Customer Catches McDonald's Refilling Milkshake Machine With "Soiled Towels Only" Bucket

Cellphone cameras may well be the downfall of fast food: A McDonald’s customer in Orlando witnessed employees refilling the milkshake machine from a bucket market “Soiled Towels Only” and snapped a picture with her cellphone. She sent the photo to Orlando’s WFTV.

WFTV sent the photo to McDonald’s. Here’s their response: “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We have taken swift and immediate action to resolve this matter. Nothing is more important to us than the safety and quality of our food.”

McDonald’s sent a different email to the picture-taking customer: “The machine was cleaned that morning. They sanitized the bucket to capture milk and after the repair work was done they put the milk back in the machine. This was an isolated incident.”

WFTV says the McDonald’s in question has had numerous sanitary violations in the past. For those of you in the Orlando area, it’s the McDonald’s on “Narcoossee Road in the Lake Nona area.”


Alleged Milkshake Mistake Turns Stomachs, Prompts Questions [WFTV]


Edit Your Comment

  1. blue_duck says:

    “I’m lovin’ it!” Disgusting.

  2. newlywed says:

    mah bukkit!

  3. aro says:

    I personally like soiled-flavored milkshakes

  4. They sanitized the bucket to capture milk…


    There is a reason the bucket is labled “Soiled Towels Only”. Why should anyone believe it was even possible to sanitize the bucket so it would be safe to hold milk in it? Hell, the milk probably went bad sitting out in a bucket during the repairs anyway.

    They’re insane.

  5. Antediluvian says:

    I have far far FAR less fear of a population carrying cameras everywhere than the government putting them in place.

    And just let me say, ewwwwww.

    And let me also say, call the local health inspectors on any restaurant that pulls this kind of crap. Restaurants take the inspectors very seriously because they can cause BIG financial pain, but the inspectors need tips to help them.

    Oh, and has anyone considered: perhaps McDonald’s milkshakes are MADE FROM soiled towels only? See, perfectly innocent action — they were just topping it off with raw materials.

  6. cryrevolution says:

    oh thats just naaaaasty

  7. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @newlywed: NOOO they be stealin mah milkshake

  8. not_seth_brundle says:

    A good reminder to get milkshakes at places that know how they’re made; i.e., by scooping ice cream and pouring cold milk into a blender. Not by releasing a tap.

  9. blue_duck says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: I don’t remember if it was blue or if it was red. And that scares me.

  10. axiomatic says:

    Note: Everyone in the picture is overweight.

    On topic: Yeah, even if the bucket was boiled in hot water its still YUK!

    Walrus: MkkyDeez haz mah bukket?

  11. RvLeshrac says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation:

    Since when did McDonald’s use milk in the shakes? I’m thinking someone made a mistake in the letter to the customer.

    I highly doubt that the non-dairy milkshake mix went bad while sitting out.

    I’m also sure that the bucket *WAS* sanitized. Properly cleaned, it would be safe enough for a baby to drink out of.

    That said, using the “soiled towels only” bucket, even if properly sanitized, is poor procedure, and the store manager (present in the photo) should be fired.

    I’m sure someone will come along and say that the employees should be sacked, but their job doesn’t include questioning the management. Sad, but true.

  12. MalichiDemonos says:

    All the crud in the bucket made it easier to make oreo mc’fluries. Mmmmmm….

  13. NoWin says:

    Since owning a McD franchise is almost a license to print money in most locations where they operate, I can not understand how the owner could lower his/her standards to allow any level of violation.

    We have a McD in the next town, and the owner has 2 franchise shops (the other about 15 miles away), and his family and crew works their butts off to keep it ship-shape 24 hours a day.

    If I were the McD exec, I’d pull their franchise on the spot. But again, that’s just me….

  14. Jon Mason says:

    Am I the only one who read that as WTFTV??? As in WTF????

    Actually after googling WTF TV, (sounded like a good name for a video site) turns out there is a WTF-TV in Las Vegas… do you want to tell them or should I?

  15. jaredgood1 says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: I can has soiled milkshake?

  16. RvLeshrac says:


    You can’t necessarily tell if someone is overweight by looking at them. If raw size was all that mattered, Vin Diesel in loose clothing would be obese.

  17. killavanilla says:

    At one of my bars we used orange home depot buckets to refill the ice bins. They were cleaned and sanitized nightly. One time a customer stopped me and told me it was disgusting that we were using a construction bucket to refill the ice.
    So I replaced the orange home depot buckets with plain white ones that I subsequently labeled in large letter – ICE ONLY.
    Perception is reality. This is gross.

