FTC Investigating Broken McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines

The problems with McDonald's ice cream machines has been a long-standing issue.

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If it seems that you can never get a McFlurry with your McDonald’s order because the machine that makes the ice cream dessert is always out of order, it isn’t your imagination. The machines break down enough that the issue has caught the attention of the federal government.

On Sept. 1, 2021, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reached out to McDonald’s restaurant franchisees in the summer of 2021, “seeking information on what, exactly, is going on with the broken ice cream machine problem.” The WSJ story cites a letter sent to franchise owners, which it viewed, and “people familiar with the matter.”

We reached out to the FTC with questions about the reports but were told by a spokesperson that the agency couldn’t comment because its investigations aren’t public. The agency generally doesn’t comment on the such news reports, the spokesperson stated in an email to Snopes.

We also reached out to McDonald’s for comment and will update if we hear back.

But according to WSJ, it’s part of a broader push by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden that scrutinizes whether device manufacturers are throwing up barriers that prevent device owners and operators from repairing the items themselves.

The problem was described in an August 2020 blog post published by Taste of Home, a food-oriented website, which reported:

To get around the temperamental machines, a company called Kytch created a small device that allowed employees to essentially “hack” the McFlurry system, identify the problem and repair it themselves. The company then filed a lawsuit that claimed that Taylor “designed flawed code that caused the machines to malfunction,” so that they could benefit from repairs.

So for now, you may have to keep your McFlurry cravings to a minimum until all of this is resolved. If you really can’t control yourself, a frequent McDonald’s ice cream customer kindly created an app that lets you check if the ice cream machine is up and running at the McDonald’s closest to you.

A representative for Taylor told WSJ that the problems with the machines are attributable to a “lack of knowledge” about how to operate the machines in restaurant settings, adding that, “you have to make sure the machine is cleaned properly. The machines are built up with a lot of interconnecting parts that have to operate in a complex environment and manner.”