Are McDonald's French Fries Gluten-Free? Does it Matter?

are mcdonalds fries gluten free

Dude note: This is not a “Dude on his pedestal” post telling everyone about the evils of McDonald’s. We all know they’re crap. (Yet…my senior year in high school, I ate at least 113 Big Macs. Ahh…youth.)

Anyway, what this post is about is their French Fries. And not just about whether they are gluten free or not, but about the risk celiacs are willing to take to eat certain foods.

I follow a specific celiac support group on Facebook. There’s some good info. Some bad info. Some fear mongering. Basically what we’ve come to expect. The other day, someone posted something about eating McDonald’s French Fries and feeling awful the next day. My first reaction was “You’re a celiac and you’re eating at McDonald’s??”

But then I realized that some chains supposedly do gluten-free right and maybe I shouldn’t be such a judgmental turd.

So I went on the McDonald’s website and looked up their fries. And there it is, clear as day: CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK.

I was actually surprised the first ingredient was potatoes. Who would thunk it??

mcdonalds fries celiacYes, there has been some controversy about these fries within the community. They’re supposedly safe in Canada but not in the U.S. But independent testing has shown them to come in below 20ppm in the U.S. But do they use a dedicated fryer? Some locations may and some may not.

My point? It’s a huge risk for a celiac to eat their fries.

And what is the reward? [crickets]

So yesterday, I posted on my Facebook page my thoughts on the person eating the fries. It was not a direct attack mind you and of course no names were mentioned. I simply said “A little common sense and education goes a long way toward feeling good. Don’t be your own worst enemy.”

Good friendly advice right? Well not everyone took it as so friendly.

Some thought I was being way too harsh.

Some thought I was simply wrong and will continue to eat McDonald’s French Fries.

Some thought McDonald’s was a no go, but Wendy’s, Chick Fil A, etc. were ok.

And then there was this stinger: “Goddamn. I’m glad I’m not a member of this group. What a bunch of judgmental a**holes. This nasty attitude is not only unhelpful, it’s harmful. How do you think being mean could be otherwise?”

Who was being mean? How is telling the truth being an a**hole?

Here’s the bottom line folks. You walk into almost any fast food joint, you are taking a gamble with your health. Even if they claim to be gluten-free, there are simply too many risks involved.

And again I ask, what is the reward? [still crickets]

Let’s say for argument sake their fries are gluten-free. Great, you say. Well, here are a few quotes from people who have actually worked at McDonald’s:

I worked at mcds for over 6 years up till a couple months ago. They cook them in the same vat as the hash browns. There’s wheat in the ingredients anyways. I’ve had to tell some celiac people coming thru they couldn’t have them when they ordered them.
They cook other things in the fryers when they are busy….I know, my sis use to work at McDonald’s.
My celiac daughter works at our local McDonald’s. She sees everything and how it is handled and would not eat the fries or anything on the menu. Ours does not have a dedicated fryer.

So there you have it. Even when it “might” be gluten-free, it seriously “might not” be.

Eating gluten-free is a gigantic pain it the butt. But it ain’t rocket science folks.

Please use good judgment and keep yourself healthy.

No reward is worth the risk.

February 2019 Update: McDonald’s has announced their fries are now cooked in the same fryer as their new Donut Sticks. Case now definitely closed.

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50 thoughts on “Are McDonald's French Fries Gluten-Free? Does it Matter?”

  1. Totally in agreement with you. And perhaps my age has brought a degree of wisdom – but the truth is that anytime a celiac eats something they didn’t prepare – there is a risk. So management of our disease truly becomes a matter of minimizing the risk. There is no question (if one isn’t clueless) that fast food places rate high up there on risk.

    Even packaged processed GF foods can be risky. Ask me about getting “glutened” from a name-brand GF Sweetened Rice Flake cereal recently. ๐Ÿ™ I had become a bit suspicious of this cereal anyway, and then thankfully read a post somewhere where someone else had the same experience. Continuing to investigate this, I read on a forum yesterday from someone who mentioned that particular brand name was not to be trusted to always be GF.

