It might be one of those “grass is greener” situations, but it might also just be the facts that McDonald’s menus are better worldwide—you might find pizza-flavored hand pies in India, mozzarella salads in France, or Camembert doughnuts in Germany (uhh, yes please), for example. And as hyped as Americans get about the yearly recurrence of the Shamrock Shake, that excitement seems misguided when you realize that in China, McDonald’s sells bubble tea, and suddenly, I feel ripped off.
But because all good things must inevitably be milkshake ducked, McDonald’s envy-inducing boba has prompted some controversy, too. In 2012, its German launch spurred claims of racism for a caricatured Asian spokesperson in its ads. And earlier this week, McDonald’s boba prompted a public apology in China after a woman got a cup that had not only tapioca balls—but a dose of industrial disinfectant, too.
According to the South China Morning Post, a woman—identified only by the last name Huang—ordered a bubble tea from a McDonald’s in the Changle Airport in Fuzhou, China. When she slurped the drink, she immediately “found it tasted bad” and smelled like disinfectant, according to her husband, so they brought the drink back to the McDonald’s staff. “I asked staff workers about the drink, but they just took it and smelled it, without giving any explanation,” said Huang’s husband. “They threw the drink into the rubbish when we were not looking, but we took it back.”
Allegedly, since she’d had some of the tainted bubble tea, Huang went to the hospital on Friday with vomiting, a sore throat, and a stomach ache, and doctors concluded that the cause of her problems was sodium dichloroisocyanurate, a chemical disinfectant and sterilizer that’s considered “moderately toxic” by the National Institutes of Health.
By Monday, according to the SCMP, McDonald’s had issued an apology on Weibo, a Chinese social media network, and reached a settlement with Huang. “McDonald’s has paid great attention to the incident and is deeply sorry for the error made by a staff member of our restaurant,” the restaurant wrote.
To borrow a much-lambasted phrase from the New York Times: “Those blobs in your tea? They’re supposed to be there.” That disinfectant? Probably not.