  18. This is not surprising to me.

    Many of the franchise-owned McDonald’s locations in Orlando are host to some shockingly filthy conditions. I’m not sure who owns these franchises, but they need to get nailed and nailed hard. No amount of complaints over the course of two years to McDonald’s corporate complaint line ever resolved the chronic ailments I noticed.

  19. floofy says:

    Why the hell would they reuse the milk anyway? they should’ve thrown out the milk that was in the machine esp if the machine was in need of cleaning. Wouldn’t you be putting dirty milk back into a clean machine?

  20. nate4096 says:

    Actually WTF-TV is a fake website that was setup for a prank over at

  21. Parting says:

    When eating fastfood, I silently hope that there were no dangerous bacteria in my meal.
    McDonalds feels like russian roulette these days :(

  22. OnceWasCool says:

    How soiled was the towels that once were in that bucket? Soiled with grease or the juice from a few hundred pimples as they wipe their faces.

    Big difference!!! Not worth taking the risk.

  23. rubberpants says:

    “This was an isolated incident.”

    Yea, /normally/ they don’t sanitize the bucket.

  24. enm4r says:

    @RvLeshrac: I’m sure someone will come along and say that the employees should be sacked, but their job doesn’t include questioning the management. Sad, but true.

    Yes it does, when they receive orders to do something that blatantly violates code or procedure. Don’t tell me if management had their employees harm employees you’d stand by that too…obviously not. And it’s not a questionable line that needs to be drawn, the line is already drawn.

    Management, I assume the one watching the entire process to “make sure it gets done correctly” should be fired, and the employee should be reprimanded as well. There is no excuse for that, they didn’t have another bucket to use that wasn’t in unsanitary conditions 99% of the time?

    That said, a properly sanitized bucket would be completely fine to eat out of, but that doesn’t excuse their actions, nor does “this was an isolated incident.” You can make firing the manager in the picture an isolated incident as well…

  25. vanilla-fro says:

    “just put it all in a bucket”

    Can I be concerned about the chemicals here?

    Honestly, this is really fowl not to mention dangerous. The nasties that could be on a soiled towel at McD’s have to be the worst. Just think of how soiled the towel must be before it is placed in the soiled towel bucket.

  26. vanilla-fro says:

    @vanilla-fro: foul

  27. cryrevolution says:

    Wait…they use milk in their milkshakes?? I thought it was just water and some mix. Maybe its milk and some milkshake MIX! Ahhh its all becoming clear now.

  28. headon says:

    Worse, the bucket was made in China.

  29. While the thought is nasty, if it is properly cleaned and rinse I seriously doubt that bucket is worse for you than anything on the McD’s menu. Some of you guys are so hypersensitive!

  30. mandarin says:

    Man, those employees are out of shape…

  31. hapless says:


    A McDonalds franchise is a rather low-margin business, actually. Costs are *extremely* high, and company stores won’t hesitate to run you out of business. You need runaway sales just to avoid closing.

  32. davere says:

    I should say that the area where this McDonald’s is located is very close to the airport. Visiting tourists, be careful!

  33. Beerad says:

    @enm4r: Why do I doubt that a minimum wage employee is going to stand up to Ronald McManager and say “Sir, it would be a violation of health codes to do what you’ve just asked me to do!” I mean, there’s a reason McDonald’s relies heavily on icons and pictures for training their front-line employees.

    If the bucket was sanitized before use, that doesn’t change the fact that the restaurant clearly doesn’t have separate food-safe containers for stuff like this, which suggests big problems. If it wasn’t sanitized (or, if I had to guess, sanitized by rinsing it out with hot water), well, that’s an even bigger problem.

  34. I’m Disgusted

  35. OnceWasCool says:

    Just a thought. If they are making milk shakes in the soiled towel bucket, where are they putting the soiled towels?


  36. gibbersome says:

    Just the way mom used to make it!

  37. ekthesy says:

    Although I certainly can’t condone this behaviour, I’m always surprised by people’s “eeeewww, gross” reactions.

    Has anyone ever seen the inside of a chicken processing plant? I’ll tell you, it makes a soiled-towel milkshake sound like two hours at Le Bernardin.

  38. WV.Hillbilly says:

    There is a new TV license in Arizona for KWTF.
    There’s also one in Hawaii for KUNT.

