McDonalds Fries Sleeve - ©

Gluten-Free Fast Food Fries Not So Easy To Find?

I almost scrolled right past this story on the news food without a second thought. But then the apparent contradiction in terms grabbed my curiosity. It seems not all Fast Food fries are gluten free – though potatoes are!

Unlimited Fries - ©

I’ve previously posted on gluten and how it works. Not to mention why it’s a no-no for some folks with a sensitivity to the stuff. But I hadn’t tweaked to the fact that McDonald’s and some other Fast Food fries don’t qualify as gluten-free. And it’s a point that’s particularly important to Celiac Disease (CD) sufferers.

The gluten effect

Gluten, of course, is a vegetable protein found in many grains and other products. It affects Celiac sufferers the same way that peanut protein affects peanut allergy sufferers.

“Celiac Disease is a serious autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine,” The CD Foundation website explains. “It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide, but only about 30 percent are properly diagnosed.”

Gluten is found in many processed food products which contain barley, rye, oats, corn, buckwheat or wheat. Celiac sufferers also have to watch out for ancient grains such as kamut, spelt and farro in dietetic and boutique-crafted foods.

The crux of the issue

Basic French Fries contain only three ingredients: potatoes, frying oil residue and salt. But the Big Fast Food chains – or some of then, at least – take a more complex approach to serving the most consistent, delicious, attractive fry possible. After all, a chain’s fries are one of the cornerstones of its brand identity.

How many times have you seen online comparisons of the major Fast Food joints based solely on the appeal of their fries? Google ‘fast food fries comparison’ and you get back hundreds of ‘significant’ returns. But none of the first hundred or so (at least) compares them based on their gluten content.

What’s going on?

A little sleuthing at McDonald’s website revealed, to a curious reporter at Food & Wine, that the chain adds a few extra ingredients to its fries, to ensure a consistent appearance, flavour and texture.

“On its website, McDonald’s says its fries contain potatoes, vegetable oil, dextrose, a food additive to ‘maintain color’ in the finished fries, and another additive listed as ‘Natural Beef Flavor’. That ingredient comes with an asterisk noting that the flavoring contains both hydrolyzed milk and hydrolyzed wheat. (And both milk and wheat are listed under the Allergen Information heading.) ”

Whose fries are gluten free?

Fortunately for Celiac fry fans, the CD Foundation has compiled a list of major Fast Food restos, “that offer french fries cooked without gluten ingredients in a dedicated fryer.”

My take

One bullet-proof piece of advice for CD sufferers? If you aren’t sure about gluten content, just say no when they ask if you want fries with that…

~ Maggie J.