Burger King fries – NOT gluten free

We are not regular junk food eaters. When you have food intolerance and allergies to deal with, junk food and processed foods are not something you can eat and as far as I am concerned, is one of the benefits. Although I often feel sorry for my three year old when he goes to children’s parties and cannot eat the same as the others, part of me is glad. Being so highly sensitive to wheat and dairy means that he will not grow up addicted to pizzas and burgers etc – he doesn’t even know what they taste like and has never shown any interest in them.

However, from time to time, even the most vigilant Mummy with the greatest of intentions can get caught out. Two weeks ago, we set off on a (usually) 2 hour car journey to my parents on the Dorset coast. I had lunch boxes full of food for both children – as I knew we would probably still be travelling at their usual teatime. We left home straight after school, so were due to hit the M25 just before rush hour and knew we could hit some trouble – but nothing prepared me for the 2 hour crawl around the usual half hour stretch.

By the M3 the children had long since eaten all of their food, all the drinks were gone and Sophia was desperate for the toilet. They were also starting to feel hungry again and we all needed some more cool drinks. I also needed to buy Zac a new cup. While we were in the middle lane of 5 lanes of stopped traffic near Heathrow, Zac announced that his ‘wee was coming’ and we had no choice but to let him go in his Fireman Sam drinking bottle.

As we pulled into Fleet services, we noticed the McDonalds sign and I thought I would get the children some chips, as a treat, because apart from the emergency wee incident, they had been very patient little travellers.

Then I realised that McDonalds was on the Northbound Services and it was actually a Burger King on the Southbound. Their kids meals are less interesting than McDonalds, which is why we have very rarely tried it. Sophia is a big fish finger fan and was disappointed she couldn’t have any, but I promised she could have some when we got to Nana’s, so she happily munched away on her chips and everyone seemed happy. Zac didn’t eat all of his chips. So I tried one and then started to panic. They were delicious and so crunchy and crispy – a bad sign! Through experience we have learned that extra crispiness on chips is usually achieved with a good sprinkle of flour or something gluten containing. I hoped I was wrong and knew that I would probably find out quite soon!

By the time we finally arrived in Christchurch, it was bed time for the children and we quickly got them into their pyjamas. The first thing my Mum said to me was, ‘Zac’s tummy looks very bloated’. It did. It had come up like a balloon and his little t-shirt was tightly stretched over it. I felt dreadful. I am usually so good at checking things and assumed just because McDonalds fries are safe(I have checked) that BK would be too. I quickly hopped online and found the nutritional info part of the menu and sure enough there was a tick in the gluten box.

So there you go. I certainly learned some lessons that day. Firstly, avoid Burger King chips and never forget that although a potato is a gluten free friend, you can never assume some person in a kitchen has not interfered with it and made it ‘dangerous’. Secondly, I need to remember to pack two packed lunches for Zac, whenever a journey involves the M25 – and most sadly, I learned that Zac is still, quite obviously wildly sensitive to gluten and not growing out of it. This was our first slip up in a very, very long time and the result was instant. We still don’t have a coeliac diagnosis, but I don’t really need one. If a tiny little tummy can react like that from eating just a handful or tiny chips, with what I imagine is a relatively small sprinkling of gluten, I think it is safe to assume, challenging him with a slice or ‘normal’ toast would be a huge mistake.

Beware my friends - even the humble chip can be trouble!

32 Replies

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  • Well I'm sorry for you all and especially Zac. This is a very valid point because French fries are usually coated.

    Here's a link to Burger King nutritional values and allergen listings and their fries are listed as containing gluten:

    burgerking.co.uk/files/docu...

  • Thanks for this. Should have used my brain and checked when I was there. Anyway, at least I have learned my lesson. You are right about 'french fries'. I have noticed that it is a variable as some brands of oven chips and french fries in the supermarkets have gluten and some don't. Same goes for any potato products e.g. potato waffles. We have discovered that McCain Oven Chips and Crinkle Cut chips (in the orange bags) have no milk or gluten added, but their 'French Fries' do.