    So yep, it’s about risk – and common sense. If you have celiac disease and you want to risk feeling bad and/or feeling deathly ill, go have some McDonald’s fries.

      1. Mary,
        It starts with an A – ends with a “head”. ๐Ÿ™‚
        Like I posted, I first had seen mention of this from a commenter somewhere. I tried to dismiss it because I love this cereal. I would eat it for a mid-afternoon snack or even middle of the night snack. But I was getting sick, definitely celiac symptoms (headache, irritable, balance off, etc.) So then I did a bit of googling and saw where someone on a celiac forum was talking about having a great mistrust of this brand. I do use other items by them with no problem that I’ve noticed. But not in the quantities I ate the cereal of course.

        I’ve considered perhaps this cereal incident is just a “bad batch”; but given what I’ve been through enough overall with celiac disease it’s just not worth the “risk” to me to continue to eat it. I’ve ordered some of the Enjoy Life brand rice cereal and hope that fulfills my rice cereal cravings. I’m kind of corn intolerant so rice cereal it has to be for now. Although I am going to try some flaxseed cereal too. Not sure my intestines are ready for the quinoa cereal yet.

    1. I defiantly agree that mcdonalds is not safe. I got celiac when I was 4 I’m 12 now but I would always get a sundae and frys but guess what? It has wheat and if it doesn’t it has dairy sometimes you just have to adjust. I haven’t eaten a thing at mcdonalds since I was 5.

  2. I’m with Cindi, I want to know. Heck, I would rather put people through the third degree than get sick. We occasionally go to a pizza place near here called The Mellow Mushroom. They have a GF pizza, a dedicated prep area/pans/oven and everyone I have talked to is very knowledgable about cross-contamination. After we went last time I had a reaction. It was bad, but didn’t give me the after effect knock-down. For some reason I went to their website and read they had recently chamged their GF crust, and the new mix has agave syrup in it. Well, at least I wasn’t glutened. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Kathy, You must be in the NWA area. Thanks for the post. I have wondered just how careful the Mellow Mushroom was in their GF prep. We don’t get to go there often, but good to know it wasn’t cross-contamination bc my intestines react so quickly I won’t take any chances. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      1. We’re in PWC, and don’t get there a lot. Mostly special occasions. My fastidious non-celiac GF SIL did the research on them. And, everytime I’ve been there and talked to them they’ve been great. So, yeah, no cross-contamination, just agave. Ugg.
        Have you been to Glory Days Grill? We went for the first time a few weeks ago, after reading many good things about their GF menu. We lucked on a newbie waitress, and after we all ordered my husband made the GF point one more time, she showed him her pad – GF in caps, and my order circled – and explained all the instruction she had gotten as wait-staff about GF orders and the menu. Seems they are very serious about it. Made me happy, and. I devoured my wings with gusto. They even have a flourless cake for dessert.

  3. Hi Dude!

    Hope that the Dude family had a great Christmas, and a Happy New Year to you all!

    Um, mean don’t think so. I am sure that you, like us all are perfectly capable of that, but not this time ๐Ÿ™‚

    And at times anyone who risks telling the truth is labeled an asshole – so what? Just don’t change!!!!!!!!!!!

    I find you to be generally kind, upfront and you don’t mollycoddle people – that is a good thing. Leads me to have faith in your statements and it is bad enough that I need to re read the ingredients list on everything every time I shop, checking for surprises, at least I do not have to second guess you ๐Ÿ™‚

    Have a great day out there!


  4. Honestly, unless, we’re, oddly, talking about Chipotle–you can see them make the food–I don’t trust,”gluten-free” fast food places. What I do trust, though, is that it’s really difficult to screw up a salad, and if you know that a place has a dedicated gluten-free fryer (Chick-Fil-A), it’s worth it to just get whatever goes in the fryer.

    That does mean I end up eating a menu of Chick-fil-A waffle fries and Wendy’s salads on road trips–but I also don’t get sick, even when I’m too busy to pack food.

