McDonald’s Admits Its French Fries Contain Possible Allergens Wheat and Milk

Now that McDonald’s has decided to conform (voluntarily) to new federal food-labeling guidelines, it has admitted that its French fries contain “wheat and milk ingredients,”  which may cause allergic reactions in people with sensitivity to these substances. The fast-food chain had previously claimed that its fries were free of such allergens.

Since neither the ingredients in its French fries nor in their preparation have changed, the announcement has annoyed both critics of the fast-food giant’s disclosure policies and people with food allergies. To them, McDonald’s revelation was driven by a legal obligation rather than by a desire to be truthful with the public. Had the law not changed, the disclosure would not have occurred.

The news is particularly worrisome for people who are sensitive to these particular allergens and those with celiac disease, which is an autoimmune condition produced by gluten (a protein found in barley, wheat, and rye).

Mc Donald’s, however, maintains that its fries are safe and do not contain such by-products. The company states that the French fries have a “natural flavoring” made from “extracts” of wheat and dairy products; however, processing is designed to remove wheat and dairy proteins.

Wheat and dairy proteins are responsible for triggering a wide variety of allergies or food-sensitivity problems.

Prior to this announcement McDonald’s had claimed the flavoring was safe for people with food allergies and other dietary sensitivities (such as “people with gluten sensitivity”). On its Web site the fries were described as being gluten-free, dairy-free, and free of wheat “allergens.”

The new FDA food-labeling rules that took effect January 1, apply to packaged foods, but not to restaurant meals, and require labels to acknowledge the presence of common allergens like milk, eggs, wheat, fish or peanuts. Thus, McDonald’s compliance is voluntary.

While those with food allergies who have been eating McDonald’s French Fries without incident are probably not in any danger if they continue to do so, a spokesperson for the company stated: “If someone is really sensitive, they need to be aware that this product was at one point derived from wheat and dairy.”

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