    Birds Eye potato waffles are safe and last time I checked even had a gluten free symbol on the packaging, but some supermarket own brands ones are not gluten free. So here is my point, why are they putting it on at all? The products without are perfectly good, possibly better. I think this random 'sprinkling' of so many foods with this 'poison' is why so many of us have these problems. It just shouldn't be there in the first place and unless you are label reading obsessives like us, you have no clue how much of this junk you are accidentally consuming and you have absolutely no idea what damage it might be doing to you.

  • I agree with you 100% about additives. The sad reality is they are preservatives and taste enhancers.

    They add malt to naturally gf Corn flakes and Rice Krispies to enhance the flavour.

    Kelloggs started selling gluten free Rice Krispies in the US last summer so why don't they sell them over here?

    triumphdining.com/blog/2011...

    If Zac is very sensitive to gluten I'd be cautious of dextrose as in the EU it can be a wheat derivative and have traces of gluten. Because wheat derivatives do not have to be labelled as such in the EU.

    I'm not a vegetarian but a foodie and I read food blogs with interest and I was surprised by this:

    animalrights.about.com/b/20...

    I'm a great believer in ''us'' the consumer being aware of what we are really eating so I'd like to see wheat deriv's labelled as such in the EU. I'd also like to see naturally gf foods kept that way.

    Lastly I'm glad that Zac is feeling better.

  • Thanks so much for those links and your kind words. The links are very interesting. It is unbelievable what is happening. I really appreciate the tip on dextrose. Had not considered that. Needless to say none of the 'professionals' we have met have ever mentioned it! Good job we all have each other!

  • Just a small point - Dextrose is listed as safe by Ceoliac UK

  • Interesting. It is no wonder we all have such problems. It is a minefield.

  • efsa.europa.eu/fr/scdocs/do...

    Please check out page 4 section 3.3 Where they used dextrose and maltodextrin at 30ppm

    And here's the conclusion:

    CONCLUSIONS

    1. Wheat-based maltodextrins may contain low levels of proteins and peptides. It is not known

    at which levels of intake wheat-based maltodextrins would cause allergic reactions in wheatallergic individuals. Nevertheless, taking into account the scientific information provided and

    in particular the levels of wheat proteins reported in wheat-based maltodextrins, the Panel

    considers that it is not very likely that this product will trigger a severe allergic reaction in

    susceptible individuals.

    2. For coeliac disease, assessment of the evidence produced including a new clinical study

    indicates that wheat-based maltodextrins are unlikely to cause an adverse reaction in

    individuals with coeliac disease provided that the (provisional) value of gluten considered by

    Codex Alimentarius for foods rendered gluten-free is not exceeded.

    So what they are saying is that as long as the gluten levels of dextrose and maltodextrin are within codex it should not cause a severe reaction.

    Some coeliac are more sensitive than others and these allowed levels make us ill.

    In Australia and NZ they have 5ppm as gf with no wheat oats barley or rye and no pure oats.

    Whereas in the UK it's now 20ppm and coeliac can get codex wheat on prescription pure oats are allowed as are malted cereals with low levels of gluten from barley.

    In the US and Australia they have to label wheat deriv's as just that.

    So which standards would you prefer?

  • For once in my life I am pretty speechless. I had no idea about any of this. Still trying to absorb. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thank you for the animalrights link. Although I wouldn't eat McD on principle, if they are stating their fries are GF then adding a wheat/beef flavouring - it is beyond belief!

  • Sainsbury's own brand french fries are gluten free they also do frozen burgers that are gluten free. I don't know if you live in or near London but I have just discovered an Italian Restaurant in opposite Lambeth North tube station called 'Cotto' which does gluten free pizza and pasta dishes as well as the "poisonous" kind. Anyway hope Zac is OK

  • Thanks so much. Always grateful for any hints and tips. Will check out those foods. And next time we are in south London, I might check that restaurant. Much appreciated.

  • Made the same mistake myself ONCE!

    Hope Zac recovered and you from your guilt trip.

    :o) xx

  • Thanks. He definitely got over it quicker than me!

