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America's Largest Fast-Food Chain Is Being Investigated by the Federal Government

The feds want the scoop on Mickey D’s perpetually broken ice cream machines.

Following a recent spike in press coverage of McDonald's perpetually broken McFlurry machines, the federal government is entering the fray. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants the scoop on Mickey D's notoriously unreliable soft serve equipment.

The antitrust agency has reached out to McDonald's franchise owners, who were sent letters of inquiry earlier this summer, the Wall Street Journal reports. Among the things the feds want to know? How frequently franchisees are permitted to repair their own ice cream machines.

The probe of the malfunctioning equipment was described as exploratory in a letter viewed by The Journal. "The existence of a preliminary investigation does not indicate the FTC or its staff have found any wrongdoing," the agency wrote.

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But those familiar with the long and winding story of McDonald's McFlurry woes might not be surprised to learn of the federal government's intervention. McDonald's ice cream equipment is well known for its frequent breakdowns. Countless social media comments document the drama, plus there's a website called McBroken that tracks machines that are "out of operation." Mickey D's even joked about its woes in an infamous 2020 tweet that has since garnered nearly 30,000 likes.

Public scrutiny kicked up a notch after news broke earlier this year of a lawsuit filed against Taylor, the main manufacturer of the ice cream machines. Kytch, a tech company that created a diagnostic tool allowing McDonald's restaurant owners to finetune the machines and avoid expensive breakdowns, alleged that Taylor and a McDonald's franchisee had conspired to duplicate its technology.

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Kytch's lawsuit is still making its way through California Superior court. Though McDonald's is not directly involved in the complaint, that didn't stop Jeremy O'Sullivan, Kytch's co-founder, from taking a shot at the burger slinger this spring. With franchisees seemingly forced to enter into expensive repair contracts with Taylor, O'Sullivan suggested that McDonald's was complicit in a shakedown.

"It's a huge money maker to have a customer that's purposefully, intentionally blind and unable to make very fundamental changes to their own equipment," O'Sullivan told Wired in April.

Whether or not that claim holds up in court remains to be seen. Legal drama aside, here's hoping that the ultimate resolution will be ice cream readily available to the masses.

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Owen Duff
Owen Duff is a freelance journalist based in Vermont, home of Ben & Jerry’s. Read more