    Both stations are owned by the same company. The owners claim to be shocked.

    A real station with the call letters WTF would have to be east of the Mississippi River.

  39. Myron says:

    First of all, great call sign – WTFTV.

    “Nothing is more important to us than the safety and quality of our food”

    Really? Given the picture, that sounds like an empty statement.

  40. geekfather says:

    really… if you’re eating at Mickey D’s, healthy eating is probably not high on your list of priorities.

  41. erciesielski says:

    @floofy: I worked at a McDonalds for about 5 years starting when I was 15, So maybe I can shed some light on this. Once a week, the ice cream machine will go into “lockout mode”. When in this mode, the machine simply refuses to make ice cream until the machine is cleaned. All the parts that touch food are taken apart and cleaned. Temperature sensors inside detect that the machine has been drained of ice cream mix and filled with hot water a few times to sanitize it. Then the machine is put back together and refilled with ice cream mix. Since there’s nothing wrong with the ice cream mix, there’s no reason to waste it. In the store I worked at, we had stainless steel containers specifically for storing the mix in the cooler, we didn’t use buckets though. Even though I’m sure it was cleaned, it still doesn’t look very good.

  42. bohemian says:

    That is nasty. I don’t care if they were cleaning the machine OR using a clean bucket. Draining the machine, leaving it out in the open or otherwise carting it around or not keeping it at temp is gross. McDonalds is just that cheap they wouldn’t throw a few gallons of milkshake mix away.

    At the local fair this summer, the dairy board that serves milkshakes to promote their dairy products. They were using the fake milkshake mix in the cartons. Blech.

  43. This is a true story. When I was in high school, I worked part time at a tamale factory. The factory mostly sold wholesale to supermarkets, but also had a small drive-through retail section that drew a considerable amount of customer traffic.

    One day, a dog was hit on the nearby road, and I was asked to remove its carcass because it was right next to the drive-through entrance. The only thing I had with me to put the dog into was an empty “___’s Tamales” box, so that’s what I used. Everyone who drove by just saw this guy putting a dead dog into a tamale-branded box and walking back to the tamale factory.

    If only The Consumerist (and cell phone cameras) had been around then.

  44. erockO says:

    For the soft serve machines I use to operate, the mix would come in half gallon cartons and we would just pour it in. Why they are using a bucket for this machine is beyond me and even if it was sanitized the minute before, it is still NOT serve-safe.

  45. King of the Wild Frontier says:

    The last few times that I went to Sick Mac’s, the milkshakes (prominently advertised in the drive-thru) were unavailable because the shake machine was “broken”. Lucky me.

  46. killavanilla says:

    @Chris Walters:
    Two comments on that:
    1) That is freakin’ hilarious….
    2) No way they paid you enough to pick up a dead dog…. Gross. I’d likely have quit over that.

  47. Meg Marco says:

    @Chris Walters: Someday, my friend, I will tell you a dead dog story that involves the new york city subway and luggage theft.

  48. enm4r says:

    @Beerad: I don’t care how they’re trained. It would have taken about 5 seconds to find another bucked if they really did normally follow procedure. Because no one around was willing to take 5 seconds, that suggests obvious flaws in their management, and that it was in no way an isolated incident. Workers should be reprimanded as a way to remind them that they are responsible for their actions, and management that supervised the entire operation should be fired. Improper training is not an excuse.

  49. ChrisC1234 says:

    @erciesielski: It seems to me that putting the mix back into the machine after sanitizing it is self defeating.
    – The machine needs to be cleaned / sanitized because too much bacteria is inside it
    – The insides of the machine contain as much bacteria as the mix inside of it
    – Putting the old mix back inside the machine after cleaning the machine just puts all of the bacteria back inside it.

    Am I missing something? It’s like taking a bath to put on the same dirty clothes you just took off (which then put some of the filth right back on you).

  50. MisterE says:

    This is disgusting. The sad part is nothing is going to force fast food establishments to clean up their act. With the occasional visit from the Mchealth Inspector, I know they’re usually bought off with a happy meal. The fact that the food is bad enough, combined with the unsanitary conditions of these places and poor service is a recipe for a MCdisaster.


    I’m Hatin’ it.

  51. Blue says:

    Being in the north east i often will eat a “Pizzeria”. On rare occasions i will notice that the pizza may have a “Wash Rag” flavor to it. Im sure it is from some ignorant person whipping down the oven surface with a filthy wash rag. YUK!!

