Fast Food Horror Stories: You Won’t Believe What Was in This Restaurant’s Burgers

Dietitians don’t recommend fast food but an estimated 80% of Americans still consume it monthly. Regardless, we expect fast food chains to follow FDA-approved health codes and sanitation laws. Unfortunately, many restaurants break these codes, resulting in nasty horror stories. You won’t believe the scandals these chains experienced, especially the disgusting ingredient found in McDonald’s burgers (page 9).

1. A woman’s chicken came to a ‘head’

Chicken McNuggets (L) and McWings are displayed at a McDonald's restaurant in Tokyo

That doesn’t seem like an adequate response. | Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

Where: Hampton Roads, Virginia

What happened: A mother handed a fried chicken head to her child as she divided chicken nuggets at her local McDonald’s. Katherine Ortega told The Daily Press, “I noticed it had a beak and it had eyes. I screamed.” A McDonald’s employee gave her the option to receive a refund or get a new box of chicken. Ortega declined, however, saying, “I will probably cook at home from now on.” She made her kids grilled cheese sandwiches and chose not to pursue a lawsuit.

Next: A sketchy situation right out of Breaking Bad

2. McDonald’s customers were here for the heroin

McDonald's happy meal

An innocent McDonald’s happy meal | David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Where: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What happened: Need a fix? McDonald’s diners just had to say, “I’d like to order a toy,” and they’d get a Happy Meal with heroin inside via the drive-thru line. Undercover officers received a tip and tested it out, paying former employee Shantia Dennis $82 for the $2 meal and discovering 10 small baggies of heroin inside the Happy Meal. The woman was charged with criminal delivery and possession of heroin, among other charges.

Next: How many times have you grabbed a bite at this superstore?

3. New meaning to “hunting dog”

Costco displays its hot dog deal.

The hot dog deal at Costco is hard to pass up. | The Cheat Sheet

Where: Irvine, California

What happened: A hot dog with a nine-millimeter round inside made it through Hebrew National’s factory metal detector and into the mouth of a Costco customer. Olivia Chanes swallowed a bullet while eating her foot-long. She told the Los Angeles Times she first thought it was her braces, but quickly realized otherwise. X-rays revealed another bullet in her stomach. Police questioned Costco employees and searched the remaining hot dogs but didn’t find any more ammunition.

Next: This chain’s negligence killed customers.

4. The surprise is dangerously under-cooked burgers

Jack in the box

The chain made 600 people sick. | David McNew/Getty Images

Where: Pacific Northwest

What happened: Jack-in-the-Box faced a major E. coli outbreak in 1993. According to The Oregonian, the bacteria left 600 people sick and killed four children. The San Diego-based chain blamed its meat supplier among others. However, the United States Agriculture Department said the bacteria would have been killed had Jack-in-the-Box cooked the hamburgers at 155 degrees as required by the state, rather than at the Federal standard of 140 degrees.

Next: Shredded lettuce shouldn’t involve shreds of anything else.

5. We have the (human) meats

This is beyond gross. | Arby’s via Facebook

Where: Dayton, Ohio

What happened: The AP reported that a customer discovered “a piece of flesh about three-fourths of an inch long” after biting into his Arby’s sandwich. Health investigators noted the Arby’s manager was wearing a bandage on his thumb. The conclusion? He sliced his thumb while shredding lettuce and reportedly neglected to throw away the contaminated produce.

Next: Who knew such a little ingredient could be so deadly?

6. Chi-chi-check your scallions

Chi-Chi's commerical

A Chi-Chi’s commercial from 1991 | Betamax King via Youtube

Chi-Chi’s forced one of its Pennsylvania locations to close after it was found guilty of the biggest Hepatitis A outbreak ever sourced back to an American restaurant. According to The New York Times, 660 people ate contaminated scallions and contracted Hepatitis A in the process. Tragically, four people died because of the outbreak. Chi-Chi’s no longer operates in the U.S. or Canada; the chain only exists in Belgium, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.

