Are McDonald’s Fries Gluten-Free?

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Not long ago when our electricity was out due to a storm, I mentioned on my Facebook page that I ate at McDonald’s.  In the comments, the question of McDonald’s French fries came up and I thought I would address it here.

First, let me say that I do not regularly eat fast food and I’m not suggesting that anyone should.  However, I have found at times, especially when traveling, that fast food is something I can depend on when I just need to eat.  Usually I take food with me, but sometimes that doesn’t work out, and I don’t believe that an occasional McDonald’s burger (with no bun) and fries will kill me.

This post is for those who do eat at McDonald’s or would like to.  If you think fast food is evil and should never be consumed, please skip this post.  It is not written for you.

The Fries Contain Gluten
From reading the list of ingredients in any of McDonald’s food, one would assume that their French fries are not gluten free. The gluten culprit is natural beef flavor in the oil that is used to par fry the fries before they are shipped to the restaurants.

vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]

It clearly states that they contain wheat.  However, it’s not as straight forward as it seems.

The Fries Don’t Contain Gluten
The company that supplies the oil has had it tested at a leading independent food testing lab.  McDonald’s has also had their finished French fries tested at the same lab.  No gluten was detected using a test that is sensitive to 3 parts per million.  (The proposed definition of gluten free is 20 parts per million.) The reason the tests are negative despite wheat being an ingredient is that the beef flavor is so highly processed that no detectable gluten remains.

Are the Fries Safe to Eat?
McDonald’s does not state that their fries are gluten-free.  It is up to you, the consumer, to take the above information and determine for yourself whether they are safe for you to eat.  By the way, the above information is also true for their hash browns.

I would like to take a moment to recommend Gluten-Free Living Magazine.  I found Gluten-Free Living soon after I was diagnosed with celiac disease almost 10 years ago and it has been an invaluable resource for me.  I respect their writers and the research they do on topics such as this and other questionable foods or ingredients.  It is not a recipe magazine, though you will find a recipe or two in most issues.  What they excel at is providing you with good solid information on gluten-free living.

Update:  Many of the comments from this post were accidentally deleted, but I compiled them in this follow-up post:  McDonald’s Fries Part 2.

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Comments

  1. I can't believe I accidentally deleted everyone's comments from this post! It was a hot topic too. Sorry.

  2. Melissa says:

    Here's mine agai :D I haven't tried any of Carol Fenster's recipes, but now I am DYING to! I have a sweet 5 year old girl who is GF and should have some great foods of her own. She's always having to go without. I follow you on twitter, facebook, emailed feeds. My info: melissak16@hotmail.com

  3. Kathleen says:

    As I said, McDonald's got me through breakfasts and some lunches for an 8000 mile road trip. I had no problems with it. Dinner in San francisco at a real restaurant was the only small issue.

  4. Thanks Kathleen. I still have the comment in my email so I'm going to put them into a blog post. It will probably go up on Sunday.

  5. Stacks33 says:

    Thanks for this great information! I am new to the world of Celiac and have been raving about a home business supplement that really changed my life over the last year. I had NO idea it was because I had Celiac and NEEDED a supplement! No wonder I had such dramatic results!

    Back to the fries… I literally have an empty McDonald's Fry container on my desk! I read they were gluten free! :( Because I have primary biliary cirrhosis, I am full on 100% gluten free! I will have to toss those in the future, too! It's hard at first to make this change! I'm on my first week! :(

    • Stacks33 do you mind telling me what the supplement is? My daughter is recently GF and I am spending Sooo much on supplement. Just wondered if there was something simpler and cheaper?

  6. Anonymous says:

    My son was diagnosed allergic to gluten, wheat, rye, barley, and mild to important allergy to soy, carrot, shrimp and corn. I am sooooo confused!! He is 14 yrs. old and has lost 12 lbs. in the last 2 months due to severe diarrhea. Thank you so much for all this info. It is really helpful. I would like to know about mayonnaise. He can't live without it!! Hahaha! I am looking for a safe and good tasting one.

    • Best foods claims to be gluten free on their label, but they could have soy and corn products because of the oil they use. Just be sure to check the label. Whole Foods is a great place to look for specialty foods, or make your own mayo with egg yolks and olive oil. Not too hard if you have a blender.

