McDonald's: Fries Have Potential
Dave Carpenter, The Associated Press, February 13, 2006
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Not long after disclosing that its
french fries contain more trans fat than
thought, McDonald's Corp. said Monday that wheat and
dairy ingredients are used to flavor
the popular menu item - an acknowledgment it had not previously
The presence of those substances can cause allergic or other
medical reactions in food-sensitive consumers.
McDonald's had said until recently that its fries were free of
gluten and milk or wheat allergens and safe to
eat for those with dietary issues related to the
consumption of dairy items. But the fast-food company
quietly added "Contains wheat and milk ingredients" this
month to the french fries listing on its Web site.
The company said the move came in response to new rules by the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration for
the packaged foods industry, including one requiring that
the presence of common allergens such as milk,
eggs, wheat, fish or peanuts be reported. As a restaurant
operator, Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's does
not have to comply but is doing so voluntarily.
McDonald's director of global nutrition, Cathy Kapica, said its
potato suppliers remove all wheat and dairy
proteins, such as gluten, which can cause allergic
reactions. But the flavoring agent in the cooking oil is a
derivative of wheat and dairy ingredients,
and the company decided to note their presence because of
the FDA's stipulation that potential
allergens be disclosed.
"We knew there were always wheat and dairy derivatives in there,
but they were not the protein
component," she said. "Technically there are no allergens in
there. What this is an example of is science evolving" and
McDonald's responding as more is learned, she said.
While the company wanted to make consumers aware that fries were
derived in part from wheat and dairy
sources, she said, those who have eaten the product without
problem should be able to continue to do so without incident.
The acknowledgment has stirred anger and some concern among
consumers who are on gluten-free diets
since it was posted on McDonald's Web site.
"If they're saying there's wheat and dairy derivatives in the
oil, as far as anyone with this disease is
concerned there's actually wheat in it," said New York
resident Jillian Williams, one of more than 2 million
Americans with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder
triggered by gluten.
"They should have disclosed that all along," she said. "They
should never have been calling them
It's not the first time McDonald's forthrightness has been
called into question concerning what's
in its famous fries.
The company paid $10 million in 2002 to settle a lawsuit by
vegetarian groups after it was disclosed that its
fries were cooked in beef-flavored oil despite the
company's insistence in 1990 that it was abandoning beef
tallow for pure vegetable oil.
Last February, it paid $8.5 million to settle a suit by a
nonprofit advocacy group accusing the company of
misleading consumers by announcing plans in September
2002 to change its cooking oil but then delaying
the switch indefinitely within months. Reluctant to
change the taste of a top-selling item, McDonald's has
continued to maintain for the past three years that
Asked about the status of those efforts Monday, Kapica said:
"It's a very high priority and we are very
committed to continuing with testing and lowering the
level of trans fat without raising the level of
saturated fat. ... It's a lot harder than we originally
thought but that is not stopping us."
McDonald's shares rose 3 cents to close at $36.36 on the New
York Stock Exchange - up 8 percent in
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