable ones hidden. Knowing he couldn’t cash them in himself, he gave them all to his family and friends and asked for a piece of their prize money in exchange. His social circle had accumulated $24 million worth of prizes before he was caught.

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