Here are Business Insider’s biggest healthcare stories of 2020

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Dear readers, somehow, we’ve made it to the final day of 2020. How are you feeling? I’m awash with emotion reflecting on this roller coaster of a year. It’s a year that’s brought so much joy and sorrow – professionally and personally – for so many. 

As we head in to 2021, the healthcare team here at Business Insider is here to guide you through all of the happenings in the industry. But before we do, I wanted to reflect on some of the stories I’m most proud of from our team, which has grown so much since the first week of January when Zach Tracer and I were a team of two blogging away about healthcare.

This year, I’m grateful for smart analysis, reporting that broke news, and – most especially – a team big enough for a few five-reporter bylines. 

Here are some of the stories we’re most proud of from the year – arranged chronologically for a reminder of just how much has transpired in the past year

With that, I hope you all have a Happy New Year! See you in 2021. 

– Lydia

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12 fast-food releases customers loved in 2020

mcdonalds mcrib
The McRib finally returned to menus after an eight-year hiatus.

Fast-food releases during a year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and an attention-grabbing election have admittedly been hit or miss.

While some new menu items barely registered with customers, others sent fans scrambling to their nearest McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Shake Shack, and more.

Travis Scott’s meal collaboration with McDonald’s caused burger shortages as customers tried to get their hands on the limited-time offer, while the chain’s spicy nuggets quickly sold out just two weeks after being released.

McDonald’s also decided to bring back the polarizing McRib, much to customers’ delight. However, one Insider reporter was a little let down by the nostalgic menu item’s return. Jack in the Box and Shake Shack also answered fans’ requests to bring back popular menu items.

Here are all the fast-food releases customers have loved in 2020, so far.

Jack in the Box brought back its fan-favorite Tiny Tacos in January.

jack in the box tiny tacos yelp
Jack in the Box Tiny Tacos.

Arguably one of the chain’s most famous menu items, Jack in the Box delighted fans when it announced Tiny Tacos would make their return to menus nationwide in January. QSR Magazine called the Tiny Taco’s return “highly-anticipated” and referred to the item as a “fan-favorite.”

A miniature version of the chain’s regular tacos, Tiny Tacos can be ordered plain or “loaded” with cheese sauce, shredded lettuce, and Jack in the Box’s taco sauce.

In February, KFC launched its polarizing fried chicken and donuts sandwich nationwide.

KFC Chicken and Donuts 6
KFC fried chicken and donuts sandwich.

After testing out the calorie-packed creation in select cities back in 2019, KFC launched its donut fried chicken sandwich nationwide earlier this year. Though only available for a limited time, the sandwiches quickly captured the attention of fast-food lovers nationwide. 

Described as “viral” and “controversial” by Business Insider, the overall consensus of our team of taste testers was that “although the chicken-and-doughnuts combo tasted like sweet, artery-clogging death, it was also the most delicious new item that KFC has come out with in a long time.”

Taco Bell released a new Grilled Cheese Burrito in July.

Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Burrito
Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Burrito.

While Taco Bell has a stacked lineup of burritos, the grilled cheese burrito stands above the rest as a fan-favorite — one of Insider’s food reporters even called the new menu item “the chain’s best dish in years.”

Reactions on Twitter to the menu item are also overwhelmingly positive, with one user calling it “the best burrito ever,” while another said, “I have an insatiable hunger that can only be satisfied by Taco Bell grilled cheese burrito.”

It’s easy to see why the new menu item has become a fan favorite — the cheesy burrito only costs $2.99.

McDonald’s brought out a spicy version of its iconic chicken McNuggets in September, to much fanfare.

McDonalds spicy chicken nuggets
McDonald’s spicy chicken nuggets.

The new limited-time-only menu item was thought to be in response to the flourishing market for fast-food chicken products, as well as the smash success of Wendy’s spicy chicken nuggets.

And, while Business Insider’s fast-food taste-tester Irene Jiang found that the spicy nuggets fell short of her expectations, customers seemed to disagree — the menu item and the spicy hot sauce they came paired with quickly sold out just two weeks after being released.

“We’re thrilled with the positive response to these limited-time offerings,” McDonald’s said in a statement. “If our customers truly can’t get enough, there’s always a chance we’ll bring limited-time menu items back in the future.”

McDonald’s and Travis Scott’s “Cactus Jack” meal collaboration broke the internet after its release in early September.

McDonald's Travis Scott meal review
McDonald’s Travis Scott meal.

The “Cactus Jack” meal includes a Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon, and lettuce, plus a medium fry with barbecue sauce, and a Sprite with extra ice for $6. Fans went wild for the meal, as well as the musician’s line of McDonald’s-themed merchandise

As a result of the massive popularity of the meal, McDonald’s told Business Insider that the chain was even experiencing burger shortages. 

