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Thursday, June 19, 2008
McDonald's Fries are NOT gluten-free
McDonald’s might be one of America’s favorite fast-food joints, but it isn’t as gluten-friendly as you may think. French Fries and Hash Browns sound like they would be gluten-free, but sadly those of us on a gluten-free diet must stay away from these two potato-based menu items. I have to admit that despite being gluten-free for a quarter of a century I have had my share of McDonald’s Hash Browns. I have also had my familiar post-gluten reaction to most McDonald’s food. (And we all know what that means)

I thought it would be especially helpful to new Celiacs to make sure you realize you CANNOT eat McDonald’s French Fries or Hash Browns. Here is why:

French Fries:
Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*), citric acid (preservative), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain color), salt. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent). *CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK (Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients).

Hash Brown:
Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*), citric acid (preservative), salt, corn flour, dehydrated potato, dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain color), extractives of black pepper. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent). *CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK. (Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients).

Here are some other gluten-containing foods at McDonald’s that those on a gluten-free diet MUST AVOID!

Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich
Premium Crispy Chicken Classic Sandwich
Premium Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich
Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich
Premium Grilled Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich
Premium Crispy Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich
Big Mac® Bun
Big Mac® Sauce
Chicken Selects® Premium Breast Strips
Fish Filet Patty
Flour Tortilla
Grilled Chicken Breast Filet
Honey Wheat Roll
McChicken® Patty
McRib Bun
Regular Bun
Sesame Seed Bun
Southern Style Crispy Chicken Breast Filet
French Fries
Chicken McNuggets
Barbeque Sauce
Sweet 'N Sour Sauce
Butter Garlic Croutons
Candied Walnuts in the Fruit & Walnut Salad
Orange Glaze
Newman's Own® Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing
Biscuit
Hash Brown
English Muffin
Griddle Cakes
Hot Cakes
McFlurry® with OREO® Cookies
Baked Apple Pie
Cinnamon Melts
McDonaldland® Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookie
Oatmeal Raisin Cookie
Sugar Cookie
Ice Cream Cone

Source: http://www.mcdonalds.com/app_controller.nutrition.categories.ingredients.index.html

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21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be easier to list exactly what you could eat at McD's!!!????

Blogger Erin S. said...

To the anonymous commenter,

Despite the fact that it is fast food and should be avoided anyway, I think this list is enough to make any one on a gluten-free diet stay away from McDonald's.

Blogger Thomas Dzomba said...

Erin,

You know, this was really big news a couple of years ago, then it was announced that they were GF. Or so I remember...

Thanks for updating us with the real story.

Thomas

Blogger Juliane said...

Here is a link to a page about the McDonald's fries disclosure. It does not mean that the fries are unsafe, although celiacs still need to be aware of cross-contact issues and be sure the restaurant is large enough to have separate vats for frying different items. Please take the time to read this page before deciding not to eat McDonald's fries.

,url.http://www.celiaccentral.org/Hidden/48/vobId__737/,/url.

Blogger Erin S. said...

Juliane, I appreciate your comment but McDonald's lists wheat in their ingredients for french fries. I do understand the GIG position on "the science and processing of refined oils" but I am still reluctant to ingest any item that clearly lists wheat in their ingredients list. As with any food that may or may not contain gluten, I would leave the choice up to the individual. In my opinion, Fries and Hash Browns are best to be avoided.

Thank you again for all of your thoughtful and conversation-provoking comments.

Blogger Juliane said...

Well, Erin, that is always your choice, but do you ever buy products that say they are produced in a factory that also includes wheat products? Just curious, not trying to be confrontational. There are quite a few product lines that will give you a much higher risk of getting some amount of gluten than McDonald's fries. McDonald's did not have to disclose this starting ingredient, but did so in the interest of full disclosure (and probably to minimize the risk of lawsuits).

A very good corollary is vinegar. Distilled vinegar or alcoholic spirits may begin from wheat (vodka, for example) but distillation removes the gluten particles. The process that McDonald's uses also removes the gluten from the oil. You can choose to abstain from the fries, but that does not mean they contain gluten at the fryer, at least not from the oils. Just as you can choose not to drink vodka made from wheat, but that does not mean it contains any risk of gluten particles being in the bottle.

McDonald's fries may not be absolutely safe from gluten, because the smaller outlets will sometimes use the fryer for all their fried items such as chicken nuggets. As well, you always have a risk of carelessness if someone drops something in a vat of fries or the finished product. Everyone has to make that decision for him or herself, but that is the same decision any celiac makes in eating out in any restaurant.

Not risking the fries is one decision, but please understand that at the end product, they are and always have been gluten-free.

Blogger Caity said...

hey just wondering if this is the same in Australia??
Thanks

Blogger Erin S. said...

Hi Caity,
I cannot confirm the ingredients for Australia. I would suggest reaching out to a local McDonald's and asking.
Good luck,
Erin

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just an update from a gluten sensitive McD's employee who also has a Celiac daughter.. :)

It is expected from all McDonald's restaurants that oil is NEVER recycled into a different vat. This means, your fry oil is always for fries and your chicken is always for chicken. Any oils that are removed for straining of crumbs is put back immediately into that same vat. Any oil that is removed due to age is thrown away.

