If you are looking for information about the gluten-free diet, How to Be Gluten Free (affiliate link) is a very practical guide to getting started. It covers 10 steps to help you become happily gluten free.
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.