A reader recently commented on one of my older posts that McDonald's French Fries contain both wheat and dairy. Ah, the fry debate continues...
A quick recap -- Prior to 2006, McDonald's maintained that their fries were gluten free and always fried in a dedicated fryer to reduce chances of cross-contamination. In 2006, they revealed that a flavoring used in the oil was made from hydrolyzed wheat bran. Lawsuits and panic followed, and McDonald's no longer lists their fries as gluten free and they contain an allergen alert for wheat and dairy.
End of story? No, because the tiny amount of highly processed wheat used in a tiny amount of flavoring in the oil used, not in the fries themselves, but in the oil used to par-fry the potatoes, leaves behind no detectable gluten. The Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) at the University of Nebraska tested the fries and determined that no gluten was found in a test sensitive to 3 parts per million. The current threshold for a product to be allowed to call itself "gluten free" is 20 parts per million.
Gluten-Free Living magazine ran a fantastic article on this subject in 2009 (Issue4/2009). It's worth reading, but unfortunately you will have to pay $9 for the back issue.
In the meantime, I am going to keep eating McDonald's fries, but sparingly. After all, none of us really need to be eating french fries, even if you aren't gluten free.