A happy meal indeed?

When we first met with the specialist allergy nurse after D’s anaphylactic reaction to peanuts, she talked us through how to eat out safely. I remember asking her, feeling somewhat overwhelmed, whether there were ANY restaurants which were generally considered “safe” for nut allergy sufferers. We were told that McDonald’s tended to be a safe bet.

Now, each time a social occasion arises, before we talk allergies with the restaurant, Ian and I joke that we can always just get D a happy meal. However, almost one year on, is this still true?

McDonald’s UK’s nut allergy policy

I decided to look into McDonalds UK’s current nut allergy policy. Their website (as at 21 February 2013) states:

“We are aware of the serious health risk to people who are allergic to whole peanuts, nuts or nut derivatives. These are therefore excluded as ingredients from all our main menu. However we cannot categorically state that our products are 100% free of these ingredients, because as with all food manufacturers there is always the possibility of cross-contamination at some point in the food chain.”

This, to me, sounds very reminiscent of Tesco’s standard allergen warning: “Recipe: No nuts. Ingredients: Cannot guarantee nut free.”

Having read several forums (from both the UK and US), the general consensus seems to be that:

  • McDonald’s is “safe” provided you order from the main menu.  In 2011, the Best Allergy Sites blog reported that, in the US at least, McDonald’s has a strict policy that foods with allergens must be stored separately from other foods.
  • Possible danger areas are the salads and desserts, particularly McFlurries.

The McDonald’s UK website has a meal builder tool, where you can check the “ingredients and allergen information” for each item on the menu. I have browsed the details for the  following items we might potentially order for D (being the types of things in our toddler’s good books at the moment!) :

  • Chicken McNuggets
  • Fish fingers
  • French fries
  • Carrot sticks
  • Fruit bag

The ingredients for these items do not include peanuts and nuts (although the site refers you to cross-contamination warning set out above). The french fries ingredients list also includes a note that they “can be cooked in the same oil as the Spicy Veggie Patty”, which contains, for example, chickpeas.

So, in conclusion, I think we will continue to regard McDonald’s as a “safe” option. If we visit, we will check their website for up-to-date ingredients and allergen information beforehand, and obviously make the staff aware of D’s allergy (and its severity) and double check with them that what we are ordering is peanut and nut free.

Further sources of advice on eating out

For further advice on dining out safely, please see the:

5 comments

  1. We are going albaferia in august an my daughter (7) has a nut allergy , can u give me a rough idear what it’s like in portugal. An weather the local supermarkets sell English food with ingreadients I can read. I no thay have a McDonald there but is the ingreadients thay use the same as England. Hope u can help. Kev x

  2. Hi we are going to nice and paris soon . Wondering if anyone on this forum knows if mcdonalds is nut free in France .

  3. I’ve just had a frustrating conversation with tesco. I’d contacted them because now on allergen advice they say ‘see in bold and also may contain nuts’
    I want to know why a product may contain nuts?? Is it because it’s been made on a line previously producing a product with nuts? Is it because nuts are used elsewhere in the factory? Is it because they can’t speak for everyone in the food chain?? They used to provide this information allowing me to make an informed decision. Now they are hiding behind the new legislation saying the have to give this statement. How simple for them, but not surprising from this corporate machine who don’t give a monkeys about customers. With this attitude I’m not surprised they’re loosing their market share.

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