Our latest issue has a pretty extensive story about French fries, so I was interested to see there is new information out today regarding the fries at Burger King.
In fact, the fast food chain today released it's "Gluten Sensitive List," a compilation of all the items on the Burger King menu that do not contain wheat, barley, oats or rye based on suppliers' ingredients lists. Mostly it is the things you would expect - burgers without the bun, other meats, dipping sauces, condiments, beverages, and fruit. And it lists the French fries.
But I am still not sure I would feel safe telling my daughter, who has celiac disease, that the fries are OK for her.
Burger King seems to have been very self-protective in making this list. First, it noticeably avoids calling it a gluten-free list. I guess I can understand that given what happened to McDonald's when it had a gluten-free list. (Think lawsuits.)
Second, the list comes with a disclaimer that says "actual gluten content may vary depending on the supplier, product handling and each restaurant's food preparation practices." The disclaimer notes that only 100 percent fruit juice, honey, milk and fruit and vegetables that are not coated with wax or resin that might contain gluten are gluten free. (The use of wheat to coat fruits and vegetables has come up previously in the gluten-free community. We have no evidence that it happens. Look for more info on this topic in an upcoming blog.)
These disclaimers may mainly be a way for Burger King to protect itself, but they don't give me a lot of confidence in the list, especially when it comes to the French fries. I would feel safer if the company said its policy was to use dedicated fryers for its French fries. In the case of Burger King this is particularly important because the restaurant also sells breaded, fried onion rings. In the past I have found onion rings mixed in with my fries. Consequently, ever since my daughter was little we have avoided ordering the fries there.
I know that even when a company has a policy of separating the French fries from the gluten-containing breaded products it doesn't always happen in all individual restaurants. But it seems the place where fast food restaurants have to start if they want to make the claim their French fries are safe for the "gluten sensitive."
French fries can be vexing for anyone on the gluten-free diet. They should be gluten free considering they are just fried potatoes, but we all know it's not that simple. At McDonald's, wheat is used as a starting ingredient in the par fry oil and even though it is so highly processed that the fries have tested below detectable levels of gluten, the company no longer says they are gluten free. And in many restaurants use of the same oil for the fries and breaded products renders them unsafe for those who are gluten free. (Our latest issue includes a list of restaurants where you can be sure the fries are safe because they do not contain gluten and are prepared separately from breaded items.)
One of the things I do like about the new Burger King gluten-sensitive menu is the inclusion of Fresh Apple Fries. These are apples cut up to look like French fries. They come in a fry-like cardboard sleeve with a side of low-fat caramel dip in a foil packet that looks like ketchup. Not only are they gluten sensitive, they are not fried and they are healthy.
In the end that's the kind of gluten-sensitive food we should all be looking for especially if we are trying to keep those 2010 resolutions to eat more wisely.