For several years, controversy has surrounded the French fries at McDonald’s. Even though for about a decade, the company confirmed the fries were gluten-free, the FDA law requiring companies to call out wheat as an ingredient changed all that. The oil used to cook the fries actually contains wheat starch. The overly processed oil was tested multiple times by outside labs and shown to be gluten-free, but that wasn’t good enough for many in the gluten-free community. And thus, the controversy over the gluten-free status of McDonald’s fries began.
The popular burger chain even won a poll about the best gluten-free French fries over at The Savvy Celiac. Certainly, no one should be eating anything they don’t want to, but McDonald’s will not state that anything they serve is gluten-free. Instead, the company now suggests that people read the ingredients for menu items online and make up their own minds about what is safe for them to consume.
McDonald’s French fries were independently tested by an outside lab to make sure they were gluten-free years ago. Even though the oil they are cooked in contains gluten in the form of wheat, it’s so highly processed that there is no gluten left in the finished product. At least, that is what the company claimed when they added wheat starch to the fry ingredients online in early 2006. Due to the outrage in the gluten-free community over the issue, the company finally decided they would not claim anything they serve is gluten-free. However, people that knew from experience that the fries were gluten-free (if they are cooked in a dedicated, non contaminated fryer), kept eating the fries and hash browns.
When reading the USA Today insert that promoted celiac awareness on a level we’ve not seen before, one comment in the 13 page spread stood out like a sore thumb. In my opinion, it stood out in a very good way. It seems that NFCA Athlete for Awareness A.J. Clemens eats McDonald’s fries. Since he has celiac and he’s a competitive athlete with a dream of going to the Olympics, I’m guessing he’s pretty concerned about taking care of his health. If he thought the fries at Micky D’s contained gluten, it’s doubtful that he’d be eating them.
We don’t suggest people eat the fries at McDonald’s or that they avoid them, by the way. Everyone must make up their own minds about what to eat and what to avoid. In the case of A.J. Clemens, it seems his mind is made up about the fries at McDonald’s. There are some people out there that seem to want everyone to be scared of everything when it comes to living a gluten-free life. They don’t think people can travel, eat out or eat something they didn’t cook themselves. It’s their right not to do any of those things, of course. It’s not really fair though, for them to impose their rules on others that are trying to live normal lives while remaining gluten-free. My motto is “you eat what you want to and I’ll do the same”.
Eating out anything, anywhere (except a gluten-free facility) is always a risk – for all diners. Food poisoning is common and of course, there is a chance a gluten-free meal might not be truly gluten-free. In my opinion, fast food chains are probably the most risky options out there whether you can eat gluten or not. However, living a normal life and doing the things we’ve always loved to do is well worth that risk for many of us. Kudos to A.J. for making informed choices about how to remain gluten-free in a world full of gluten. He’s surely a great inspiration to gluten-free kids everywhere!
*Special thanks to JoAnn Mitchell for sending me the NFCA link to the insert and to the advertisers that made the insert possible!