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McDonalds Fries in the US  
4th-Dec-2010 03:08 pm

Since there was some debate in the recent thread about McDonalds fries about whether or not they are vegetarian in the US, I decided to contact the company and ask. This is the response I got:

"Hello Meghan:

Thank you for taking the time to contact McDonald's. We are truly sorry that you are disappointed with us and appreciate this opportunity to respond to your comments.

It is important to note that McDonald's voluntarily provides nutrition and ingredient information on its products, and we have always followed Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for labeling to be consistent with other U.S. food retailers and packaged goods who provide nutrition and ingredient information.

However, some customers have told us they want more information about our products than what we previously provided. So now, in our nutrition materials, we are including the source of our "natural flavorings." For core menu products in the U.S., customers are now able to find out if a natural flavor comes from a meat, vegetable or dairy source. This updated Nutrition Facts Brochure is available in our U.S. restaurants and on our website at: http://www.mcdonalds.com/countries/usa/food/ingredient_list/index.html.

With regard to our French fries, any customer in the U.S. who contacts McDonald's USA to ask if they contain beef flavoring is told "yes." For flavor enhancement, in the U.S., McDonald's French fry suppliers use a very small amount of beef flavor as a natural flavoring during the par-frying process at the potato processing plant. In the restaurant, the French fries are cooked in vegetable oil.

In addition, we have no plans to change the way we prepare our French fries in the U.S. However, it is important to know that our French fries are prepared differently in other countries.

Regardless of our efforts, we want you to know we regret that you are upset with McDonald's. We appreciate the time you took to contact us and we hope we have the privilege of being able to serve you in the future.

McDonald's Customer Response Center"

The link she included doesn't work for me,but I found this. I think that it is interesting that she says that the information now lists the source for natural flavorings...then says that the fries do have beef, but that only wheat and dairy are indicated as the source of the natural flavorings.

Since they certainly aren't vegan, I suppose it doesn't matter for me, but if I were lacto-ovo I would certainly avoid them, considering the company answers emails saying that they are beef-tastic.

I also found the form email amusing. I didn't express any disappointment, I just straight up asked if there was any meat in their fries. :-P
(Deleted comment)
4th-Dec-2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
I don't *think* that any of the other main chains do this, but someone that has looked into things more recently might. Chick-fil-a used to, but doesn't any more. I don't really eat much fast food (i'm more of a medium food person... chipotle, noodles and company, subway, etc) so I haven't checked with others.
4th-Dec-2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
I was googling just now and saw something in the Google results about Burger King using chicken flavoring. I've closed the tab though, so I don't have a link.
4th-Dec-2010 09:50 pm (UTC)
I was wondering if Burger Kind does, too, especially since they offer a veggie burger. Will go google now & see if I can find out anything about that chicken flavoring. I wonder if store bought frozen fries use meat as their natural flavors, too.
4th-Dec-2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
Ok, found this on here http://www.vegetarian-restaurants.net/OtherInfo/Burger-King.htm that Burger King no longer uses meat natural flavoring. However, this site http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20091128151832AAoGlv4 someone said in the comments a year ago that all fries are precooked in tallow (animal fat) before being delivered to restaurants & the frozen kind to supermarkets. But this may have been before everyone became concerned about saturated fats. (sorry, I don't know how to do links.)

BTW, thank you so much for posting this. I just never made any connection with fires being cooked in meat flavored oil. I've asked if they're cooked in the same oil as meat, and asked if the veggie burgers are cooked separate at BK, but never thought they would be pre-flavored.
4th-Dec-2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
holy crap! I had no idea! i wonder if they do that over here in the UK!?
4th-Dec-2010 09:18 pm (UTC)
I don't know for sure, but I feel like I heard that fries at the McDonalds in the UK are fine for vegetarians and are even approved by The Vegetarian Society. See: http://www.seedlingshowcase.com/corporate/product.asp?id=50301

Which I got to by going to the Vegetarian Society's website, then clicked on "approved products" at the top, then went to the section on catering.

So it looks like you are ok. :-)
4th-Dec-2010 09:20 pm (UTC)
The fries are definitely Vegetarian Society approved in the UK. However, the current veggie deli sandwich that they're doing isn't actually approved as being suitable for vegetarians: something to do with the risk of contamination due to the way the oil is filtered, I believe, although they are cooked in vegetable oil.
4th-Dec-2010 09:20 pm (UTC)
I think it was me who wanted to know precisely what "beef flavor" meant, just because I'm pedantic like that. Thanks for investigating, even if their answer was crap. (Did they provide a follow-up opportunity? I wonder if we could get a response by trying to get them to confirm the fries "may contain" animal products other than milk. I think they'r super-wary of being sued again, but surely no one can sue them for saying "may contain".)

