Food & Nutrition

The Truth Behind 11 Popular McDonald’s Rumors

McDonald’s shakes contain no dairy

mcdonalds and mccafe signs against blue sky backgroundstevanovicigor/Getty Images

False. For believers of this rumor, the name said it all. Why would McDonald’s call them “shakes,” not “milkshakes”—unless it legally couldn’t, because they contained no actual milk? With that a foregone conclusion, people started making wild guesses about what was actually in them, from chicken feathers to Styrofoam. But despite the name, the primary ingredient in McDonald’s shakes is ice cream, which in turn has milk as the primary ingredient. So why the ambiguous name? According to McDonald’s FAQ page, it’s because different states have different requirements for what can be called “milkshakes.” So McDonald’s just calls them “shakes” to avoid state-to-state confusion. Which in turn ended up causing a whole lot more confusion.

McDonald’s lies about its fries being vegetarian-friendly

mdonalds friesDave Kotinsky/Getty Images for McDonald’s

False—on a technicality. McDonald’s never lied about the animal products used to make its fries, but it never outwardly said they weren’t vegetarian-friendly, either. First things first: No, the fries are not vegetarian or vegan. In 1990, McDonald’s stopped cooking its fries in beef fat and switched to vegetable oil instead. And that’s where the confusion arose. This publicized swap, understandably, made people think the fries were indeed vegetarian. But this “vegetable oil” still contained “essence of beef” to flavor the fries.

After several separate lawsuits from vegetarians—two of whom were Hindu and abstained from eating beef products for religious reasons—McDonald’s issued an apology. At first, it claimed that it had never outwardly said its fries were vegetarian; it eventually it owned up to making misleading claims, though. “We regret we did not provide these customers with complete information, and we sincerely apologize for any hardship that these miscommunications have caused,” said a 2002 statement on the company’s site. McDonald’s agreed to pay $ 10 million to various Hindu and other groups. It may not have been an outright lie, but it was still a blunder and joined the ranks of these fast-food scandals that rocked the industry.

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