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. Chipotle gives diners 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 2017.
  • The details: Reports online alerted Business Insider. Affected customers reported 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 director of food safety.

Next: Satisfy late-night cravings with caution.

2. Taco Bell’s dirty lettuce

Taco Bell

Infected food for sale at Taco Bell | lawcain/iStock/Getty Images

  • Where: New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and South Carolina Taco Bell locations
  • What happened: 71 people were hospitalized for severe abdominal cramps, fever, and diarrhea. Eight of those diners developed kidney failure.
  • The details: In 2006, the five states reported E. coli outbreaks at Taco Bell locations. When researchers discovered the likely culprit — infected lettuce from California — the five states enacted stricter laws on handling the leafy green.

Next: Inspect what’s between your buns.

3. Subway’s not-so-chicken sandwich

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

  • Where: Canada
  • What happened: Two Subway chicken products were found to contain only about half chicken DNA.
  • The details: Canadian broadcaster CBC investigated chain restaurants’ chicken sandwiches, finding that Subway’s breast meat was 54% chicken and their popular chicken strips were only 43%. CBC’s lab nearly didn’t believe it, redoing the test five times but still finding the “chicken” portion to be mostly soy and other legal fillers. Subway disputed the claim but vowed to speak with its supplier.

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

4. Taco Bell’s ‘mystery ingredient’

Taco Bell's National Taco Day deal

They finally identified the mystery meat. | Taco Bell

  • Where: worldwide
  • What happened: In 2006, Taco Bell was forced to reveal the mystery ingredients that make up the other 12% of its 88% cow-filled beef.
  • The details: The results were FDA-approved and “safe,” but still concerning. The beef contained soy lecithin, maltodextrin, lactic acid, and caramel color, among other things. Taco Bell tried to explain the chemical ingredients. However, it hardly satisfied those who argue, “If I can’t pronounce it, I won’t eat it.”

Next: This chain’s negligence killed four kids.

5. Jack in the Box serves ‘rare’ burgers

Jack in the box

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

  • Where: Pacific Northwest
  • What happened: Jack-in-the-Box fostered a major E. coli outbreak in 1993.
  • The details: Bacteria sickened 600 people and killed four children. The San Diego-based chain blamed its meat supplier. However, the United States Agriculture Department said the bacteria would have been killed had Jack-in-the-Box cooked the hamburgers at 155 degrees (a state requirement), rather than the Federal standard of 140 degrees.

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

6. Chi-Chi’s didn’t check its scallions

Chi-Chi's commerical

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

  • Where: A Pennsylvania location
  • What happened: 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: “Trashy” meat led to a PR nightmare.

7. Golden Corral’s dumpster meat

Green recycling dumpsters against a brick wall

Want a side of trash with your burger? | Sliveoak/iStock/Getty Images

  • Where: Port Orange, Florida
  • What happened: A “rogue employee” took a video of dozens of pounds of raw meat next to a dumpster.
  • The details: The worker’s video went viral, and the franchise location’s owner quickly released a statement saying the food placed near the dumpster was not intended for consumption. Whether true or false, it was bad for business.

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

8. Burger King’s equine burgers

Burger King

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

  • Where: Ireland
  • What happened: The Food Safety Authority of Ireland tested frozen burgers and found horse DNA in over one-third of samples from its Burger King locations.
  • The details: Burger King dropped the guilty supplier, Silvercrest Foods, in a “voluntary and precautionary measure.” BK representatives said in a statement, “[Silvercrest] promised to deliver 100% British and Irish beef patties and have not done so … We have terminated our relationship with them.”

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

9. McDonald’s cleans up its pink slime


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.
  • The details: “Slime” was Oliver’s 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 to kill off bacteria like E. coli. After the show aired, McDonald’s announced it stopped using the controversial boneless lean beef trimmings, claiming the decision was made long before the show aired.

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

10. Skip dessert at McDonald’s

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

Next: A diner expected only edible bird parts in her nuggets.

11. McDonald’s ‘heady’ chicken

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 found a fried chicken head in her chicken nuggets.
  • The details: 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

12. McDonald’s drive-thru drug cartel

McDonald's happy meal

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

  • Where: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • What happened: The restaurant was serving Happy Meals with heroin via the drive-thru line.
  • The details: McDonald’s diners just had to say, “I’d like to order a toy.” 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?

13. Costco brought 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 Costco customer found a bullet in her hot dog.
  • The details: Olivia Chanes swallowed a nine-millimeter round while eating a Hebrew National 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, which had somehow made it through the hot dog factory’s metal detectors. Police questioned Costco employees and searched the remaining hot dogs but didn’t find any more ammunition.

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

14. Arby’s (human) meats

This is beyond gross. | Arby’s via Facebook

  • Where: Dayton, Ohio
  • What happened: A customer discovered a piece of human flesh in their sandwich.
  • The details: 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: As if fried chicken wasn’t bad enough for your health

15. 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: KFC was serving expired meat as well as meat that fell on the factory floor.
  • The details: 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.

16. TGI Friday’s not-so-happy hour

TGI Friday's

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

  • Where: Asbury Park, New Jersey
  • What happened: Bartenders were changing customer drink orders.
  • The details: 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: Taking “finger food” to the next level

17. Taco Bell’s gross finger food

An acrylic fingernail found in Taco Bell nachos.

An acrylic fingernail found in Taco Bell nachos | Twitter

  • Where: Lake Wales, Florida
  • What happened: A woman found an acrylic fingernail in her nachos.
  • The details: 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: The report that ruined your morning coffee

18. Starbucks’ serves iced crappucinos

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

  • Where: countrywide
  • What happened:  Iced drinks were found to have a high level of fecal bacteria.
  • The details: 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.

19. 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 found needles in his burger.
  • The details: Purchased at a Hawaii base’s Burger King, the sandwich’s unusual insides pierced 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: We hope we never see these delivery drivers at our door.

20. Food tampering is “snot” funny at Domino’s


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

  • Where: Conover, North Carolina
  • What happened: A prank tricked customers into thinking their food had been tampered with.
  •  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.

21. A side of pills at Burger King

A man holds a Burger King fish sandwich

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

  • Where: Jacksonville, Florida
  • What happened: Two customers found hydrocodone pills in their food.
  • The details: 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.

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