I did a quick google to see if there was a verdict on whether the fries were kosher (since we know they contain dairy, I think this might be a rare situation where figuring out whether something is kosher would help figure out if it's vegetarian), but couldn't find anything (though I did learn the only kosher McDonald's not in Israel is in Buenos Aires).
4th-Dec-2010 11:37 pm (UTC)
The email said that if I had further questions or concerns to submit another form on their website... although it did come with a reference number.
4th-Dec-2010 09:22 pm (UTC)
"I think that it is interesting that she says that the information now lists the source for natural flavorings...then says that the fries do have beef, but that only wheat and dairy are indicated as the source of the natural flavorings."

I think McDonald's Beef isn't natural and therefore cannot be listed as a natural ingredient... :P

4th-Dec-2010 10:08 pm (UTC)
4th-Dec-2010 10:02 pm (UTC)
Well, shit. Must go repent to the vegetarian gods.:/ thanks for the heads up!
4th-Dec-2010 10:38 pm (UTC)
Since everyone who lives in the UK & other areas that aren't the US keep saying that the McDonalds' over there are vegetarian, it makes me wonder why the ones in the US aren't? Especially since it's the same chain! It seems like that would make a lot more sense. And you'd think e-mailing them & asking them to remove the beef flavoring would make them lean more towards that =/

But in regards to the e-mail, I find it funny that she says "we hope we have the privilege of being able to serve you in the future."

Well... if someone is inquiring about the fries & whether or not they are veggie, it's not like McDonalds has any other veg friendly items (except for salads w/o meat, which really are't that great ayways).

But I know you said you only asked if there was any meat in their fries. I just still find it amusing and can't help but laughing a little.
4th-Dec-2010 11:38 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I don't know why they don't have the same recipes everywhere. It is like how skittles in the US used to have gelatin, but they didn't in the UK and Australia. Or how Oreos in the US are dairy-free, but I think that they have dairy elsewhere.
5th-Dec-2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
It's all about the local tastes. I mean, I don't believe "super size" is common in other countries outside the US, at least in the size it is in the US, etc... In the US, beef also is different than some other countries due to corn and soy feed. Just like the McDonald's in India have lots of completely different items.
4th-Dec-2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
"I think that it is interesting that she says that the information now lists the source for natural flavorings...then says that the fries do have beef, but that only wheat and dairy are indicated as the source of the natural flavorings."

It's an allergy thing, and that page isn't trying to actually tell you what is in the natural flavoring beyond what the law requires them to list. Product which contain (or may contain traces of) wheat, dairy, fish, shelfish, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, or eggs much list those things specifically on the label. Beef is not a common allergen, so the beef flavoring can be left lumped in "natural flavor" along with who knows what else. Very annoying - I wish they'd get rid of "natural flavor" comletely and just list all ingredients.
4th-Dec-2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
That makes sense, but she did say, "For core menu products in the U.S., customers are now able to find out if a natural flavor comes from a meat, vegetable or dairy source."
4th-Dec-2010 11:00 pm (UTC)
I wonder why they are unwilling to change?
4th-Dec-2010 11:05 pm (UTC)
I wonder if it's the same up here in Canada :/ I haven't eaten McDonald's fries in years but I'm curious to know hahaha XD
5th-Dec-2010 02:34 am (UTC)
5th-Dec-2010 03:58 am (UTC)
so i'm not clear on this still after reading the letter and the comments; is it actual beef (like the kind in beef stock, coming from an actual cow), or fake beef flavor?

Edited at 2010-12-05 04:01 am (UTC)
5th-Dec-2010 04:09 am (UTC)
Yeah, it is still kind of unclear, isn't it? They are probably being deliberately vague to avoid being sued again!
5th-Dec-2010 09:03 am (UTC)
i mean, it's not like i eat anything from mcdonald's anyway (forget whether or not it's vegetarian, it's still nasty), but it would be nice to actually know one way or the other, right?
5th-Dec-2010 08:28 pm (UTC)
Weird and vague. Reading the comments it sounds like they changed it in the UK and Canada, I wonder why not in the US?
When my dad went to India for business he went to a McDonald's. Apparently they provide real vegetarian options there, and nothing has any kind of beef flavoring in it. He said the veggie burger actually wasn't that bad.
6th-Dec-2010 02:39 pm (UTC) - In Singapore...
hey guys!

i'm from singapore and to make sure, i emailed mac's too and here's what they replied:

"Dear Grace,

Thank you for your email.

In Singapore, McDonald’s French Fries are cooked in 100% vegetable oil and contain no beef extract. Only salt is added as a seasoning before serving and you are always welcome to request for no salt added in your fries.

We hope this information is useful, and look forward to serving you soon again in our restaurants.

Thanks & Regards,
Ethan Teng"

so i reckon it's safe to eat mac's fries in Singapore i hopeee.
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