Dietitians rarely recommend eating fast food for its health benefits, likely because they’re few and far between. But that doesn’t mean Americans listen. An estimated 80% of us still eat from fast food chains monthly.
Though we accept the unhealthy food options, we still expect chains to follow FDA-approved health codes and basic sanitation laws. Unfortunately, there are a few notable incidents where restaurants have broken these codes — and a few horror stories that could turn even the biggest meat lover into a vegetarian.
You won’t believe the scandals these restaurants went through, especially the surprising ingredient found in one chain’s burgers!
1. Subway’s deceptive chicken breast
Canadian broadcaster CBC conducted a Marketplace investigation on chain restaurants’ chicken sandwiches, and the results were eyebrow-raising, at best. The study found that two popular Subway chicken products only contained about half chicken DNA.
Subway’s breast meat in Canada was 54% chicken, and their chicken strips were only 43%. The results were “such an outlier” that the lab CBC used did five additional retests. The “chicken” portion turned out to be mostly soy and a few other legal fillers. A Subway rep disputed the claim but vowed to take the matter up with Subway’s supplier.
Next: You may be better off getting fish tacos.
2. Taco Bell wasn’t thinking safely outside the bun
A few years ago, Taco Bell was forced to reveal the mystery ingredients that made up the other 12% of its 88% cow-filled beef. The results were FDA-approved and “safe”, but still concerning.
The beef contained traces of maltodextrin, soy lecithin, lactic acid, and caramel color, among other ingredients that are difficult to pronounce. Taco Bell took to the internet to defend and 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.
3. Employees at Domino’s compromised food for a prank
A video prank at Domino’s went horribly awry, leaving two employees with felony charges and the brand with a major PR crisis. Employees Kristy Hammonds and Michael Setzer filmed a video while putting nasal mucus on sandwiches and violating various health code standards before allegedly sending the compromised food out for delivery.
While the employees told Domino’s they didn’t actually deliver the food, the chain still fired them and charged them with delivering prohibited foods. “We got blindsided by two idiots with a video camera and an awful idea,” said a Domino’s spokesman, Tim McIntyre.
Next: Maybe it’s a good thing the ice cream machine is always down at this burger chain.
4. McDonald’s had a moldy ice cream maker
This came out of McDonald's ice cream machine in case y'all were wondering… pic.twitter.com/DTXXpzE7Ce
— NICK EVANS (@phuckyounick) July 14, 2017
In July 2017, eighteen-year-old McDonald’s employee Nick was fired for exposing mold he found in a Louisiana location. The mold he found after cleaning the sides of an ice cream machine was so extensive that it shocked him.
“I thought [the machine] would be cleaned regularly,” Nick told BuzzFeed News. He also said that neither he nor any other general employees were ever instructed to clean the machine. A McDonald’s HQ spokesperson told BuzzFeed that the tray Nick found didn’t come into contact with the actual ice cream. Still, the chain fired Nick for his exposé of the grotesque mold.
Next: As if fried chicken wasn’t bad enough for your health, this chain made it worse.
5. KFC made us say WTF
In a TV report, workers at KFC meat supplier Shanghai Husi Food Co were shown reusing meat that had fallen to the factory floor. They also reportedly mixed fresh and expired meat before selling it to customers. KFC immediately 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: The one ingredient you never want to find in your chili
6. A woman reported a human finger in her Wendy’s chili
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 scandal.
It turned out that 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.
Next: You won’t believe what authorities found in this chain’s burgers.
7. Burger King sold horse meat burgers
Ireland Burger King locations got tied up in a scandal with a plant that found trace amounts of horse DNA in their beef. The horse meat scandal began when the Food Safety Authority of Ireland tested a range of frozen, ready-made burgers and found horse DNA in over one-third of the samples.
Burger King dropped the guilty supplier, Silvercrest Foods, in a “voluntary and precautionary measure.” However, customers were still wary of their products. 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: The report that ruined your morning cup of Joe.
