11 Common Fast-Food Myths That Just Aren't True

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Vote up the facts about fast food that finally set the record straight.

Whether it's a burger from a drive-thru, or a dine-in experience at your local McDonald's or Taco Bell, hitting up a fast-food restaurant can be simple and satisfying. 

Not everything that goes into fast food is ideal, and many items have come and gone from fast-food menus over the years. All of that contributes to myths about our favorite fast-food joints - things we may or may not have believed to be true. 

We compiled some of the fast-food myths we've heard and finally got to the bottom of them. What we found was a mix of truth, urban legend, and flat-out lies, but we're glad we finally set the record straight. Now go eat some fries.

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  • When Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC in 1991, rumors swirled that it had to do with what it served. One popular theory was that the fast-food chain couldn't use the word “chicken” in its name anymore because its products didn't contain chicken. This was, at least in part, fueled by claims that the chain used mutant chickens, allegations that were made in China. 

    The real reason for the change was multifaceted. Kentucky Fried Chicken wanted a shorter name, and when the state of Kentucky copyrighted its name, they decided to make the change. Instead of paying Kentucky to keep using the name of the state in its own moniker, KFC took advantage of the chance to go with “KFC.”

    Another benefit was removing "fried" from its name, an increasingly taboo word for consumers. Still one more factor? A lot of people were already using KFC anyway.

    Verdict? Just a myth. 

    822 votes
  • 2
    570 VOTES

    MYTH: Arby's Was Named To Sound Like What It Served

    If you say it out loud, it seems obvious: Arby's sounds just like "R" and “B” - which must stand for “roast beef,” right? Considering the fast-food chain is known for its roast beef sandwiches, this makes a lot of sense.

    That's not where the name Arby's comes from, but it's a fun addition to the actual story. The "R" and "B" that did lend themselves to the name actually come from Arby's founders, the Raffel brothers. 

    Arby's began serving food in 1964 in Boardman, OH. Leroy and Forrest Raffel sold their sandwich for 69 cents - far more than a McDonald's burger that cost 15 cents - and knew that their customer base was going to be "a little more affluent" as a result. According to Leroy Raffel, their first offerings included roast beef served on "an egg bun with dimples on the top and sesame seeds and we buttered it and toasted it."

    They began to franchise, and in 1976 sold the chain to the Royal Crown Cola Co. 

    Verdict? Just a myth, but makes for a great coincidence.

    570 votes
  • According to one rumor, Tim Hortons added nicotine to its coffee to make it addictive. To address the rumor in 2004, CBC News' Disclosure decided to test various coffees, including Tim Hortons and Starbucks. Caffeine levels varied and no nicotine was found. 

    In 2013, The Torontoist looked again into whether the coffee and food chain added habit-forming substances to its products. Tim Hortons spokesperson Michelle Robichaud responded:

    There is in fact nothing added to our coffee. We believe that our guests are addicted to consistency.

    Verdict? Just a myth.

    451 votes
  • What's a good alternative to an onion? If one believes stories about White Castle's choice, it's onion-flavored cabbage.

    Rumors that White Castle, the "first fast-food hamburger chain" in the United States, used cabbage soaked in onion juice were met with assertions that the onions found on the chain's signature Slider and other products are real. 

    Verdict? Just a myth.

    390 votes
  • 5
    410 VOTES

    MYTH: Wendy's Burgers Are Square Because They 'Don't Cut Corners'

    One of the biggest myths - or urban legends - associated with Wendy's relates to the notorious finger found in its chili in 2005. Although this story turned out to be false, the restaurant chain said it lost millions of dollars after the claim was made.

    Another rumor that ended up being somewhat true has to do with Wendy's burgers. Wendy's is distinct among fast-food chains for serving square burgers, not round ones like most of its competitors. The square beef patties are thought to be because the franchise "doesn't cut corners." To a certain extent, according to spokesperson Frank Vamos in 2016, this isn't “far from the actual truth”:

    Another big reason is that Dave [Thomas, founder of Wendy's] was always very confident in the quality of our meat. He wanted to make sure that the patty sticks out of the bun so that everyone can see it, see the juiciness. And the square patty does that.

    One more belief is that Wendy's is leading the robot takeover of the fast-food industry. After Wendy's introduced self-serve robots in 2017, people became concerned that robots would take more and more fast-food jobs. Former McDonald's executive Ed Rensi didn't counter this directly, indicating automation was "going to replace people in the service industry" with increasing frequency.  

    Verdict? Just a myth, but not too far off.

    410 votes
  • Because McDonald's calls its milkshakes "shakes," it was fodder for rumors that the sweet, thick treats didn't contain any milk. What people believed shakes did include ranged from animal fat to the gooey substance used to make aliens look slimy in movies. 

    That last one might actually be true - even Roger Ebert wrote about it in a review of From Beyond :

    The slime, I gather, is edible. It comes in 10-gallon drums and is the same stuff McDonald's once used to give body to their milkshakes. I don't know the product trademark, but I would like to think the manufacturers package it like a generic grocery item, in big white cans with black letters that say "SLIME." They use a lot of it in From Beyond, where creatures from other dimensions appear in our world, dripping with mucus and goo. 

    Actress Barbara Crampton, known for her appearances in horror movies, also confirmed the McDonald's - slime connection:

    In From Beyond, I had slime on me for a great part of the movie, because when you go into the Beyond, it sort of appears. We were working with this substance called methylcellulose which at the time, I don’t know if they use it anymore, was the food thickener for McDonald’s milkshakes, so it was this Vaseline-y, cold, gelatinous gel that was all over me.

    McDonald's lists the ingredients of its shakes on its website - methylcellulose isn't listed for shakes, but cellulose gum is (and methylcellulose can be found in other items.) With respect to the milk question, McDonald's has explained that the choice of the name has to do with variations when it comes to milkshake requirements:

    Our shakes contain milk from our reduced-fat soft serve, which makes them thick and creamy. Dairy regulations actually vary from state to state on what can officially be called a “milkshake.” We like to keep it simple and refer to them strictly as “shakes.”

    Shakes aren't the only dessert menu item McDonald's has had to counter specious claims about. Assertions that its fruit pies are made using flavored potatoes - or, in Australia, chokos (a gourd that resembles a pear) - have led to McDonald's talking about its pies for years. 

    McDonald's apple pies are made with apples, and since 2018, the company has served baked pies instead of fried ones throughout the United States.

    Verdict? Just myths.

    387 votes