Thursday, February 16, 2006

Would You Like Wheat With That?

Now, I have never been a McDonald's fan (Frank & I grew up as 'Harvey's' kids) so I'm going to try really hard to temper this post with as much fairness and objectivity as I can muster. Like many, I feel that McDonald's gift to the world has been clean washrooms (pace green Shamrock shakes). There is a Micky D's close to home (currently featuring a McArabia sandwich which, as far as I can tell, is a burger in a pita) and I confess that I've been in there about 5 times in the last 4 1/2 months - mainly during Ramadan when I was really desperate. As a vegetarian in the Land of Meat, my options in Moroccan franchises are a salad & a sundae. As we all know, McDonald's adds "natural" (oh eyah! - it's at least natural) meat flavour to their fries.

So when the whole transfat (the widespread use of partial hydrogenated oils in the processed food industry) hit the fan, and we all went scrambling to our cupboards to toss out our microwave popcorn and soda crackers, it came to most of us as no suprise that the fast food industry was one of the biggest culprits of delivering this sludge to our bodies. The more enlightened countries around us banned the goop, such as Denmark, while Canada (in a typically Canadian move) established a task force to consider a ban. McDonald’s announced in 2002 that it was voluntarily changing to a healthier cooking oil with less trans fat. And did it? Aparently it experienced "operational issues" - which probably included the fact that they were loathe to alter the flavour of a product that most children under the age of 17 are physicaly addicted to - and the oil was not changed. Lawsuits were filed, settlements made.
Enough with the preamble - so now what? Because the FDA now requires that potential allergens be disclosed, Micky D's has a confession. Remember those gluten-free fries? "Not long after disclosing that its french fries contain more trans fat than thought, McDonald's Corp. said Monday that wheat and dairy ingredients are used to flavor the popular menu item -- an acknowledgment it had not previously made."

I went to their website and found:

French Fries:
Potatoes, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, natural flavor (beef, wheat and dairy sources), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (to preserve natural color). Breading set in vegetable oil. Cooked in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (may contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated corn oil and/or partially hydrogenated canola oil and/or cottonseed oil and/or sunflower oil and/or corn oil). Contains wheat and milk ingredients.

Oh sweet Jesus. Gluten? Dairy? - in a french fry, or more specifically, in its cooking oil? McDonald's is quick to point out that they have been aware of these additives for quite some time but that they are present in the oil, not in the protein component of the food product. "Technically there are no allergens in there". Phew! - I feel better! And do I draw any solace from the fact that McDonald's - that avatar of healthy food - considers these additives safe to eat even though millions suffer from severe allergies to these products. In fact, it adds that "those who have eaten the product without problem should be able to continue to do so without incident". Are they kidding? Why not address the fact that they have been willfully deceiving its clientele with this loaded gun for years? Why not address the fact that many of us don't want to consume dairy or gluten - not because of allergies - but because we just don't want to? Why not address the fact that their food isn't food?

I must confess that this makes me really angry, not only because I now feel compelled to never ever step foot in another McDonald's. So long caramel sundaes (aka: whole milk, sucrose, cream, nonfat milk solids, corn syrup solids, mono and diglycerides, guar gum, imitation vanilla flavor, carrageenan, cellulose gum, vitamin A palmitate, corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, high fructose corn syrup, water, butter, sugar, salt, disodium phosphate, pectin, salt, potassium sorbate as a preservative, artificial flavors [vanillin, ethyl vanillin]). I actually had hoped that McDonald's had learned their lesson when caught grilling veggie burgers along side their meat patties. Hope everyone is having a hearty laugh at my expense because I deserve it. Because I know that it's cheaper to deal with a lawsuit than change a product. So when McDonald's says (as on their Canadian website): " At McDonald's we are committed to providing you with easy to understand, accessible information on our food," they're hoping that you won't be bothered - because you may not like what you see.

Too bad there isn't a Harvey's in Morocco - they cook their fries in hydrogenated canola oil. No beef. No Wheat. No Dairy. And I could get a veggie burger too.


Blogger Elizabeth said...

Oooh, I hate McDonald's. I used to only go there for breakfast on long road trips- Egg Mc Muffin, Hashbrown stick, coffee with extra creamers- but last time I got the Egg Mc Muffin THERE WAS NO CHEESE. When I want additives, I want ALL my additives.

11:27 a.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Back in my carnivore days, I could never figure out why it took 10 minutes to get a burger without ketchup. Do I want to know why it takes longer to specially prepare a burger?

11:46 a.m.  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I don't. I have linked to you. If anyone asks pretend you are teaching English as a generally non-profit activity. Unless you are, in which case, do not pretend.

5:42 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

I love it when you get indignant.

I hate McD's too. I don't hate all fast food, but I hate McD's, for what they stand for as much as what they do to food products (using the term loosely).

5:59 p.m.  
Blogger woman wandering said...

I always wondered about the excessive amounts of (whisper: mucus) in my throat after eating macdonalds. Reading your post was disturbing ... jesus, I don't have any allergies that I know of but I always used to wonder after eating there.

Hey, I ended up in your web page ... the photography is stunning and your 'about me' made me laugh. It sounds like a marvellous life ... :)

6:23 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

I enjoy your blog W.W.- it was a pleasure to add you to my page.

8:32 p.m.  

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