  • I hope Zac is fully recovered and back to his normal self! Tomorrow morning, we're leaving on our first vacation in three years. I've also learned the hard way that eating in new places is a challenge. Fortunately, ours is a road trip to Quebec for a week. We're packing a cooler full of gluten free food to take with us. I have IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease) and require small meals frequently, in addition to being gluten intolerant with multiple food allergies. I intend to have a wonderful time, but know that planning well in advance is the key.

  • Thanks for getting in touch. Have a wonderful trip. We are not going far for a holiday this year. Just to my parents in Dorset. But it did cross my mind when we were contemplating travelling abroad - how could I be sure I would find enough gluten free and dairy free food? We usually go to Spain and have found dairy free milk and yoghurts but I cannot recall seeing any GF bread. I am sure they must have it but it is just another hassle that makes you think twice about leaving the house some days. Carrying a bag of food everywhere you go is a nuisance.

    Enjoy Quebec and stay well.

  • Thank you! We're spending 3 days with my daughter and her family who have rented a cottage. We'll be at a resort nearby, but Sarah and I will cook all the meals at the cottage. Then we're off to the Casino at Lac Lemy for two days of adult fun with my older son and his fiancee. That part will be very posh and I'm not worried about eating GF there... My experience is that 5 * establishments cater well to special dietary needs. We're hoping to go to Portugal for a month in Feb/March.... we're looking for a town house with a full kitchen so I can do my own cooking ....just simple foods like fish, seafood and chicken with rice/potatoes and veggies. I'll just do without processed foods like breads. It will require more investigating but we have Celiac friends in the region who are Portugese, so it will work out I'm sure.

  • Hope that Zac is now recovered.

    As a whole family treat...how about a visit to Browns..the gluten free fish and chip restaurant..

    Have a good time in Dorset...it will be so lovely today around Christchurch...

  • Thanks so much.He is fine now. And thanks for getting in touch. I did see your ad on a flyer, last time I was down. We will be back in Christchurch at the end of next week. So will pop in. Please can you keep some sunshine for us!

  • I remember that journey well as i used to travel from Wimborne to Kent with two small children. I was told about oven chips being covered in flour to make them crispy.I dont have allergies that I know of but am gluten free as an experiment to see if it improves my ataxia in time.

  • Thanks for getting in touch. Best of luck with your condition. I hope you notice an improvement.

  • Thanks for this useful reminder for everyone.

    It's always tricky to remember to do so but the moral of the tale here is always always ask places for their allergy menus. Check their allergy/ nutritional information on the web/ phone in advance and always speak to a venue manager to ensure that something you think is GF - really is. The biggest risk in eating naturally GF foods for coeliacs when eating out is that they have been contaminated by handlers or in cooking e.g fries in the same oil as onion rings in flour.

    Many chains vary in their preparation and production from country to country eg in the UK McDonald's fries are GF - yet elsewhere they are not always. It's time consuming and a little dull but sometimes packed lunches or pieces of fruit like apples and bananas really are the best 'fast food' for coeliacs.

  • Hi thanks for getting in touch. You are right that I should have checked. Brain was fried after a hot 3 hours in the car. It is a real minefield and not enough places are publishing their information. I have noticed McDonalds are doing it in the restaurants now. As you say, fast food is not really an option for coeliacs or food allergy sufferers of any kind. Our problem is that when you have dairy allergy to deal with too, snacking becomes very difficult. Poor Zac is only 3 and needs to eat little and often. GF foods are not very filling and he is always hungry. But he has such a sensitive tummy, that we have to be careful not to give him too much fruit too. He had already eaten his quota for the day and had eaten all of the healthy snacks I packed and just needed something more filling and 'hot'. I won't make the mistake again. I am just fortunate that he was not too badly affected. I suspect he left half of them because he had already started to feel unwell. The bloating starts very quickly with him.

  • Oh dear poor Zac! But just to say that McDonalds Fries are NOT gluten free! I have had a DH attack and the only thing different from my diet was a small handful of my daughter's fries!

  • Zoombie McDonald's fries are gluten free and I and other coeliacs on our pages have eaten them when we've been stuck for food. Perhaps yours were cross contaminated? Although I must admit McDonald's is one of the best chains for ensuring this doesn't happen as they follow strict internal guidelines and a manager normally oversees the serving of them.