“It’s been so lit, some of our restaurants have temporarily sold out of some of the ingredients in the meal,” McDonald’s said. “We’re working closely with our suppliers, distributors, and franchisees to resupply impacted restaurants as quickly as possible.”

Shake Shack’s Hot Chick’n sandwich was released in September.

Shake Shack hot chickn
Shake Shack Hot Chick’n sandwich

Following the smash success of Popeyes’ chicken sandwich last year, many chains released new iterations of their own this year.

After three years of Shake Shack fans asking the chain to bring back its Hot Chick’n sandwich, the New York-based chain finally delivered. On September 1, 2020, Shake Shack announced it would be bringing back its spicy sandwich in either hot, extra hot, or fire, plus hot chicken bites and hot and spicy cheese fries.

“Like with the Shack burger, a major factor is the potato bun. There may be breads on this earth just as good, but there are few that are better. The sandwich comes with a slaw that neither subtracts nor adds too much for me,” wrote TC Fleming of the Dallas Observer. “The full picture does add up to an enticing item we should all be glad to welcome back.”

Grubstreet and the Washington Post both reviewed the hot chicken sandwich favorably, although both outlets said the spice level could have been kicked up a notch to truly live up to its name.

Also in September, Whataburger released a limited-time-only spicy chicken sandwich.

whataburger Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Whataburger Spicy Chicken Sandwich.

After its release on September 29, 2020, fans of regional chain Whataburger were quick to shout out the new limited-time-only spicy chicken sandwich.

Shelby Stuart, a writer for Chron, wrote, “Because of its impeccable spice and heat, I think the sandwich can compete for the top spot among fast spicy chicken sandwiches, right up there next to Popeyes’ famed offering. All other food chains and their spicy sandwiches are sub-par — and maybe this is the Texan in me, but what Whataburger has done puts everyone else to shame.”

People on Twitter also praised the new menu item, with one user calling it “a better spicy chicken sandwich than @PopeyesChicken” and another saying, “Now this is a GREAT Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Others need to take note how this thing taste! Spicy, flavorful wonderful. Hope they make it permanent.”

Chick-fil-A began testing a brand new chicken sandwich – the Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich – in September, as well.

chick fil a honey pepper pimiento
Chick-fil-A Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich.

Chick-fil-A, which only offers a regular chicken sandwich, a deluxe version, and a spicy version, delighted fans with the release of its Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich in select markets in South Carolina and Asheville, North Carolina.

While the menu item has yet to be expanded to other states, some online reviewers managed to get their hands on the new offering. 

YouTube reviewer PapiEats was a big fan of the new sandwich and said the pimento was perfectly spicy and that the sandwich had “tasty jalapenos.”

“Hopefully they’ll bring this nationwide because it’s amazing,” he said in a YouTube review of the sandwich.

The following month, Wendy’s dropped its own spicy chicken sandwich.

wendys Spicy Crispy Chicken
Wendy’s Spicy Crispy Chicken.

In an age where seemingly every chain is dropping a new fried chicken sandwich, Wendy’s also threw its hat into the ring this year. A different variation on the chain’s original spicy chicken sandwich, the spicy crispy chicken nixed the tomatoes and added a layer of mayonnaise to a crispy chicken patty.

While the sandwich didn’t make as many waves as the Popeyes chicken sandwich last year or even the multiple new sandwiches this year, Wendy’s still held its own among a lengthy list of new releases this year that simply went unnoticed.

According to data from Google Trends, searches for Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwiches increased after the new version was released.

Following the huge success of McDonald’s Travis Scott meal in September, the chain launched another celebrity collaboration with J Balvin in October.

mcdonald's j balvin
McDonald’s J Balvin meal.

Available through November 1, J Balvin’s McDonald’s meal included a few classic favorites — a Big Mac with no pickles, a medium fry, an Oreo McFlurry, and ketchup. For customers who ordered the J Balvin meal through the McDonald’s app, they would get the Oreo McFlurry for free.

While some fans were left puzzled by the meal’s simplicity and the choice to remove pickles from the chain’s iconic Big Mac, it created quite a buzz online regardless, with hundreds of tweets talking about it.

In October, everyone was talking about Dunkin’s Spicy Ghost Pepper donut.

Spicy donut Dunkin' ghost pepper
Dunkin’ Spicy Ghost Pepper donut.

However, while the internet was buzzing about the donut — Dunkin’s tweet announcing the new item got over 800 likes and 500 quote tweets — actual reactions were mixed. Some were initially scared by the donut’s spicy appearance, yet in reality, many found the donut mostly sweet with a slight kick, rather than a hot, eye-watering experience. 