Also, fry vats are not located in the same areas as the chicken or fish vats. They are usually on the same wall but seperated from each other by storage areas (freezers, coolers, fridges, etc).

Furthermore, fries are cooked at a completely different temp and for different amounts of time than any of the fried meats, and the vats are kept temp specific and oil level specific for the type of item and size of frying basket being used. Even the meats are cooked in their own specific fryer baskets for their own specific times. It's not just fries at one temp and all meat at one temp. I won't say it's "scientific", but there is a method that is adhered to, and it is very improbable that any cross contamination is happening related to the wrong foods being in the wrong fryers.

I've worked at different McD's in different states and this has always been the case that I have encountered. Furthermore, I double-checked this with my store manager just yesterday, and she confirmed it is a corporate policy that oils are not reused or recycled into different vats, and foods are not switched into different vats... the chicken vat is always the chicken vat for instance.

Now, having said all that, if you are still concerned, it's always important that we all take responsibility for our own health and ask all the right questions to all the right management at our local reastaurants. Meaning, don't ask just any person who looks official. Ask for the store manager or store supervisor, or if they aren't onsight at that point, ask for a phone number and a time to call them, ask for them to call you personally, or ask for a phone number to the company HQ or even the owner.

Tina

Blogger Colleen said...

As a Celiac I visited two mcD's in my neighbourhood and made enquiries about the safety of their fries. No one could tell me anything including the manager.
I used to eat their fries before going completely gluten free until one day my son found a lump of the bread coating used in their nuggets in the same packet with his fries.
Safe to eat? I don't think so!!
As for the "no detectable gluten" content all i can say is this..get some better testing methods. It is still there or I would not react to it.

OpenID amberlynnr7 said...

I maintain the same opinion as the other McDonald's employee. I have worked there for 2 years. I even clean the vats and trust me, at McDonalds, there are tests upon tests that coporate does on each store (including FORs - Formal Operations Review) which tests every procedure done in the store, making sure it is in accordance with the guidelines McDonalds has for their stores. It is our job as employees to do these things right not only to stay in the company, but also to give our customers the most rewarding experience possible.

Anonymous Jo Simmons said...

Wow this is so good to know! I just ate MCDonalds grilled chicken sandwich last night without the bun and french fries (which I never eat but decided to indulge). Did I pay for it today! I don't get the pain but I get the anxiety due to eating gluten. Thank you for this information!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of the abave may or may not be correct. But one thing I can tell you for sure, I was eating Mcdonalds fries because I thought they were gluten free and felt safe doing so, it wasn't until I starting noticing that each time I ate them my skin rash would flare up.
The problems with ceiliac's is that gluten affects each person differntly.
Im a late on set ceiliac and extra sensitive to gluten.
My point is, that if Erin hadn't taken the time for this blog , I would have continue eating Mcdonalds fries and my skin would have continue to flare up.
This has taught me to be extra careful with any take away food.
Roni

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ive just discovered me and my son have caeliacs, (I cant even spell it yet) any kid tips would be great for a fussy child!!! we both suffer rash from gluton aswell. My son loves hashbrowns from mcdonalds,now im worried there not gluton free????? wb =]

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Contains wheat does not mean contains gluten. They claim there is no protein component of wheat present hence they are listed as gluten free. Contamination is the issue.

If I ever get sick from Maccas fries, it's because of the grease!

Blogger Erin S. said...

Wheat most definitely contains gluten!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have yet to see any confirmation on any site there is more debate over the subject than an actual answer. I have the answer- DO NOT eat McDonalds fries! I had some last night thinking I would be fine but I woke up this morning feel like hell. So know matter what you read if you have a gluten intolerance DO NOT eat their fries.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous above stated: "contains wheat does not mean contains gluten."

Erin, you responded by saying "wheat most definitely contains gluten!"

But you're both correct. Yes, wheat always contains gluten. But a product made with wheat does not always contain gluten. Grain alcohol is the most obvious example. But there are even new beers now brewed with wheat that are classified gluten-free.


McDonald's French fries use a small amount (less than 1%) hydrolyzed wheat bran to flavor their vegetable oil. Hydrolysis is the process of adding a water molecule to another substance, rupturing the substance into two separate molecules. One molecule gains a hydrogen atom; the other the oxygen atoms, thus forming two new molecules of opposite ph levels. But it also renders the gluten into separate and unique molecules as well, which should prove no trouble to the coeliac sufferer.

If people have reported a reaction to
McDonald's French fries, there are three possible explanations: 1) hypochondria, 2) cross contamination, 3) poor reaction to greasy fried food.

But scientifically speaking, mcdonalds fries are 100% gluten-free. -- signed, coeliac sufferer, colon cancer survivor, and molecular biologist

Blogger Erin Smith said...

Do you think another reaction to the fries could be oil cross contamination?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank goodness you got on here before I did, anonymous molecular biologist. I'm getting a minor in biology, and I was about ready to post the same information, just in a much nastier tone. I get really grumpy when paranoid people build off of each other and start spreading misinformation around. I no longer rely on fellow coeliac sufferers for any information on products after the whole stink on McDonald's fries.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ate McDonalds fries I am also a celiac, had the worst colic ever,so dont eat them if you are a celiac.

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