  52. Blue says:

    Being from the Northeast i will often eat at a Pizzeria. On rare occasion i may notice the pizza has a “Wash Rag” flavor to it. I’m sure it is from some ignorant person whipping down the oven surface with a filthy wash rag. YUK!!

  53. Beerad says:

    @enm4r: I just don’t think that reprimanding Skippy McWageSlave is going to help that much in this situation. Totally agree that management should be fired, but next time is there going to be a worker’s revolt where the fry cooks stand up for proper sanitary procedures? Doubtful.

    And I’m not saying that poor training excuses what happened, merely that an employee in that situation isn’t likely to risk job termination by being insubordinate in order to do the right thing.

  54. swalve says:

    @floofy: It appears that the machine was emptied for a repair, not for sanitizing. I could be wrong.

    It depends on the jurisdiction, but generally the bacterial cycle is broken either nightly or weekly. What this means is that while the machine is sanitized every night in all locations, the shake mix that is in the machine at the end of the night is used the next morning after starting the machine on fresh mix. This is called rerun. Now, this is just a precaution for food contamination reasons, as the shake mix is refrigerated below 40 degrees at all times. The mix is no more susceptible to anything in a bucket or in the shake machine.

    Perception is everything, but a bucket is just a bucket. If it’s clean, it’s fine.

  55. putch says:

    i worked at a mcd’s when i was 16. and the shake/ice cream machine was ALWAYS the grossest thing in there. the manual said we were supposed to clean it once a week but I’m fairly certain no one ever did. and when i’d come in on the opening shift in the morning the machine would have been off all night. and when you opened the top it would smell of rancid milk (which is shocking, cause most of it ISNT milk). but all we did (and all we were told to do) was just top it up with another “bag ‘o mix”. and i worked at one of the few corporate owned stores (no franchisee involved).

    that being said, i had a delicious milk shake from a mcd’s just last week.

  56. OKH says:

    I thought you could only use stainless with dairy or at least it’s a best practice.

    One more thing – I brew my own beer and if there’s one thing brewers know is it that you CANNOT sanitize those plastic buckets because they scratch so easily. They can say they sanitized them all they want, it doesn’t make it so.

  57. harshmellow says:

    All this talk about eating out of buckets–everybody knows if you want to eat out of a bucket, you have to go to KFC.

  58. TechnoDestructo says:

    There was a rumor going round about the North Pole, AK, McDonald’s about a decade ago that someone had shit in the shake machine.

    And that it had only been found when the machine clogged.

    Don’t know if it’s true, and it was a long time ago, but ….bleh.


    Your customer is an idiot.

  59. liquisoft says:

    At least they didn’t get a picture of the bucket they used to fill the soft-serve ice cream machine. “Human Excrement Only” just isn’t spinnable.

  60. goodguy812 says:

    as a past mickey d’s employee, i’ll tell you to never, i repeat NEVER get any ice cream or shakes. i’ll sum up my story about it in a nut shell…..maggots! yup! have you ever been told the machine is “down”? its when they went to “fix” it that it was discovered to be a fly breeding haven.

  61. jeffeb3 says:

    @RvLeshrac: “I’m also sure that the bucket *WAS* sanitized. Properly cleaned, it would be safe enough for a baby to drink out of.”

    LOL. NO matter how clean it was, babies aren’t supposed to drink out of buckets. It’s a drowning hazzard.

    Seriously though, everyone has different tolerances for what they want in their food. That’s why , if you are in the restaurant business, you have to do things that aren’t only safe, they are perceived as safe if you want your customers to trust you.

  62. jeffeb3 says:


    My guess is it wasn’t an issue of finding another bucket. My guess is the first guy put the shake mix in the bucket. Then the last guy put the shake mix back, and they preiously used the buckets to clean floors, so they had sanitizing stuff in there previously. Therefor, I will never eat at fast food again (I don’t anyways but yuck.)

  63. Grimspoon says:

    This is why I don’t eat at fast food places while travelling in the US. It’s been my experience that pretty much all restaraunts in the United States are compeltely filthy when compared to their Canadian counterparts.


  64. NickRB says:

    perhaps they sanitized the bucket with bleach before using it for the milkshakes?

  65. Ncisfan says:

    MMMMMM Dirty Dish Towel flavor my favorite!!!