    1. Figuring it out as I go

      Thanks for the tip about Chick-fil-A. We are new to this celiac thing. However, I had a bad experience at Chipotle last week. In the past, they were very good, but I went in and asked them to make gluten-free tacos. The gal working changed her gloves, got out the soft corn tortillas and threw them on the press where the wheat tortillas just came off. I looked at her and said, “you just contaminated that” and she got kind of nasty. I agree that salad may be the only safe choice.

  5. Being mean and being brutally honest are two totally separate things. Some people just can’t tell the difference. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I worked at McDonald’s all through high school. Some of their procedures may have changed since then, but fast food by its very nature is not designed to cater to those of us with special dietary needs. Someone can go directly from the grill – after handling a wheat bun – to the French fry station to scoop your fries without wearing gloves or washing their hands. Happens all the time and I know because I used to do it daily. There are no safeguards against cross-contamination, let alone the gluten content of the fries. If you’re a celiac and you care about your health at all, you’re just going to avoid fast food altogether. Plain and simple.

  6. I blogged about McDonald’s fries NOT being gluten-free more than 6 years ago. I linked directly to the McDonald’s website where the ingredients are listed and there is a warning that the fries contain WHEAT and MILK. You would have thought I told people their first born was dead. People attacked me via private email and public comments. People told me I shouldn’t be allowed to blog anymore, that I was stupid, and that I was responsible. The responses to that post were outrageous. I don’t know how they can dispute facts directly from the source, which in this case was the McDonald’s nutritional guide. When I blogged about this topic again in 2011, I got the same crazy feedback. People take their fast food very seriously. I say if they want to eat crap plus gluten, that is on them. It is on me to present them with the facts.

    Here is my original post:

    Oh, and I was on that same Facebook “support” group thread yesterday too where I posted the ingredients directly from the McDonald’s website. People still disputed I was wrong. Sigh.

    1. Erin, I was in a discussion on the Celiac Disease Support Group page, where you posted the ingredients and I did not see any posts in that thread that said that you were wrong. Was there something that was removed?

      1. It looks like she has since deleted it. It said “This means nothing. I will continue eating them until someone can prove otherwise.” which was immediately posted after my ingredients comment.

        In my opinion, that group is nothing but a catty bunch of misinformed people. There is so much infighting on that page it is crazy. I will continue to post facts on that page to help out the newbies. As someone living with Celiac since 1981, I feel like I have more than enough years experience to help properly inform others.

        1. This is one reason I’m hesitant to start a forum here. Don’t want it to turn into a bunch of fear mongering or bad info.

          1. Your website, your forum, your rules. I used to have a lot of trolls on the NYC Celiac Meetup board until I put together the rules of the message board. If there is name calling and hate mongering, they are deleted. You could do the same on your forums. I think you will ultimately find the good outweigh the bad. (Let’s hope!)

        2. Fair enough – I wasn’t trying to bust your chops – was really curious if something like that had happened.

          On the group – I tend to agree. My biggest problem with it is there’s a lot of pseudo-science and woo that gets pushed.

  7. Great read! I agree with you 200%! I have not eaten in a fast food place in the 3 years since my diagnosis for that reason alone. I think some people feel so overwhelmed by this diagnosis that they choose to remain in the mindset of “innocence is bliss.” Anyone who thought your post was mean was clearly angry at the message, not the messenger. Education is the key to having a safe, fun, gluten-free life. Thanks for keeping it real and reminding us all that it is always better to be safe than sorry.

  8. Sometimes when you travel a lot by car, you just want something warm that didn’t come from your motel microwave. And if you’re like me, that happens most often when you’re in middle of nowhere Wyoming. So yeah, I’ll drop in to the Wendy’s that is right there where I’m buying my gas and get a baked potato. I cut it myself, and don’t eat the skin… but at least it is warm and not cooked in a paper cup. I am more careful now, but I used to get their chili as well. When they didn’t grill any of their buns, that is.
    I live in Ohio, and my daughter is in the San Francisco area. I make the trip at least once a year, and I do pack almost all of my own food – including things that can be “cooked” in a motel room. But after a couple of days on the road I just want something that is quick and easy. ( I know I could find a restaurant somewhere, but budget has to be considered as well.)

