McDonald’s fries: gluten free or not gluten free?

A while back we wrote a blog post about the gluten free products you could enjoy at McDonald’s. One of the items we mentioned were the fries, which according to the McDonald’s website and forums were definitely gluten free.

However, a couple of our readers left messages in the comments section that they had become ill after eating McDonald’s fries and they had been led to believe that the fries were often cooked with gluten products.

I called McDonald’s UK to ask them if the fries were gluten free; are they ever cooked in the same vat as gluten products; and could there be any risk of cross contamination?

This is their reply:

Our French Fries and Hash Browns are gluten free, as are Fruit Bags, Carrot Sticks and the Garden Side Salad, our core McFlurry ice creams (i.e. not promotional) and our Chocolate and Strawberry Milkshakes, but not Vanilla.

I was sorry to read that one of your blog community members had concerns about cross-contamination of our French Fries. This should certainly not be the case as we make absolutely every possible effort to apply the highest quality measures throughout all procedures. We cook our French Fries in a dedicated vat and prepare them in a dedicated area. Whenever we cook a promotional side order containing gluten, such as Onion Rings, they are cooked in a separate vat some distance away from the Fry station. Gluten free promotional items are cooked in the same way as our French Fries and to the same standards.

Our menu is constantly being reviewed to create the most varied choices available for all customers. We also work closely with the Coeliac Society to provide them with updated information for their members’ booklet, but if your blog community have concerns about the available information please let me know and we can look at how we can better outreach on this issue.

Steve Heywood, Press Officer, McDonald’s UK

So it does seem McDonald’s are on the case when it comes to gluten free products and the care that needs to be taken when preparing them.

The concern, I guess, is that the odd individual restaurant is not adhering to these standards. Have you experienced this at all? Let us know in the comments.

For more information on allergens and the nutritional value of McDonald’s products visit the McDonald’s menu site.

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19 Responses to “McDonald’s fries: gluten free or not gluten free?”

  1. Katie A: 17th July 2010 at 4:34pm

    That may be the case for McDonalds UK, but the US website says the following about their french fries:

    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 (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).

    I was recently diagnosed with Celiac but I have taken this to mean that McDonalds fries in the US are not gluten-free and I have avoided them.

  2. Gluten Free Girl: 17th July 2010 at 8:01pm

    Hey Katie and Paula
    Yes, it is UK only. In our first post on McDonald’s we said:
    “French fries (Note: UK only. It seems that US french fries do have gluten.)”

    So if you’re in the US and you’re a coeliac or a vegetarian – avoid those fries! But feel free to enjoy them when you come and visit us!

  3. Paula: 17th July 2010 at 6:23pm

    In the UK it might be GF, but as far as 3-12.2009, in their list of ingredients in the US, their oil contains contains beef flavor, which contains gluten:

    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).

  4. Paula: 20th July 2010 at 3:56am

    This is what I got from MD’s in US:

    Hello Paula:

    Thank you for taking the time to contact McDonald’s. We always enjoy hearing from our customers and welcome this opportunity to share some information with you about our menu items.

    You have asked whether our French fries or hash browns contain gluten. As you will see on our website, hydrolyzed wheat bran is a starting ingredient used in making the natural flavor for our French fries. Consistent with what we know about the process for making our flavor, testing and analysis by leading experts have not detected wheat proteins or peptides. However, to comply voluntarily with federal labeling laws, our website lists these products as containing wheat, because of the starting ingredient used to make the flavor.

    For reference, please visit McDonald’s website at http://www.mcdonalds.com.

    Once again, thank you for contacting McDonald’s.

    Lisa
    McDonald’s Customer Response Center

  5. Gluten Free Girl: 20th July 2010 at 1:45pm

    Hi Paula
    Hmmm… “hydrolyzed wheat bran is a starting ingredient used in making the natural flavor for our French fries.”
    There’s so much wrong with this sentence! Why not have the taste of potatoes for their French fries! Just a thought.

    Paula, thanks for contacting McDonald’s though. I’m sure so many people think that a McDonlald’s is a McDonald’s no matter where you are in the world. This is not the case. And it’s worth checking what’s safe to eat and where before you travel.