  66. LAGirl says:

    im in ur bukkit, stealin ur towelz

  67. overbysara says:



  68. Bunnymuffin says:

    @MEGMARCO & Chris Walters

    Maybe a dead dog at work thread? Mine involves a dog, a little old lady and a lot of weird phone calls.

  69. magus_melchior says:

    @NickRB: Mmmm… bleach-flavored soiled milkshakes. Destroys e. coli, salmonella, and your liver!

  70. Antediluvian says:

    You’re right that slaughterhouses can be pretty gross to people who aren’t used to it / don’t understand what’s going on there (so can open-heart surgery), but that’s one of the reasons we don’t eat raw meat in this country. The milkshakes were not cooked later as far as I know. So I still consider this episode to warrant an, “ewwwwww.” :-)

  71. you CANNOT sanitize those plastic buckets because they scratch so easily. They can say they sanitized them all they want, it doesn’t make it so.

    @OKH: Exactly!

    What about the container the milk came in? They didn’t have empty plastic bottles of milk, juice, or anything they could have used?

  72. HungryGrrl says:

    Snopes tackle the McDonalds “Shake” ingredient rumours: []

  73. Bruce says:

    @newlywed: DO NOT WANT!

    For all those who think that using just any recently cleaned bucket is fine, there are differences in plastics and it matters when they come into contact with food.



    ” Plastics To Avoid

    If you know that a plastic container or bag is not made of food grade material, you should not use it. If you cannot determine the food grade status of a container or bag, you should assume it is not food grade and not use it.

    Examples include:

    * HDPE white plastic containers of unknown food grade status
    * Garbage cans or pails
    * Mop buckets
    * Laundry detergent or kitty litter buckets
    * Dry pet food buckets
    * 5-gallon utility buckets from the home center
    * Household storage containers
    * Garbage bags
    * Any container, even if made of food grade plastic that has been used to store non-food items like chemicals, paint, or detergent.”

  74. FMulder says:

    Why are you people arguing about how sanitized the bucket could be?

    Why can’t they buy a NEW bucket?

    Why do they have to sanitize the “soiled towels only” bucket to use for the milk?

    Why can’t they have a special ‘milkshake cleaning only’ bucket?

  75. FMulder says:


    Noted and yuck

  76. tadowguy says:

    Wait, if you have container C holding stuff S, and you remove stuff S, and sanitize container C, and then RE-ADD stuff S, container C is no longer sanitized.

    Thats like taking the shit out of your toilet while you clean the toilet and then putting it back in and calling it sparkling.

  77. tadowguy says:

    I would also like to point out as a beer brewer (and hence santization nazi), “soiled” or any other type of towel used wet around sinks/floors/etc is basically OVERFLOWING with bacteria, and bacteria LOVE the lactose in milk.

  78. tadowguy says:

    There is a reason the bucket is labled “Soiled Towels Only”. Why should anyone believe it was even possible to sanitize the bucket so it would be safe to hold milk in it?

    Again as a brewer I would like to point out that plastic easily scratches, especially non-food grade. Bacteria grow in the scratches in the bucket because you cannot clean that surface anymore when you wipe down the inside. You either have to be very careful with your plastic, or use all glass, which is what I brew in now.

  79. randomizer9 says:

    Yet _another_ reason not to eat at McDonalds, as if we needed another.

  80. rmuser says:

    I have to wonder how common this is. A couple years ago, we stopped at a Long John Silver’s (our first, and last time ever), and the woman in front of us ordered a milkshake. An employee went into the back room and brought out a jug of milk and began pouring it into the milkshake machine. The jug was labeled “NO GOOD” in large red block letters on the side. The woman told him, and he apologized profusely and left. The manager then came out and apologized. We and several other people walked out.

    Stay away from fast food milkshakes. Imagine if she’d been in the drive-through.

  81. mystang101 says:

    Although WTF is definitely more appropriate… The TV station at the top was actually WFTV…

  82. Eliamias says:

    The power of McD’s. The story appears to no longer be on WFTV’s website

  83. abigsmurf says:

    “what about the container the milk came in”

    The mix comes in bags which are next to impossible to pour into something high up.

  84. 4ster says:

    I like how they say they did nothing wrong AND that it was an isolated incident.

    It’s like Michael Scott saying “I didn’t get both of your messages.”

  85. Caroofikus says:

    Here’s a good one (from Maddox):

    I’m loving it = I am loving it

    Rearrange the letters and you get:

    Ailing Vomit