    1. I can totally understand about traveling. My husband and I do a lot of long distance traveling by motorcycle and hauling food is logistically impossible. Something warm not eaten out of a box or baggie with good company usually end up being a potato, but once in awhile we get lucky with a place that “gets it” in our travels.

      I think many people are clueless or still in mourning for their old lifestyles.

  9. You aren’t being an a***ole, you are being truthful and I thank you for this. Sometimes we, as adults, need someone to say exactly what you said in order to keep us honest and from reaching for those fries!

    BTW, you may be having a problem with your server. I was unable to access your blog on FB today. I got a message saying it was unavailable possibly due to capacity issues – hopefully this means that you struck a chord and everyone on FB is trying to read it! I am glad that if I cannot see it on FB I can come straight to your blog to find your material. Thank you for all that you do. Happy Holidays to you and Mrs. Dude!

    Deb M.

    1. Thanks Debbie. Yeah…I’ve been in technical hell on and off for about a month now. Switching hosts as we speak. Hopefully, that’ll do the trick.

  10. While I agree that itโ€™s not worth risking a reaction for certain foods, I donโ€™t really like the โ€œwhatโ€™s the reward?โ€ question. What the reward is should be obvious. When I was new to this I got really ecstatic about finding out that I was able to eat certain things or found a good substitute for something. This is not small stuff, this is a real quality of life issue and it really is a big deal.

    I appreciate that you try to get good info out there, and donโ€™t sugarcoat things (e.g., McDonaldโ€™s Fries are a no-go, period), so keep doing all of that, but understanding why people do what they do, or want what they want, makes it easier to get the good info to them and to making sure they really get it.

  11. Over the weekend, I was at a local sports bar with my non-celiac husband. I had eaten at home before we went so he could go there and eat something I don’t make at home. I noticed the menu had several “gluten-free” items (one being fried chicken wings). Out of curiosity, I asked the manager if the “gluten-free” menu items were prepared in a separate area, with separate utensils and in separate oil. He looked at me like I was speaking a different language. He ultimately said no. I explained that those items then are not gluten-free because they are cross-contaminated with gluten. I explained that I wasn’t trying to call them out, just to educate them that they can’t say something is gluten-free when it’s fried in the same oil as the breaded mozzarella sticks or prepared on the same surface and with the same utensils. He said he had no idea. It was a really good conversation, because I explained that those of us with celiac disease simply cannot be exposed to gluten in any form, and that includes shared frying oil or surfaces. One of the servers was listening intently when I explained what happens when I eat gluten, so at least these two get it. Whether or not the restaurant will change its menu remains to be seen, but I feel like I did my part to educate at least one local restaurant.

    1. This is nice to hear, that the servers were interested and that there was some real dialogue and education and thought going on.

  12. โ€œA little common sense and education goes a long way toward feeling good. Donโ€™t be your own worst enemy.โ€ Dude, I saw your post yesterday and was in complete agreement. It wasn’t rude, it was good common practical sense and needed to be said. Some people just can’t take honest helpful criticism. So, “let them eat fries!”

  13. We all have to be diligent with our own health. Missing my favorite comfort food, we went to a popular chain, lets call them the West Coast Pizza Cucina, where they had advertised GF pizza prepared according to GIG standards. Sat at the bar with full view of the woodburning ovens. Saw my pizza and two other GF pizzas being made with gluten pizzas being prepped on both sides of ours. It was put into the wood burning oven, where paddles of gluten pizzas were crossed over the GF pies. Finally, the guy putting the toppings on handled 4 gluten pizzas before using the same gloves to grab extra cheese topping for my pizza, cut it with the same wheel, and then had someone with fresh gloves deliver it to me. Obviously I wasn’t going to eat this and called the manager. My pie was replaced with a meticulously prepared version (glove changes, different cutting wheel and toppings from plastic containers in a separate refrigerator. We were given gift cards to come back, but haven’t bothered. Not worth the risk.

  14. What I don’t understand is why ppl who are coeliacs still want to eat Maccys/fast food when it is so clear that they need to look after their body
    Fast food makes “normal” ppl feel rough.
    The whole thing does not compute for me.