  6. lara buckle: 13th August 2010 at 1:45pm

    I just went to McDonalds in Chancery Lane and they said their chips contain wheat. V confusing!

  7. Gluten Free Girl: 13th August 2010 at 3:00pm

    Hey Lara
    I’m sending this off to McDonald’s as we speak! Thanks for this.

  8. Ali: 17th October 2011 at 7:39pm

    I went to the Gatwick Mcdonalds whilst picking up a relative from the airport…I have a strict gluten free diet but after hearing they were gluten free, I gave them a try. I ordered a large portion of fries but within a few hours I was violently ill…I know that the gatwick one is very busy…so my concern was that they were using the friers for both fries, onion rings etc due to being so busy??…it has certainly put me off visiting again :(

  9. Liz Ashfield (Follow on ): 17th April 2013 at 2:31pm

    I have not eaten chips at a Mcdonalds in the U.K. for sometime now as they always made me ill. This was before I went onto a gluten free diet but it seems a bit of a coincidence.

  10. Claire: 6th July 2013 at 7:57am

    I had mcdonalds fries a few nights ago for the first time after I was diagnosed with celiac and I won’t be having them again! I was ill that evening and that was the only thing I ate that day that could have possibly been a bit iffy. That was in the exeter store. I suppose its going to depend on their staff and if they do thjngs how they are meant to.

  11. Maureen: 14th February 2014 at 9:09am

    Macdonalds in Norwich… I had bad reaction to their gluten free products, and the food was cold. Not a place I want to eat at, but my companion did, added to that 1060 calories for burger and chips I won’t return.

  12. Adrian Stanley: 28th April 2014 at 9:48am

    Anybody have any info on Spanish McD’s?

    I have been ok so far with Fries, Wedges and plain ice cream from McD’s Cartagena (Espacio Mediterraneo).

    However, beware VALOR chocolate cafe. Valor chocolate bars are GF and very good, but the chocolate served in their cafe’s is not GF…. Big Dose, Very Poorly!!

  13. Gluten Free Guy: 28th April 2014 at 10:50am

    I don’t know about the Spanish ones I’m afraid Adrian. Hopefully someone else can help you.

  14. Liz Ashfield (Follow on ): 30th April 2014 at 4:14pm

    Several times in the past I have been ill after eating chips in McDonalds. This has been in various branches. Sorry, I just do not believe that they are gluten free and now avoid eating anything in their restaurants.

  15. Elizabeth Price (Follow on ): 30th May 2014 at 10:56am

    This is really interesting. I ate at McDonalds a while a go now and had the fries. I was unwell the next day and couldn’t work out what it was that glutened me. I assumed it must have been something at McD’s and haven’t eaten there since! This now makes perfect sense! Thank you!

  16. Rebekah: 26th August 2014 at 8:38pm

    Recently been diagnosed with coeliac. Mcdonalds in Bognor Regis are brilliant and I have not had a problem there. They even let me bring in my own buns. I’ve eaten there 3 times since diagnosis, once was a breakfast.

    Went to another mcdonalds though. I assumed it would be the same. Now I feel very very ill. All I had were the fries.

    I think you are right, that it is some restaurants not adhering to the rules. All it takes is for a bit if bread or something to fall into the oil, and I don’t know how often they change the oil.

    I’m thinking of sending an email to mcdonalds head office as this was the only thing I have eaten today that could have made me ill. Everything else is food I’ve prepared myself.

  17. Matthew: 11th December 2014 at 4:11pm

    I personally would not eat at McDonalds due to fears of cross-contamination. I have been told by staff in their restaurants that they do cook gluten items in the same vat as fries so for me it is just not worth the risk.

  18. Maria (Follow on ): 6th February 2015 at 8:22am

    I’ve also been ill after eating fries at McDonalds Waterloo station.

  19. Rebecca Ogilvie: 23rd September 2016 at 3:30pm

    This is untrue. I have worked in McDonald’s for years and I have seen fry vats used for onion rings when they are out AND veggie burgers daily!!
    I have only recently been diagnosed as coeliac so never thought anything of it until now as I’m sure most staff there don’t. Cross contamination for vegetarians is considered but gluten was never mentioned

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