Next: As if fried chicken wasn’t bad enough for your health

7. Kentucky “floor” chicken

New Consumer Survey Ranks McDonald's Hamburgers, KFC Chicken Worst Tasting

There were a lot of issues. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Where: Shanghai, China

What happened: In a TV report, workers at KFC meat supplier Shanghai Husi Food Co were shown reusing meat that fell to the factory floor. They also reportedly mixed fresh and expired meat before selling it. KFC apologized and cut ties with its supplier. However, Yum! reported that the scandal “significantly impacted China sales.” It also led the company to reduce its full-year earnings-per-share growth projection from 20% to just 6–10%, according to Forbes.

Next: This top-shelf liquor is anything but.

8. Cheap tricks for pricey drinks

TGI Friday's

Customers were getting much less than they paid for. | TGI Friday’s via Facebook

Where: Asbury Park, New Jersey

What happened: Eight New Jersey TGI Friday’s locations received $500,000 fines for serving customers beverages with lower-shelf alcohol than ordered. Investigators visited 63 establishments in New Jersey, including the TGI Friday’s. They asked for their drinks “neat,” without rocks or any mixer. Instead of drinking their orders, the detectives tested 150 samples with a spirit authenticator to ensure they received the right liquor. “At a very fundamental level, this is a very wrong practice,” said Michael Halfacre, director of the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Next: This chain’s disgusting burger ingredient isn’t legal in other countries.

9. Pink slime is a crime


Well at least now they’re safe (hopefully). | Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Where: U.S.-wide

What happened: Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver exposed McDonald’s beef in a controversial episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, referring to a “pink slime” ingredient. “Slime” was his name for what’s left of the meat after removing all the choice cuts of beef. Banned for human consumption in the U.K., the beef trimmings are legal in the U.S., where they are treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill off bacteria like E. coli.

After the show aired, McDonald’s announced it discontinued using Beef Products Incorporated and its controversial boneless lean beef trimmings. Both companies claimed the decision was made long before the show aired.

Next: Taking “finger food” to the next level

10. Nachos aren’t good finger(nail) food

An acrylic fingernail found in Taco Bell nachos.

An acrylic fingernail found in Taco Bell nachos | Twitter

Where: Lake Wales, Florida

What happened: When a Taco Bell drive-through confused a couple’s order, the employee gave them an order of cheesy nachos as a replacement. As the couple ate, the woman discovered a full acrylic nail buried inside. After becoming physically ill at the sight, according to AOL, they told the manager, who gave them the wrong number to Taco Bell’s corporate office. Once they got in touch with corporate, they refused the $40 gift card the company offered them, vowing never to eat there again.

Next: Maybe it’s a good thing the ice cream machine is always down.

11. You may want to skip dessert

Where: LaPlace, Louisiana

What happened: In July 2017, McDonald’s employee Nick was fired for exposing mold. After cleaning the ice cream machine, the 18-year-old found extensive to. “I thought [the machine] would be cleaned regularly,” Nick told BuzzFeed News. He said employees were never instructed to clean it. A McDonald’s spokesperson told BuzzFeed the tray Nick found didn’t come into contact with ice cream. Still, the chain fired Nick for exposing the grotesque mold.

Next: The report that ruined your morning coffee

12. An iced crappucino

You’ll never look at iced coffee the same again. | Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Where: countrywide

What happened: BBC consumer series released a report that terrified iced coffee lovers. Samples of iced drinks from Starbucks, Caffe Nero, and Costa Coffee contained varying levels of fecal bacteria. Watchdog expert Tony Lewis told the BBC, “These should not be present at any level — never mind the significant numbers found.” These kinds of bacteria are opportunistic pathogens and a source of human disease. Spokespeople for each of the cafes told the public they’d take the appropriate actions to counteract the findings.

Next: This burger order was “sew” wrong.

13. A diner “sticks it” to Burger King

Burger King burger

You could hide a scary amount of needles in this burger. | Miguel Villagran/Getty Images

Where: Honolulu, Hawaii

What happened: A retired Army sergeant took a bite out of his BK burger and discovered needles inside. Ouch! Purchased at a Hawaii base’s Burger King, the sandwich’s unusual insides pierce his tongue and lodged in his small intestine. After the sergeant’s hospitalization he reached a settlement with the U.S. Army, but had to exclude Burger King; his hospital bill was waived and received $50,000.

Next: This beloved Mexican chain featured E. coli on the menu.