    Eat some meat and veggies that you cooked yourself it’ll be far nicer than a Big Mac!

    1. I know where you’re coming from, Al โ€” to be honest, I gave up eating at McD’s and most other fast food places LONG before my CD diagnosis. I mean like about 15-20 years before. Not because it was making me sick or anything, but simply because I felt it just wasn’t healthy.

      But you could say the same thing about tobacco โ€” plenty of people still smoke or chew it even though they’re fully aware of the health risks.

      The problem is bigger than we realise. At no time before in our North American society have we ever devalued food as much as we do today. Collectively, it seems we’ve lost sight of the fact that food is fuel for our bodies. We buy into the lie that the food industry sells us: that food is merely this thing meant to fill some void, and that we don’t have to “waste” time preparing it ourselves when we can either hit up the nearest fast food joint for a quick fix, or just buy some packaged/canned/frozen pre-fabricated “meal” at the grocery store, microwave it for a few minutes and dig right in.

      We don’t do this with our cars. When it’s time to fill up the gas tank, we fill it with *gasoline*. Not brake fluid or windshield wash or kerosene or motor oil. Just gas.

      But that’s exactly what we’re doing with our bodies today, and Big Food has doing nothing but enable us. Is it any wonder we have so much obesity and other dietary-related illness and disease in today’s world?

    2. Al, I agree entirely – I won’t eat out anywhere and don’t even consider fast food. As a celiac, I need to be extra careful about what goes into my body, and for me that is fruit, veg, and beans that I cook from scratch myself. Whole, nourishing foods simply prepared and frankly more tasty than any of the things I’m supposedly “missing out on”. But even without the celiac factor in there, you’re right that we as a society need to think more about what we’re eating and if it is really nourishing us in a positive way rather than just something dumped in there for a momentary pleasure. Sadly, I don’t think many are looking at it that way.

  15. This, this just makes me sad. ๐Ÿ™ I didn’t realize the fries had gluten in them (I know, I know…I should have looked!) and I’ve been letting my 7 year old have them occasionally when his big sister takes him there for a treat. She works there and was happy because she knows the fries are in a dedicated fryer. Guess we’ll have to stop that. It was that one little bit of “normal” that he had. We’ll have to find something else. It was the only McD’s I was willing to take him to.

    I don’t understand people going nuts over it…but I do understand the sadness from it. All the stuff that has to be given up….it would be nice to have one thing (even if it is crap!) that could just stay. Unhealthy and tastes terrible (I only eat at McD’s myself in an emergency….dire emergency) but there it is. Having to explain to the 7 year old that we can’t take our own food to the WEEKLY Stevie B’s (pizza joint) fundraiser for school after they let him bring in food for a friend’s birthday party is kind of like stabbing myself with a spork. Aggravating. He just doesn’t understand the fundraising part of it. Ah well.

    Keep getting the info out there Gluten Dude. It is helpful. Sad, angry, newbie or what have you, it’s helpful. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. //No reward is worth the risk.//

    I took a risk tonight. I ate at a restaurant that was new to me. But I don’t think it was much of a risk. I’d read about the place a while back; one of the principals (chef, owner or something) has celiac or is wheat sensitive, and they have a separate (and fairly extensive) GF menu. When the waiter took my order, I pointed out that I’d ordered from the gluten free menu, and told him that I was a celiac and really needed stuff to be gluten free. (He reassured me that that was no problem.)

    We don’t eat out often when we’re not traveling, but tonight we were going to be passing this place on the way home from a hospital visit, so I took the chance. And I had some good chicken tortilla soup and some very good shrimp ceviche. I think I was adequately rewarded for the risk.

    As far as your comment to the person eating MacDonald’s fries goes, I guess that’s the crap that a (crusader?, defender of the clan?, responsible celiac advocate?) has to expect. Humankind has a long tradition of punishing the bearers of bad news. So it goes…


  17. Why would anyone logically consider McDonald’s or any fast food place if one suffers from CD? We know MCD is crap food and french fries are deep fried along with their fish sandwiches and fried chicken things so why take an unnecessary chance?