8. Starbucks’ iced beverages were under attack
The BBC consumer series Watchdog released a report earlier this year that shook iced coffee lovers everywhere to their cores. Samples of iced drinks from Starbucks, Caffe Nero, and Costa Coffee contained varying levels of fecal bacteria.
Expert Tony Lewis told the BBC that, “These should not be present at any level — never mind the significant numbers found.” These kinds of bacteria are opportunistic pathogens and a common source of human disease. Spokespeople for each of the cafes conducted investigations and told the public they’d take the appropriate actions to counteract the findings.
Next: Mmm, I’m (not quite) lovin’ it.
10. McDonalds sold ‘slime burgers’
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver exposed U.S. McDonald’s beef in a controversial episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution where he referred to its “pink slime” ingredient. “Slime” was Oliver’s name for what’s left of the meat after all the choice cuts of beef are taken.
The beef trimmings are banned for human consumption in the U.K, but they’re legal in the United States, where they are treated with ammonium hydroxide in order to kill off bacteria such as E. coli.
McDonalds announced soon after the show aired that it would discontinue using Beef Products Incorporated and their controversial boneless lean beef trimmings. Both companies claimed the decision was made long before the show aired.
Next: This chain’s scandal reflected their beliefs, not their meats.
11. Chic-Fil-A’s intolerance led to reinvention
Not all the fast food scandals involved bacteria and detached appendages. For example, Chick-Fil-A’s president, Dan Cathy, publicly spoke out against same-sex unions. The LA Times reported that the chain donated millions of dollars to anti-gay marriage groups as well.
Despite setbacks immediately following the controversy, the chain is exploding in revenue and expanding into the northeast. Chick-fil-A now warns all its franchisees against speaking out publicly or blurring the line between their private beliefs and their public roles as extensions of the Chick-fil-A brand, the company has said.
Next: This finger-in-the-food scandal actually happened.
12. The Arby’s finger scandal
Wendy’s wasn’t the only restaurant to face a finger scandal. But unfortunately for Arby’s, their customer actually found the finger. The AP reported that an Ohio customer discovered “a piece of flesh about three-fourths of an inch long” after biting into his Arby’s sandwich.
Health investigators spoke with the manager and noted he was wearing a bandage on his thumb. The conclusion? The location’s manager sliced his thumb while shredding lettuce and reportedly neglected to throw away the contaminated produce.
Next: This top shelf liquor is anything but.
13. TGI Friday’s replaced top-shelf booze with well liquor
Eight New Jersey TGI Friday’s locations received $500,000 fines for serving customers alcoholic beverages with lower-shelf alcohol than they’d ordered. Investigators visited 63 establishments in New Jersey, including the TGI Friday’s locations. They asked for their drinks “neat,” without rocks or any mixer.
Instead of drinking the liquor, the detectives with Alcohol Beverage Control tested 150 samples with a true spirit authenticator to make sure they received the liquor they ordered. “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: Everyone’s favorite Mexican chain featured E.coli on the menu.
14. Chipotle’s E.coli scandal shut down a Virginia location
Chipotle customers reported falling severely ill after eating at a Sterling, Virginia, location in July 2017. Customers submitted a total of eight reports to the website iwaspoisoned.com, which immediately 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: The chain restaurant whose negligence killed customers.
15. Jack-in-the-Box killed 4 children
Jack-in-the-Box, an American fast food chain that sells burgers, shakes, and everything in between, 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: The chain whose celebrated spokesperson sparked the biggest scandal yet.
16. Subway’s largest inspiration turned sex-offender
Jared Fogle was known worldwide for his inspirational weight loss — that is, until he was known worldwide as a pedophile. Fogle, once an overweight undergraduate student, claimed his weight loss success was a result of eating exclusively from the sandwich chain. In turn, Subway made him their spokesperson.
But after he was linked to a child pornography case in 2015, investigators raided Fogle’s family home and found incriminating evidence. The case also involved the former executive director of his nonprofit organization, The Jared Foundation, according to the New York Times. Fogle was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to sex acts with minors and distributing child pornography.
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