14. With a side of nausea

The diners at Chipotle are pretty diehard fans of the chain.

The diners at Chipotle are pretty diehard fans of the chain. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Where: Sterling, Virginia

What happened: Diners reported getting severely ill after eating at Chipotle in July 2017. Eight reports on the website alerted Business Insider. The affected customers reported symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, severe stomach pain, dehydration, and nausea. “We are working with health authorities to understand what the cause may be and to resolve the situation as quickly as possible,” said Jim Marsden, Chipotle’s executive director of food safety.

Next: Inspect what’s between your buns.

15. Where’s the chicken?

Apparently, that “chicken” is only about half chicken. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Where: Canada

What happened: Canadian broadcaster CBC conducted a Marketplace investigation on chain restaurants’ chicken sandwiches. The study found two popular Subway chicken products only contained about half chicken DNA. Subway’s breast meat in Canada was 54% chicken; their chicken strips were only 43%. The results were “such an outlier” that CBC’s lab did five retests, and found the “chicken” portion to be mostly soy and other legal fillers. Subway disputed the claim but vowed to speak with its supplier.

Next: You won’t believe what this chain’s burgers contained.

16. Horsing around with burger ingredients

Burger King

People were understandably wary of the chain. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Where: Ireland

What happened: Burger King got tied up in scandal when a plant found trace amounts of horse DNA in their Ireland locations’ beef. The horse meat scandal began when the Food Safety Authority of Ireland tested frozen burgers and found horse DNA in over one-third of samples. Burger King dropped the guilty supplier, Silvercrest Foods, in a “voluntary and precautionary measure.” However, customers were still wary.

In a statement about the scandal, Burger King representatives said, “[Silvercrest] promised to deliver 100% British and Irish beef patties and have not done so. This is a clear violation of our specifications, and we have terminated our relationship with them.”

Next: This fast food franchise didn’t think safely outside the bun.

17. The beef over mysterious meat fillers

Taco Bell's National Taco Day deal

They finally identified the mystery meat. | Taco Bell

Where: worldwide

What happened: In 2011, Taco Bell forcibly revealed the mystery ingredients making up the other 12% of its 88% cow-filled beef. The results were FDA-approved and “safe,” but still concerning. The beef contained maltodextrin, soy lecithin, lactic acid, and caramel color, among other ingredients that are difficult to pronounce. Taco Bell took to the internet to explain the chemical ingredients. However, it hardly satisfied those who argue, “If I can’t pronounce it, I won’t eat it.”

Next: We hope we never see these delivery drivers at our door.

18. Food tampering is “snot” funny


This prank went terribly wrong. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Where: Conover, North Carolina

What happened: A prank at Domino’s went awry, creating a PR crisis and leaving two employees with felony charges. The employees filmed themselves putting nasal mucus on sandwiches and violating health code standards before allegedly sending the food out for delivery. The employees said they didn’t actually deliver the food, but the chain fired them and charged them with delivering prohibited foods. “We got blindsided by two idiots with a video camera and an awful idea,” said Domino’s spokesman, Tim McIntyre.

Next: Fast food is unhealthy enough without this illegal activity.

19. Painkillers are not a condiment

A man holds a Burger King fish sandwich

Fish sandwich ingredients shouldn’t involve little blue pills. | Youtube

Where: Jacksonville, Florida

What happened: In 2010, a woman found a blue pill in her Burger King chicken sandwich after she nearly swallowed it. The local fire station confirmed it was hydrocodone, a prescription painkiller. Shortly after, another BK diner spotted a blue pill inside his fish sandwich at the same location. The culprit? A new employee, who pleaded guilty on “two charges of poisoning food with intent to kill or injure someone,” according to The Florida Times-Union. The 20-year-old received five years in prison.

Next: Wendy’s nearly suffers terrible consequences.

20. Keep your fingers out of our chili!

Wendy's Chili

This would be horrifying. | Wendy’s via Facebook

Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

What happened: Anna Ayala dealt a blow to Wendy’s when she reported finding a human finger in her chili. The fast-food chain suffered an estimated $2.5 million in lost business following the scandalt. It turned out Ayala and her husband, Jamie Placencia, planted the finger in an attempt to make money off of the company. Both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to nine and 12 years in prison, respectively.

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