    If one is gets gluten in their system, it takes our body 6 weeks to recover from that exposure assuming it is not exposed again.

    Doing the right thing is easy for some and not so easy for others.


      1. That’s a good point, GD.

        The problem is that the food industry has collectively perverted, distorted and re-framed the concept of what normal ought to be. We’re at a point where we need to re-claim normal, to take it back.

        Headline: “‘Dorito Effect’ author says flavourful foods have us craving all wrong”

        It’s worth reading the whole article and viewing the accompanying under-5-min video, but here’s an excerpt.



        For decades we’ve been trying to pinpoint what has sparked the obesity crisis. First, we assumed it was fat that was the problem, then it was carbs, then it was sugar. But what if it isn’t really a nutrition problem, but a flavour one?

        In his new book, “The Dorito Effect,” journalist Mark Schatzker argues that the food industry has expertly learned to manipulate flavour to make their products irresistible, while fruits, vegetables and meat have all become incrementally less delicious.

        “We’re in a situation where a) the whole foods we grow are getting blander, they’re not so fun to eat. And b) we’re sprinkling flavour — you might say the sheen of nutrition — onto all sorts of (food),” he told CTV’s Canada AM Friday.

        The result is that our bodies now crave all the wrong things. Flavour used to be the language of nutrition, Schatzker says. Our bodies would seek out the flavour of the foods that contained the nutrients we needed.

        But after years of loading our food with lab-made flavouring, we have interfered with that ancient chemical language.


        It goes back to a previous comment I made above (14.1, dated 2014/12/30) about the lie that the food industry is selling us and how it’s made us lose sight of how food ought to be, as I previously said, “fuel for our bodies.” The author in this story even repeats this phrase.

  18. Gluten Dude, I completely agree. And your statement was calm, measured, and a dose of common sense – it’s sad that people jumped all over you for it. In the end, we are the ones who suffer if we get sick, and as much as it might be frustrating or inconvenient or we wish companies would act differently, when they don’t make a product that is suitable for us, we have to protect ourselves. And that means avoiding the food. No risk is worth being sick, and especially when the information is so clear that eating something at McD’s will lead to real harm/sickness.

    People get defensive over ground they don’t want to face or give up, and here it is both: the people who eat there don’t want to give up the taste they crave/enjoy and don’t want to face the facts that show why their health requires that they change their ways. Sigh.

  19. I regularly order the BBQ plate from a local restaurant called Smithfields. I get baked beans and stew or potato salad for sides. I have never gotten sick. One night they mistakenly replaced one of my sides with french fries. Did I eat them? Not one. Not a chance.

  20. I tested McDonalds fries for gluten to 20 ppm using a Glutentox test kit. The results came back negative meaning that there was less than 20 ppm of gluten present. Although there may be trace ingredients of wheat, it is possible that the concentration is so minute that, most often, they do not at effect people with celiac.
    Check out the test I did here at

  21. the Fries and ”poutine ” in Canada are gluten free but watch the manipulaton , on the 5 poutine a eat this years i had sick 1 time maybe contamination , the smashed patatoes dont have gluten too

  22. Just an FYI, celiac and gluten intolerant folks can sometimes have an inflammatory response to: rice (brown and white), potatoes, tomaotes, tapioca, coffee. There maybe some other items, check Dr. Mercola’s web site for the full list and sort of long explaination as to what causes the inflammatory response.
    My gut can sometiems respond very rapidly to gluten is I like to be very careful eating out.

  23. I don’t have celiacs, but I have a wheat allergy(dairy allergy, too so double whammy). I was wondering why I felt like crap/got splitting headaches after having their fries, and now I know.
    Thank you for this poost.

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I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

I AM NOT someone who embraces this gluten-free craziness. I didnโ€™t find freedom, a better life or any of that other crap when I got diagnosed. With all due respect to Hunter S. Thompson, I found fear and loathing of an unknown world. But if I can share my wisdom, tell my stories and make the transition easier on you, Iโ€™ve done my job.

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