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This Teen Said He Was Fired From McDonald's After Sharing Photos Of Mold In The Ice Cream Machine

The former employee said he is not trying to slander the entire company, but he believes the conditions at his Louisiana location were "disgusting."

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Eighteen-year-old Nick was an employee of a McDonald's in LaPlace, Louisiana, for five months. He was a general crew member, which meant he was tasked with a little bit of every operational duty at the restaurant.

Nick

AKA the job entailed "doing anything we're told to do," explained Nick, who asked that his last name not be used in this story.

Nick told BuzzFeed News that while on the job about a month ago, he was instructed by a manager to refill the ice cream machine. He'd accidentally spilled some of it, and so he tried to clean the areas of his mess, including the sides of the machine.

Nick

"I tried to clean the machine after I spilled it, so I pulled [the trays] out from the side," he said.

"I was completely shocked by what I saw," said Nick after he found what looked be mold completely coating the inside of a tray.

Nick

"I thought [the machine] would be cleaned regularly," Nick said. He said that neither he, nor other general crew employees at this location, were ever told to clean the machine.

After repeated attempts to reach the LaPlace McDonald's, owner and operator John Valluzzo eventually sent BuzzFeed News a statement saying his restaurant "regularly conduct[s] in-person and online employee training sessions as well as internal inspections to ensure crew members are following safe food practices."

"In addition, we have a long history of passing regular health department inspections," Valluzzo said.

However, a spokesperson for McDonald's HQ told BuzzFeed News they are "committed to running great restaurants" of "high-quality food, service, and a clean environment."

The spokesperson also said that the moldy tray Nick photographed does not cross paths with the actual ice cream.

"This is a part of our soft-serve equipment that does not come into contact with any food and is required to undergo regular and timely cleaning," the representative stated.

The company did not respond to questions about who is responsible for regularly cleaning the machines.

The most recent Louisiana Department of Health inspection reports that are publicly available for the LaPlace McDonald's on West Airline Highway are from 2015. The two routine inspections found four critical violations of food safety that were then corrected on the spot by staff, among them being "food contact surfaces and utensils are not clean to sight and touch."

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In early July, Nick pulled out his phone and took some photos of what he found. He said he knew he might get in trouble for sharing them publicly. But for two weeks, he wrestled with the idea of risking his job to expose what he felt were unsanitary conditions.

Nick

A company-wide policy discourages McDonald's employees from sharing anything online that may "undermine the goodwill, reputation, development and/or operation" of its brand. "Any deviation from these commitments may be subject to disciplinary or other appropriate action, up to and including termination of employment," the policy states.

Nick said he was well-aware of the policy and the consequences, so he'd kept the photos to himself for two weeks. But his discontent with his job and the work environment only grew.

"The working conditions were ridiculous — everyone was inappropriate and nothing was clean," he said.

Then in mid-July, he decided to tweet the photo, which quickly went viral. "I shared it because I wanted to let people know what they’re consuming, and how disgusting the conditions are," he told BuzzFeed News.

This came out of McDonald's ice cream machine in case y'all were wondering...

"I always knew deep down I was going to post it," Nick also said.

He added that this is one McDonald's location — and it should not be seen as reflecting the conditions of all of the chain's restaurants.

The photos shocked a lot of people online, but some who said they were McDonald's workers claimed Nick and his colleagues should have been the ones to clean the ice cream machine.

@phuckyounick about* so at the end of the day is the employees' fault not the company

But Nick and others who said they worked at different McDonald's locations maintained that they were never tasked with cleaning the machine — and that the responsibility often fell on the managers.

@notdannym @phuckyounick Actually they dnt teach the employees to do this regularly, the managers clean the machine… https://t.co/3kQg1rd3bZ

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People who claimed to be former employees have also been sharing disturbing claims of ice cream machine conditions.

@phuckyounick So I see nothing's changed since I worked for MickeyD's 17 years ago. 😂😂 we had weird white alive thi… https://t.co/8PKyQyuMKA

Meanwhile, some Wendy's employees took the opportunity to be smug about their ice cream trays.

@phuckyounick Meanwhile at Wendy's...😏

@notdannym @wydpennie @phuckyounick That sounds like BS, every employee cleans frosty machines at Wendy's and they… https://t.co/NVr1sSyt2J

And others simply joked about still having an appetite for Mickey D's ice cream.

@phuckyounick I just ate McDonald's today and y'all got that nasty shit going on. The crazy part my fat ass will st… https://t.co/qYMw9Tq1r9

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After his first tweet, Nick then shared several other photos he took while on the job, including what McDonald's frozen foods looks like before they're prepared.

Since I'm exposing McDonald's I might as well show y'all what y'all really eating... fresh out the freezer.

And other photos of what he said were dirty preparation areas in the restaurant.

Nick said his manager pulled him aside last Wednesday and abruptly fired him.

@DaOG_GC @daancingpandaa @phuckyounick @MylaJ_ I feel like I just witnessed classism among fast food.

According to Nick, his manager said, "You know you’re fired right?" when he confessed to posting the photos.

"I just walked out," Nick said, adding that he knew exactly why he was being let go, even though the manager did not say anything further.

"They banned me from that McDonald's," he said.

Nick said he accepted his firing, and he quickly landed another job. But he claimed that on Monday two people he believes to be McDonald's regional managers met with him to try to convince him to take down his tweet and photos.

"They were very disrespectful," he said.

"They were begging me to delete my tweet."

He added, "They said I was slandering [the] McDonald’s brand. I don’t tweet lies. I took the tray out and took a picture."

Asked about this meeting and other issues related to the LaPlace location, a spokesperson for McDonalds HQ said they couldn't answer questions for locally owned and operated franchises.

Tanya Chen is a social news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in New York.

Contact Tanya Chen at tanya.chen@buzzfeed.com.

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