IN SHORT: In a viral video a customer confronts staff at a McDonald’s fast food outlet, saying the blue-and-white wrapper she received her food in is in support of Israel. That country’s flag is also blue and white, but the company maintains the wrappers predate the escalating conflict between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Please note: This fact-checking report is about a breaking news story. Information was, as far as possible, correct at time of publication but may change rapidly.
“McDonald’s Ignites Controversy with Israel-Inspired Wrapper Colors” reads the description of a video circulating on social media in October 2023.
In the video, a customer, reportedly in the US city of Chicago, questions two McDonald’s employees about a blue and white food wrapper she has received, claiming that the colour change is in support of Israel. The Israeli flag is blue and white, featuring a six-pointed Star of David.
On 7 October, the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an attack on Israel. Israel then declared war on the group, firing air strikes on Gaza. The Gaza Strip is one of the world’s most densely populated territories and lies mainly within Israel. It is controlled by Hamas and is mostly occupied by Palestinians.
Since Israel started bombing Gaza and as of 3 November over 9,000 people have been killed and millions displaced. This has been met with international condemnation and calls for a ceasefire but there is no end in sight.
The video showing the McDonald’s food wrapper appeared on Facebook here, here, here, here, here, here and here. It was especially popular on TikTok, like here with 700,000 views, here with over 200,000 views, and here with 177,000 views.
But what’s the real story? Did McDonald’s change its wrap colours to resemble the Israeli flag? Here’s what we found.
McDonald’s US denies the claim
“Why is it blue and white?” the customer in the video asks a cashier off-camera. “I honestly don’t know,” they reply. “I think you do know. This is in support of Israel,” the customer says in response. Although the cashier says the wrapper predates the October escalation of the Israel-Hamas crisis, the customer goes on to question another cashier, who claims the colour change is about a week old.
McDonald’s US told FullFact that the packaging was not intended as a political statement. Instead, it was used to indicate a special order, limited edition product or when there was a shortage of other wrappers. In the video, one of the cashiers said the wrapper was used as they had run out of others.
The company said these wrappers came in a variety of colours and have existed for years. Fact-checking organisations pointed out that McDonald’s has previously used blue and white packaging for their products, as can be seen here, here and here.
McDonald’s backlash and calls to boycott
Although there is no evidence of McDonald’s US showing support for Israel by using blue-and-white wrappers, there is an ongoing backlash against the company in the wake of October’s crisis in Gaza.
The majority of McDonald’s restaurants are independently owned and operated. McDonald’s Israel, according to Reuters, is owned by a company called Alonyal Ltd. As the crisis in the region escalated, McDonald’s Israel reportedly said they had given thousands of free meals to members of the Israeli army, and announced they were donating meals to all “involved in the defence of the state, hospitals, and surrounding areas”.
Following this show of support for the Israeli army, many MacDonald’s franchises across the Middle East distanced themselves from the move and pledged US$3 million to support Palestinians in Gaza.
A man was arrested in late October for releasing mice into a McDonald’s branch in the UK city of Birmingham in an act of protest, calling to “boycott Israel”. The mice were painted in the colours of the Palestinian flag.
Globally, calls have been made by activist organisations for consumers to boycott the McDonald’s chain. The South African division of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) coalition reportedly also joined the call.
BDS calls for economic and cultural boycotts against Israel, inspired by those imposed by the international community on apartheid South Africa before democratic elections in 1994. The movement draws a parallel between the actions of the apartheid regime and the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians.
While there have been calls to boycott McDonald’s and various Israeli products and companies operating in Israel, there is no link between the chain’s blue-and-white food wrappers and its support or not of the Israeli state.
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