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    Scott Adams

    McDonald's - A Safe Place for Celiacs to Eat According to the Gluten Intolerance Group

    Scott Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.   eNewsletter: Get our eNewsletter

    Celiac.com 02/27/2006 - Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) applauds McDonald’s for providing proof that their French fries are safe for persons with celiac disease and gluten intolerances, states Cynthia Kupper, RD, Executive Director of GIG. Kupper, who has worked with large corporate chain restaurants for many years to provide gluten-free menu options, states McDonald’s took the best action possible by having the fries tested by one of the leading independent laboratories in food allergens. McDonald’s has provided the reassurance those persons with celiac disease need, to feel confident they can eat the fries without getting sick.

    Outback Steak House was the first large restaurant chain Kupper worked with to develop gluten-free menus. “We definitely made some new friends!” stated Thomas C. Kempsey, Director of Culinary for Cheeseburger in Paradise, speaking of the gluten-free menu Kupper helped the chain launch in February. Cameron Mitchell’s Fish Market, Bone Fish Grill, Carrabba’s, Bugaboo Creek, and many others have worked with GIG to develop gluten-free menus. The program has been very successful for restaurants involved with GIG’s outreach project, states Kupper. The patrons are happy and the restaurants see a growing number of loyal customers.



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    GIG promotes safe and healthy dining through education of restaurants and consumers. Many restaurants have developed gluten-free menu options. Some individual restaurants are part of a program GIG will soon manage called the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (www.glutenfreerestaurants.org). Both this program and GIG’s corporate program have strict guidelines for inclusion. Many restaurants have the potential to meet the needs of persons with food sensitivities, however not all are willing to take the extra steps necessary to do so.

    Many people with celiac disease are afraid to eat away from home for fear of getting sick according to research. To know that restaurants offer gluten-free choices, verified by trusted sources is a big deal for these people. For people who travel, places like McDonalds and Outback become their safety nets and they will not eat anywhere else, states Kupper. Parents want their children to have options like other kids, so McDonald’s is a perfect fast food choice. Not all fast food restaurants use dedicated fryers and some use fries that are treated with wheat flour – an absolute ‘must avoid’ for celiacs.

    Unlike other acute allergies, such as peanut allergies, celiac disease is a chronic condition that can cause damage to the intestines, malabsorption and malnutrition by eating gluten (proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and hybrids of these grains). Celiac disease is a life-long disease that can be diagnosed at any age. The only treatment for the disease is the strict avoidance of gluten. Celiac disease affects nearly 3 million people in the US and 1:250 people worldwide, yet it is the most misdiagnosed common disorder today.

    The Gluten Intolerance Group, based in Seattle WA, is a national nonprofit organization providing support and education to persons with gluten intolerances in order to live healthy lives. GIG is the leading national organization for gluten intolerances with a dietitian on staff daily to work with consumers. Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) works with restaurants to offer gluten-free dining options for persons with celiac disease.

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    If you look at McDonald's ingredients for their French fries you see this:

    French Fries:

    Potatoes, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor (wheat and milk derivatives)*, *CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK (Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients.)

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    Please note that just because something contains wheat it does not mean that it cannot be gluten-free. Yes, that is correct, items that contain wheat can be gluten-free. In Europe this is generally understood and more information about this is in the related links above--see the Codex Alimetarius and Wheat Starch link. In the USA the law will soon become that is something contains less than 20ppm of gluten, it is gluten-free, which, as I understand it, is the case with McDonald's French fries.

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    Very nice article, my son has celiac disease and we get him French fries at McDonald's all the time. We also special request a hamburger patty with no bun, no condiments - sometimes they get it wrong and we have to re-order but he can eat the freshly made hamburger patty's at McDonald's. What helps is that we tell them of his condition.

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    I was told twice by a clerk at McDonalds that the fries were safe. I ate them and became very sick for two days. After that, I asked the owner to check for wheat and he said there is wheat listed in the fries and hash browns. On another note, I ate at Five Guys. They use a divided section on the grill for buns and another for burgers. They also cut the potatoes on site and add nothing and cook nothing else in fry oil. Go Five Guys.

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    With celiac disease, it's hard enough having to be careful that you're not eating something with gluten...wheat is listed as an ingredient, so don't eat it! Who knows how much you can eat until you feel the damage to your intestines...If you have a cut, you bleed. When it scabs over, you're not bleeding anymore, but you're not healed. You might not feel the damage because it's such a small amount, but I wouldn't risk it!

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    Guest Andrew Schorr

    Posted

    15 year old daughter just designated a "celiac suspect", helpful info for us, looking to connect her with other teenagers? Suggestions? In Seattle area.

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    Guest Carolyn Ribeiro

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    OK, so the french fries are ok for us. Who just wants to eat french fries? I contacted McDonalds when I first got diagnosed and they said that their grilled chicken was not gluten free. If they want to pat themselves on the back, how about gluten free grilled chicken so we can have a decent meal like a grilled chicken salad?

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    If it contains 20 ppm of gluten, then it is not gluten free, whether it is the law or not. If it contains gluten, it causes damage, whether you have "symptoms" or not.

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    Agreed, Ms. Ribeiro. Gluten-free french fries? What do they want, a medal? This article should have bashed "Burger Doodle", as i call it, instead of proclaiming it to be a "safe place to eat".

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    If it contains 20 ppm of gluten, then it is not gluten free, whether it is the law or not. If it contains gluten, it causes damage, whether you have "symptoms" or not.

    Becca, I understand gluten causes damage. But I'm unaware of a food chemistry procedure that can reliably detect less than 20ppm gluten. Demanding a level better than current technology can deliver would make it impossible to have a useful law related to gluten free labeling.

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    I was told twice by a clerk at McDonalds that the fries were safe. I ate them and became very sick for two days. After that, I asked the owner to check for wheat and he said there is wheat listed in the fries and hash browns. On another note, I ate at Five Guys. They use a divided section on the grill for buns and another for burgers. They also cut the potatoes on site and add nothing and cook nothing else in fry oil. Go Five Guys.

    Please note the incidences of contamination to the McDonald's fries by the chicken nuggets sitting next door that accidentally fall into the fries when the deep fryer basket is dumped!!! I have observed this frequently!!

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    The content in the fries is WHEAT not Wheat Starch and even then the wheat (or wheat starch) is not guaranteed to be within the Codex Standard of less than <20ppm.

     

    If they don't clearly advertise that the fries are gluten-free (no gluten or at least 20ppm or less) then it should not be deemed safe.

     

    The article does not explain where or how Cynthia Kupper from the GIG got her information about the fries being gluten-free. It would be great for that information to be posted for us to read, for example, the ELISA test results from the fries.

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    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.


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