When the press release from Burger King about their new “Gluten Sensitive List” came out last week, it would seem like good news for the gluten-free community. However, things are not always as simple as they seem. The list includes French fries which are only gluten-free if cooked in dedicated fryers. I decided to check with my local Burger King about the issue because when large companies send out mandates to their franchisees, it only means something if the locations do as they are told. The Burger King near me stated they did have a dedicated fryer for French fries, but they did not seem to know what gluten was. This is to be expected in a fast food restaurant, of course. Wendy’s and Steak-N-Shake both have gluten-free chili I’ve never spoken to anyone at either chain who had a clue about what gluten was.
In addition to French fries, some meats, cheese, egg dishes, veggies, sauces, beverages, fruit and condiments are on the Burger King “Gluten Sensitive List“. Possibly having another safe place for gluten-free fries is a very big deal. Always one wanting to know what the real deal is, I decided to give the the fries at Burger King (that has a dedicated fryer) a try. While my husband enjoyed his shake I ate almost the entire medium container of fries. The fries, at least in the batch I ate, didn’t cause me any problems. This is not to say that all fries at Burger King should be assumed to be safe.
Even at locations with dedicated fryers mistakes can be made simply by someone throwing chicken tenders or onion rings into the wrong fryer. This can happen at any place that has a dedicated fryer, of course. Everyone should do what works for them when it comes to dining out. Some people never eat and some rarely do so. Others like me eat out often and do so successfully because we learned the many things one needs to know in order to dine out safely. People are always telling me how much they love our Restaurant Guide because it lists so many gluten-free restaurants. That part is great but for me personally, the most important part of the guide is the information about how we, gluten-free consumers, have to know what to ask about and discuss with restaurant staff. Most importantly it explains that we have to be our own advocate when choosing to dine out.
People who prefer to skip the fries at Burger King can enjoy the apple fries which are just apples cut up to look like fries. What a great idea for kids of all ages! Amy over at Gluten-Free Living has some comments about the new Burger King “Gluten Sensitive List” which is worth reading. The post also provides some interesting details about the McDonald’s French fry issue.
UPDATE: Burger King’s corporate office sent me the following information to explain their new gluten sensitive list:
The Gluten Sensitive List is meant to be a guide for our guests with gluten sensitivity, providing foods and ingredients on the BURGER KING® restaurant menu in the U.S. that do not contain wheat, barley, oats or rye. The Gluten Sensitive List is not intended for people with severe gluten intolerance.
The information on the Gluten Sensitive List is based on suppliers’ ingredient lists and is as complete as possible at the time of publication (December 2009). However, actual gluten content of these foods and ingredients may vary, depending upon the supplier, product handling, and each restaurant’s food preparation practices.
[Burger King Corp., its franchisees, and employees, do not assume responsibility for a person's sensitivity or allergy to any food item provided in our restaurants. Please always consult your healthcare practitioner for questions regarding your diet. We encourage anyone with food sensitivities, allergies or special dietary needs to communicate any specific food handling requirements to the server or restaurant manager and to check www.bk.com on a regular basis to obtain the most up to date information about our food before you order.]
After reading that information, it doesn’t seem clear why the company decided to go to the trouble to create the list in the first place. But if you feel like skipping Burger King, there’s still good news, because the Restaurant Guide has gluten-free options from 120 national and regional chain restaurants.