    See: mcdonalds.co.uk/content/ukh... They also use separate oil.

  • Thank you for your reply Fiona but I suspect they were cross contaminated - not going to risk them again!

  • Have you contacted them? I am sure it says on their menu that they are. I guess they are confused like so many others. I don't think they are coated, they don't taste like they are. But I guess there is a very high chance of cross contamination in the kitchens and possibly the cooking oil. Oh dear. I am so sorry to hear you were so unwell. Another one to cross off the list for us all then! Best wishes.

  • McDonalds fries are listed in Ceoliac UK's guide as being gluten free, as are the burgers, I have eaten them and had no ill effects, cross contamination seems to stick out as the reason for your reaction.

  • Must say, I have never had a problem with either burgers or chips at McD's. I do regard them as a treat as they are not so healthy but it does go to show, the only way to ensure a gf meal or a non cross-contaminated meal with free side dish of poison is to make it yourself. How sad, it's a poor reflection on our food industry. I still get miffed with regards to the choices a vegetarian gets in most restaurants and this is out of choice and would probably not make them feel poorly. Whereas we do not choose to have CD and certainly are poorly do know we have been poisoned. Rant over!

  • I feel the same as you. They are only a treat and Zac can only eat chips. It was about the only food (I thought) I could buy him in that service station. Apart from yet more fruit. But he had already eaten a ton of grapes and a huge banana, anymore and his tummy would have burst!I agree that CD is overlooked, but once you milk allergy on top of that you really are stuffed! So now, I have bought one of those oversized flask things - so I can now take a hot meal out for him. And if we get thrown out of any restaurants for bringing our own food, you can bet I will tell the world!!!!

  • Good for you. My son is 10 now and I am watching him like a hawk. He has recently started feeling sick after lunch only, in school. Lunch is usually a sandwich or poisonous pasta. I have been to the GP with him recently and they have given me a tablet for him to chew after lunch - similar to Gaviscon. I am hoping it is just a passing phase with him and not CD.

    Pity you do not live nearer to Liverpool, I am having a Macmillan Coffee Morning on 28th September with gluten free cakes only! Anyone in the area welcome, it is at Deyesbrook Community Centre 10 til 4 all donations to Macmillan. x

  • Poor little Zac.

    I've eaten McDonalds Fries out of desperation when I've been hungry coming out of Gatwick. I always ask if foods contain gluten even though I have heard or read that they don't. It helps to keep staff on their toes and reminds them that coeliac disease hasn't gone away.

    I sometimes ask a member of staff who has no Idea, and I ask them to ask the Manager, who promptly locates the McDonald's allergen list and confirms that the fries/shake are gluten free.

    This does McDonalds a service by helping to educate their staff. Something that McDonalds don't do properly themselves, it seems.

    I've also drunk ( not sure if that's the right word for it) that stuff McDonald's call a 'shake' in Budapest when I have needed a drink and didn't want a hot coffee and couldn't have their national drink, beer. It's awful, like the fries, but it serves a purpose.

    Neither the fries or shake affected me.

    Regarding some foods being coated in wheat whilst the same product from a different manufacturer doesn't, I agree, this is a minefield. If they taste the same, why is the gluten necessary. So why can't there be a law that says you can't add gluten to food unless you can prove that it is necessary.

    The trouble is, this would need food experts working for the government who were better educated and more highly paid than food experts working in industry. No chance. The government gives the higher pay to people who understand money, not food.

    Please everyone, keep asking those food vendors if their products contain gluten, even if you think you know they don't. Keep the anti gluten lobby alive and kicking!

  • Thanks for the nice and interesting comments. I feel the same as you on everything you said. There has to be tighter controls over the unnecessary adding of wheat, gluten and dairy to so many food products that don't need them. I agree that the problem is probably at source, and despite what the farmers say, the government does take good care of them. We are surrounded by oceans of wheat fields around here and they must have some idea that it is being used for more than making weetabix for example.

    I will continue to try and stir it up wherever I go! I am going to try and get Nadine Dorries onside. I know she loves to get her name in the press and there are only 2 conservative MP's (out of 33) on that bill list, so I reckon I can shame her into it.

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