  7. Anonymous ~ Gluten is not usually a problem in mayo, but soy is. I have used a couple from the health food store. The one I'm using right now is Hain brand safflower mayonnaise. You could also search online for a recipe. I don't make it myself, but I hear it's very easy.

  8. Have they changed to a different fry? I got diagnosed after eating fries March 1 2010 at Mc Donald’s that were coated with wheat. Would love to hear any thoughts on this because as much as I love Mc Donald’s fries-I will only eat fries at Five Guys or fry in my own home.

  9. Hydroloyzed wheat used in Mac Fries does not contain the gluten protein

    http://thesavvyceliac.com/2011/01/20/research-hydrolyzed-wheat-flour-may-be-celiac-safe/

  10. I think this will continue to be a hot topic as long as the ingredient list stays the same. Staying gluten free at McDonalds is hard to do but if you remain educated it is possible. My wife has celiac and is super sensitive to gluten. She can eat the fries with no problems.

  11. The “McDonald’s USA Ingredients Listing for Popular Menu Items” states that the fries and hashbrowns have wheat and milk in them.
    http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/ingredientslist.pdf

    • Yes, I linked to that ingredient list in my blog post. I suggest you read the whole post if you haven’t already.

      • I did miss that link. Sorry.

        • I have a question. It’s because I’m new to this and really want to know. (diagnosed 8/11) Aren’t we supposed to stay away from anything with cross-contamination? I know the thought that McNuggets might have been in the same oil makes me nervous. I appreciate your answer. Thanks.

          • Yes, you should avoid eating anything that is fried in the same fryer used for gluten containing foods. Most McDonald’s use separate fryers for fries. It’s always good to ask first though.

  12. Nanette says:

    Thank you for posting this!!! I literally JUST started searching for gluten free foods!! My 2 1/2 year old son was just diagnosed with autism and I’ve done some research and found that many parents with autistic kids tried a gluten free diet and have seen great improvements on their autistic behaviors!!! My son is a VERY picky eater, but LOVES McDonalds fries and It’s sooo nice to know that I won’t have to eliminate them from his diet!!
    Thank you again!!!

  13. So as you said fast food is sometimes hard to avoid especially when you are the only GF person in the family and have a 4 year old niece who you spend a lot of time with. 2 great places are my go tos… Red Robin is fantastic! They have a GF bun, however I prefer the lettuce wrapped patty, they also have dedicated fryer for the French fries and they are bottomless so go hog wild and eat up on these yummy GF fattening goodness! The wait- staff is also well trained and I’ve never been glutened while eating there… Once they served my salad with croutons and they were extremely apologetic and made me a brand new one no questions and manager came over to apologize! My other gem is 5 Guys Burgers… The only thig they fry is French fries so they are gluten free, order your burger without a bun and choose from any or all of their veggie toppings… My fave is grilled onions and mushrooms! Again, never been glutened, I just ask them to change gloves and watch as they make my meal. A heads up tho… 5 guys uses all Peanut oil and serves peanuts free… Very dangerous place for someone with peanut allergies!!!

  14. My 6 year old has celiac. We have not eaten out since he was diagnosed I heard McDonalds fries were safe–dedicated fry only fryer—
    I picked some fries up for him as a treat(very unhealthy treat). About 5-6 hours later he was balled up in pain crying. I will cross those off my list for sure!!!

    • Andrea, that’s terrible! I’m sure it was difficult to see your son in such pain. After I have a gluten reaction I rarely go back to eat at the same place, and I don’t blame you for crossing McDonald’s off your list! However, I just want to note, that you should always check at individual restaurants (any place that makes fries) to be sure they use a dedicated fryer. It can vary from one place to another. And I always consider eating out a risk for cross contamination. Unless the place is completely gluten free, it can happen. It’s just so hard to see your little boy paying the price of that risk. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  15. Nancy Graddy says:

    I really enjoyed learning so much from everyone’s posts. I was diagnosed with Celiac in Jan. 2014. Will try the fries at McD’s because I miss them.

  16. Hannah Katz says:

    Thank you so much for being on here I have always wondered about McDonald’s and tins is so helpful thanks again

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