McDonald’s Accidentally Left Unretouched Images of Food on Its Website

An apparent oversight reportedly demonstrates how McDonald’s tweaks images of its food.

McDonald’s runs a massive fast food chain. It isn’t a tech company. If you found a bug on the brand’s website, you’d probably just chalk it up to “Will this really affect my purchase of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?” That said, even brick-and-mortar companies can have digital goof-ups, and a potential oversight reportedly uncovered by Business Insider might end up costing someone in the graphics department their job.

As Business Insider explains, “If you look at the details of many of the photos on McDonald's website, there is a layer called ‘retouched.’ Turning the layer on and off reveals what the already stylized menu items looked like in the photo shoot and what they look like after a round of editing.” To put it another way, not only does McDonald’s allegedly retouch the images of its food—which, for the record, is normal across the industry—but for some reason, the company’s tech team has left both the original image and the corrected image in some of its files, meaning anyone who downloads those files can see both versions of the photo. Saving files this way is a common feature in photo editing software like Photoshop; however, making these kinds of files public-facing would seem like a mistake. (Though, at the same time, since multiple layers can’t be seen by the naked eye, it’s also a bit unusual that this issue was even uncovered.)

Getty Images

Emma Fierberg, who co-wrote the store for BI, explained how she discovered the multiple layers. “I stumbled upon the images by chance and immediately showed a bunch of my colleagues the comparisons. We quickly decided this was something more people needed to see,” she told Food & Wine via email. “I was searching the McDonald's media page and began downloading images for a story I was working on…. When I brought some of the files into Photoshop, I saw a layer that says ‘retouched.’ I turned the layer on and off, and the original, untouched images appeared! I then looked through every image I downloaded, and while some had no retouch layers to turn off, many did.”

Armed with both sets of photos, Business Insider was then able to make animated GIFs comparing the two images—relentlessly showing the differences by flashing between the original and retouched versions.

McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants have already been criticized in the past for selling food that doesn’t quite live up to its advertised imagery, so the GIFs do hammer home the idea of just how much work companies like McDonald’s go through to control how their food appears.

According to BI, “McDonald's didn't immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.” Though to be fair, what would McDonald’s really say? It’s like catching someone eating a grape in the supermarket and then asking them what they’re doing. “Uh, I’m eating a grape.” But regardless, it’s probably safe to say that the McDonald’s website team isn’t having a fun Friday. Don’t worry, the weekend’s almost here.

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