When it comes to fast food arches, all that glitters is not gold. And in McDonald's case, it's difficult to say whether its fair share of criticism comes in spite of it being one of America's most iconic brands, or perhaps because of it.
The fast-food chain's come up for a dose of criticism in recent years over the nutritional value and sustainability of its offerings and for its low-paying jobs. And business has stumbled. Subway actually overtook McDonald's in 2011 as the fast food chain with the most locations worldwide. Things got worse in the summer of 2012 when sales dropped for the first time in a decade, a slump from which McDonald's has yet to recover.
When contacted by The Huffington Post, the fast food chain emphasized recent efforts to improve the McDonald's experience for customers and employees alike.
“We now offer more choices and variety on our menu, as well as nutrition information so customers can make the choices that are right for them," a McDonald's USA spokesperson told HuffPost in an email. "We’ve most recently reinforced our commitments to sustainability in the areas of fish and coffee and we continue to offer a variety of training and professional development opportunities for employees who want to move from crew to management.
"We have a long history of continuous improvement and we will continue to meet our customers’ changing tastes and the changing needs of the communities we serve.”
CORRECTION: A slide in the below slideshow previously stated that a coffee-related injury led to the customer being awarded more than half a million dollars in total damages. The total was actually just a little under half a million dollars.
Here are some moments in McDonald's history the mega-chain would prefer you forget:
Its CEO-Worker Pay Gap Is Booming
The <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-12/mcdonald-s-8-25-man-and-8-75-million-ceo-shows-pay-gap.html" target="_blank">wealth gap between McDonald's CEOs and its workers</a> has doubled over the last 10 years, Bloomberg reported late last year. Employees are trying to change that by <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/04/fast-food-strikes-new-york-city_n_3009780.html" target="_blank">staging strikes calling for higher wages</a>.
Its Marketing Targets Kids
McDonald's has faced criticism for using marketing targeted at children (i.e. the Happy Meal) in order to gain life-long customers. Indeed, the company has in fact <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2010/11/08/study-fast-food-ads-target-kids-with-unhealthy-food-and-it-works/" target="_blank">increased its marketing geared towards children</a> even after criticism began to heat up following the release of the 2004 documentary <em>Super Size Me</em>, according to Time. The company gives away roughly <a href="http://voices.yahoo.com/mcdonalds-gives-away-over-15-billion-toys-every-year-2636248.html" target="_blank">1.5 billion toys each year</a>.
It Has Been Accused Of Rainforest Destruction
In 2006, <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,190947,00.html" target="_blank">Greenpeace accused McDonald's of contributing to the destruction of the rainforest</a> because the company allegedly used soybeans harvested from endangered areas to feed chickens it eventually served, Fox News reports. However, Greenpeace later teamed up with <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/23/AR2007042301903.html" target="_blank">McDonald's to place a moratorium on trading soybeans</a> that had been harvested from newly deforested areas, according to The Washington Post. <em>This slide has been updated to include McDonald's later efforts to stop rainforest destruction.</em>
One Of Its Franchisees Was Accused Of Exploiting Workers
A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/14/andy-cheung-mcdonalds_n_2878174.html" target="_blank">McDonald's franchise owner left the company</a> after he was accused of exploiting <a href="https://editorial.huffingtonpost.com/slides/v2/#slideshow/290987/slide/2318883" target="_blank">student guest workers by paying them below minimum wage</a> and providing them with substandard housing.
Its Coffee Has Caused Injuries
One of the most-talked about scandals in McDonald's history is the lawsuit the company faced in <a href="http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cur78.htm" target="_blank">1992, after 79-year-old customer Stella Liebeck sustained third-degree burns</a> from spilling a cup of the chain's coffee. Liebeck was <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/21/booming/not-just-a-hot-cup-anymore.html" target="_blank">ultimately awarded </a>about half a million dollars. McDonald's has since <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/26/mcdonalds-coffee-lawsuit_n_1380578.html" target="_blank">faced other</a> hot coffee lawsuits. <em>Correction: A previous version of this slide stated a jury awarded Liebeck more than half a million dollars in damages.</em>
Its Sales Aren't What They Used To Be
Last August, McDonald's announced <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/08/mcdonalds-sales-drop_n_2093250.html" target="_blank">sales had declined for the first time since 2003</a>. Despite efforts to reinvigorate revenue, including the release of new menu items like McBites, the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/08/mcdonalds-sales-fish-mcbites_n_2836952.html" target="_blank">fast food chain continues to struggle</a>.
It Has Been Accused Of Using Expired Chinese Chicken
Chinese state TV accused <a href="http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-03-17/china/31204644_1_food-safety-mcdonald-s-corp-french-retailer-carrefour" target="_blank">McDonald's of serving expired chicken in 2012</a>, Times of India reports.
It Refuses To Assess Its Impact On Childhood Obesity
Despite accusations that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/24/mcdonalds-obesity-proposal_n_1543383.html" target="_blank">McDonald's is a major contributor to childhood obesity</a>, the company has refused to assess the impact it has on children's weight.
Its Employees Work On Christmas
In recent years, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/mcdonalds-open-on-christmas_n_2315335.html" target="_blank">McDonald's has urged its franchises to stay open on Christmas day</a>. In addition, workers at company-owned restaurants didn't receive overtime for working the holiday last year.
Its Oatmeal Isn't Good For You
McDonald's released an oatmeal option for breakfast as part of an overall aim to make its menu more nutritious. The only problem is, <a href="http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/how-to-make-oatmeal-wrong/?partner=rss&emc=rss" target="_blank">the oatmeal isn't so healthy</a>, the New York Times reports.
It Has Some Products That Totally Bombed
McDonald's has had its fair share of products that have fallen flat -- McLobster anyone? One of our favorite fails might be the <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/news/pf_article_113424.html" target="_blank">McDLT that was discontinued over backlash regarding the environmental impact of its packaging </a>. The sandwich came in two styrofoam containers. One housed the lettuce and tomato, the other, the burger. The goal was to keep the vegetables cold and the burger hot. But even a jingle-singing Jason Alexander with a full head of hair apparently couldn't save the sandwich, which the company eventually pulled.