“The frosting is where the ghost pepper really comes into play. I thought it was mild and still more sweet than hot,” one of Insider’s reporters said.

McDonald’s shocked and delighted fans when the chain revealed it would bring back the McRib in December.

mcdonalds mcrib
McDonald’s McRib.

McDonald’s tweet announcing the return of the McRib on December 2 received more than 28,000 likes and 2,000 retweets. Fans nationwide haven’t been able to get their hands on the item since 2012, and many have been begging for its return for years.

“I can’t believe it’s happening,” Matt, who runs McRibGate, a website dedicated to McRib lovers with the aim of getting McDonald’s to bring the item back, told Business Insider.

Customers on social media immediately went to social media to share photos of them in line to get their McRibs. However, Insider found that the McRib we tried, though still tasty, was a little under-sauced.

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12 fast-food items that have been removed from menus in 2020, so far

Taco Bell Mexican Pizza
Taco Bell recently discontinued the Mexican Pizza.

Fast-food menus are constantly changing and while this year has brought many customer-approved new releases, some fast-food menu items have also been mercilessly scrapped.

In 2020, fast-food restaurants are realizing the power of a shortened menu with more focus on chains’ most popular items. McDonald’s and Taco Bell both recently streamlined their menus, while other chains have chosen to discontinue a few items due to changing tastes and the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are 12 fast-food menu items that have been removed from menus in 2020, so far.

Taco Bell announced it would be dropping the fan-favorite Mexican Pizza from its newly streamlined menu starting November 5.

Taco Bell Mexican Pizza
Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza.

Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza featured a flour tortilla shell filled with refried beans, seasoned ground beef, and Mexican sauce, topped with another tortilla, Mexican sauce, cheese, and chopped tomatoes.

“We know some fans may be sad to see this one go, we are too. One silver lining of saying goodbye to the Mexican Pizza that might help you rest easy is that removing it from our menus helps us work towards our commitment to leave a lighter footprint on our planet,” Taco Bell said in a press release in September.

In perhaps the most controversial menu change, Taco Bell upset some customers after deciding to remove potatoes from its menu.

taco bell cheesy fiesta potatoes
Taco Bell Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes.

In late July, Taco Bell announced it would officially be dropping potatoes from its menu in August 2020. Affected menu items include Taco Bell’s Spicy Potato Soft Taco, Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes, and Cheesy Potato Loaded Grillers.

“We know some vegetarian go-to items might be gone, but Taco Bell’s menu remains highly customizable,” Taco Bell said in a press release.

However, the statement didn’t stop vegetarian customers and potato-lovers from taking to social media to air their concerns. One Twitter user called the move to drop potatoes the chain’s “worst idea to date.”

However, while the potatoes may be gone, Taco Bell has hinted that it may be opening the door to plant-based meats and other vegetarian-friendly options.

Taco Bell also announced it would be dropping the famous Quesarito, a fan-favorite item, from restaurant menus.

Taco Bell quesarito
Taco Bell Quesarito burrito.

At the same time Taco Bell announced it would be discontinuing potatoes, the chain said it would also be removing the famous and fan-favorite Quesarito from restaurant menus. The item, which is a combination of a beef burrito and a quesadilla, will still be available to order online and via Taco Bell’s app for pickup or delivery.

However, some fans were nevertheless outraged by the change, with one Twitter user calling it “absolutely barbaric.”

Another item included in Taco Bell’s series of menu changes is the Triple Layer Nachos.

Taco Bell triple layer nachos
Taco Bell Triple Layer Nachos.

In total, Taco Bell removed 12 items from its menu. Among the items slashed, aside from the Mexican Pizza, Quesarito burrito, and Triple Layer Nachos, were the chain’s Loaded Grillers, Grilled Steak Soft Taco, 7-Layer Burrito, Chips & Dips, and the Mini Skillet Bowl.

“While change is hard, a simplified menu and innovation process will leave room for new fan favorites, continued progress in categories such as plant-based diets, and even opportunities for the return of some classics on a limited-time basis,” Taco Bell said in a press release.


KFC also started a potato-related controversy when it decided to switch out its potato wedges for fries.

kfc wedges
KFC potato wedges.

KFC has been serving up its famous potato wedges for years, much to the adoration of fast-food fans. However, the wedges have now been replaced with a new menu item — “Secret Recipe Fries.”

“While we know there are wedge-lovers out there who may be disappointed, consumer response to our Secret Recipe Fries during the test and the rollout has been overwhelmingly positive,” a KFC representative previously told Business Insider.

McDonald’s spicy chicken McNuggets left just as quickly as they arrived.

