The Feds Are Trying to Understand Why McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Always Seem Broken
Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images

Twenty years after the FBI had McDonald’s in the fryer for their Monopoly fraud scandal, the fast food chain is back in hot water with another three letter agency—this time, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).

This latest embroilment is the polar opposite of their 1992 lawsuit over dangerously hot coffee. As NPR aptly recaps, “I scream. You scream. We all scream…out of sheer rage that the McDonald’s ice-cream machine is busted again.”

McDonald’s is notorious for problems with their ice cream machines, which makes it impossible to serve customers their McFlurries, shakes, and other frozen treats. In fact, the company even wrote a self-deprecating Tweet about this infamous issue last year: “We have a joke about our soft serve machine but are worried it won’t work.”

According to McDonald’s owners, maintenance for these machines is highly complex, and extremely difficult to repair after a breakdown. “They also need to be put through a four-hour nightly automated heat-cleaning cycle to destroy any bacteria, which owners complain can leave the machines unusable until a repair technician comes to fix them,” according to the Independent.

Earlier this year, a group of franchisees in the National Owners Association complained, and this summer, the feds got involved. The FTC, the agency charged with consumer protection against fraud and unfair business practices, contacted numerous franchise owners trying to glean information about the inoperative ice cream machines. Their interest is allegedly in how McDonald’s “reviews suppliers and equipment, including the McFlurry Machines, and how restaurant owners are allowed to work on the equipment.”

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This is transpiring as the Biden administration begins to broadly look into “whether manufacturers have been blocking owners from fixing broken products themselves…Advocates of the ‘right to repair’ movement say companies should not make it nearly impossible for users and independent technicians to repair modern products, particularly consumer electronics.”

In response to these allegations, McDonald’s USA issued a statement, “Intrinsic to the interest in our soft serve machines is our fans’ love of McDonald’s iconic McFlurry desserts and shakes…Nothing is more important to us than delivering on our high standards for food quality and safety, which is why we work with fully vetted partners that can reliably provide safe solutions at scale. McDonald’s has no reason to believe we are the focus of an FTC investigation.”

While this inquiry has only just begun, in the meantime if you’re hit with a late night craving, make sure to check out the ‘McBroken’ map to see if your local McDonald’s ice cream machine is in working order.

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