McDonalds spicy chicken nuggets
McDonald’s spicy chicken nuggets.

The new limited-time-only menu item was thought to be in response to the flourishing market for fast-food chicken products, as well as the smash success of Wendy’s spicy chicken nuggets.

The chain’s spicy nuggets, as well as the Mighty Hot Sauce they came paired with, quickly sold out just two weeks after being released, proving how much customers loved the new version of its classic nuggets. While some restaurants may still have stock, most are completely out of them. However, all hope is not lost for spicy nugget fans.

“We’re thrilled with the positive response to these limited-time offerings,” McDonald’s said in a statement. “If our customers truly can’t get enough, there’s always a chance we’ll bring limited-time menu items back in the future.”

McDonald’s temporarily removed chicken tenders from the menu as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – however, the change could become permanent.

McDonald's Chicken Tenders
McDonald’s chicken tenders.

The fan-favorite menu item, then called Chicken Selects, first arrived on menus in 2004. However, in 2013, they were removed from menus nationwide. Four years later, chicken tenders made their way back onto menus as Buttermilk Crispy Tenders. 

After they were released, they promptly sold out. The chicken tenders still appear to be a popular menu item, despite being temporarily removed from menus as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, since chicken tenders have yet to reappear on McDonald’s menus, some fans fear the decision to remove tenders from the menu may be permanent. 

McDonald’s also scrapped salads from its menu.

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McDonald’s Southwest salad.

Salads have surely never been among McDonald’s most popular offerings, so it’s no surprise that they didn’t make the cut for the chain’s limited menu.

“To simplify operations in our kitchens and for our crew, and ensure the best possible experience for our customers, we are working with our franchisees and local restaurants to focus on serving our most popular choices and will begin temporarily removing some items from the menu,” Bill Garrett, McDonald’s senior vice president of operations, said in a statement to Business Insider.

McDonald’s grilled chicken sandwich also disappeared from menus.

mcdonalds grilled chicken
McDonald’s grilled chicken sandwich.

Along with the chain’s chicken tenders, salads, and grilled chicken sandwich, McDonald’s also decided to temporarily drop a number of pastry options and multiple burgers from its menu. 

The changes took effect in March, and while some items have made their return, most have not. What’s worse for fans of these items is that they may never come back at all.

“We will certainly add things back to the menu. Whether it goes all the way back to where we were pre-COVID, I think that’s probably unlikely,” CEO Chris Kempczinski said during a virtual investor conference in June, according to CNBC.

McDonald’s breakfast menu was limited to a few items and All Day Breakfast might be on its way out for good.

McDonalds sausage egg cheese bagel
McDonald’s sausage, egg, and cheese bagel.

As outlets were reporting the departure of McDonald’s All Day Breakfast back in March, McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger tweeted, “All day breakfast’s response to this news: ‘I’ll be back.'”

However, nearly eight months later, All Day Breakfast still has not returned, and many McDonald’s franchisees and workers are rallying for the famous all-day menu to never return.

“As McDonald’s and franchisees evaluate if and how we bring All Day Breakfast back to our menus, we want to ensure these improvements will remain consistent for our customers,” McDonald’s said in a statement to Business Insider. “Any final decision will be made in partnership with our franchisees, based on consumer demand, and designed to drive the business while minimizing operational disruptions.”

Panera removed the Tuscan Chicken Sandwich from menus.

tuscan chicken panera bread
Panera Tuscan Chicken Sandwich.

Panera’s Tuscan Chicken Sandwich was reasonably popular among customers. 

“Made with chicken, mozzarella, Parmesan, arugula, tomato confit, and pesto mayo, this sandwich was perfectly toasted and had great flavor,” wrote one of Insider’s taste-testers. “The tomatoes had an interesting smoky taste that complimented the moist chicken, cheese, and fresh spinach.”

However, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the chain decided to cut a few items from the menu, including the Tuscan Chicken Sandwich, the Maple Bacon Scrambled Egg Wrap, and the Cheese Brittany.

Subway caused a stir when it removed roast beef and rotisserie chicken from its sandwich lineup.

subway sandwich employee
A Subway employee making a sandwich.

In June, Subway announced it would be removing rotisserie chicken and roast beef from many of its locations, much to the dismay of the sandwich chain’s followers.

“Bring back roast beef and the rotisserie chicken,” one person wrote on Facebook, according to a previous article by Business Insider. “You just removed the best menu items. What gives?”

“My wife works at a Subway … she says no roast beef is the biggest complaint they receive. She doesn’t understand why they took it off the menu either if it’s so popular,” wrote one Twitter user.

Subway has not given a reason for the menu change.

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