McDonald's Fries NOT Vegetarian After All
May 3, 2001 8:55 AM   Subscribe

McDonald's Fries NOT Vegetarian After All While I realize that a large percentage of veggies avoid McDonald's on principle, an equally large percentage of them go there for the fries.

A McDonald's spokesman said the restaurant chain had never claimed to offer vegetarian food and that it freely provides ingredient information to anyone who requests it.

I can assure you that no where on that ingredient sheet does it say there's animal products in the fries. They went to a good deal of trouble to switch to vegetable oil so they could say they were healthier. If they've always contained the beef fat and they are not trying to hide that, then why the hell isn't it on the ingredient list?
posted by astrogirl (124 comments total)

 
The ingredient-list of what? The fries? The oil? What are you talking about? Do you think McD's or any other company should inform the public about everything, without knowing they are veggies? Or should veggies think themselves and ask? Not only about ingredients but also about preparation.
posted by nonharmful at 9:08 AM on May 3, 2001


Well, they do post ingredient lists in most of these crappy fast-food restaurants. If they are hiding anything then that constitutes a problem in my book.

Plus, any reason to sue McDonalds is a good one in my book. As of this morning I declare myself a vegitarian--anyone want to join the class action suit?
posted by schlomo at 9:11 AM on May 3, 2001


Hiding beef behind the title of "natural flavors" is deceptive, pure and simple. If there's beef in it, make mention of it - the problem is that, you know, people don't expect beef in their french fries. They expect potatoes.

I don't go to McDonald's, and this only reinforces my personal decision.

Wonder what's in the shakes?
posted by hijinx at 9:18 AM on May 3, 2001


Why the anti-McDonalds sentiment? If you ask me, they should switch back to their old french fries (and preperation method). Their fries used to be so much better (around when I was 9 or 10 years old) before all these health freaks came around. Its McDonalds for crying out loud. If you want healthy, go somewhere else.
posted by howa2396 at 9:18 AM on May 3, 2001


The fries don't contain beef fat, and aren't fried in beef fat. The lawyer is mistaken about that. What they do contain is "tiny amounts of beef flavoring". This beef flavoring is made in a factory, and you can probably think of it as 'bovine extract'. And, trust me, you'd notice the difference if it wasn't in there.
posted by Neb at 9:20 AM on May 3, 2001


There was a good story in the Guardian recently about fast food flavourings, which specifically mentioned the fries at MacDonalds and how they tried to recreate the previous flavour when they moved from frying them in beef tallow to vegetable oil.
posted by kerplunk at 9:23 AM on May 3, 2001


Read Fast Food Nation. Read it and love it. Especially the chapter on the nation's flavor labs (featured recently in The Atlantic Monthly) . . . it's not just fast food. There's baffling and mysterious ingredients in a lot of things you eat.

That said, McDonald's fries are really, really good. But then, I'm a devout non-vegetarian.
posted by Skot at 9:26 AM on May 3, 2001


Wow, I'm surprised this is even an issue. In the veg community, it's pretty well known that McDonald's uses beef flavoring.

For a long time, they just cooked the fries in beef tallow. In 1990, they switched to vegetable oil. However, they still added "natural flavors" to the ingredient list. The even admitted that the natural flavors were derived from an animal source (pretty much assumed to be beef).

Last year, the Vegetarian Legal Action Network petitioned the FDA to issue new labeling requirements for the so-called "natural flavoring." "Color added" or "natural coloring" is also a concern. This isn't just a veg issue, but many religious dietary observances are fooled by the natural flavoring/color issue.

Check out Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser for more info on beef flavoring in fast foods.

There are also countless veg resources that point out which foods do and don't contain animal products. I'm sure some MeFi user will be happy to point to some of them. (Quick Tip: Pizza Hut's Marinara Sauce contains beef bits!)
posted by ahughey at 9:28 AM on May 3, 2001


NEB is correct. This past winter there was a great article about the "flavor industry" Yes, the fries do contain small amounts of beef.
posted by anathema at 9:28 AM on May 3, 2001


Oh, I almost forgot! This is primarily a US issue. McDonald's still uses the old beef tallow formula in Canada and many European contries.

Don't even get me started on what most restaraunts do to french onion soup.
posted by ahughey at 9:29 AM on May 3, 2001


Sorry, the article was either in Harpers or the Atlantic. I can't remember off hand....
posted by anathema at 9:29 AM on May 3, 2001


I always avoided their fries because I heard some beef-rumour.

As for going somewhere else, I'm sure this is hard for non-veggies to understand, but sometimes there really is no other chance to eat besides trying to find some small item at a meat-based restaurant. Anyone ever asked for 'just the bun' at some small town burger joint will know just what I mean.
posted by taravali at 9:31 AM on May 3, 2001


An article by Eric Schlosser (a 'taster' so to speak of the aforementioned book ahughey mentions) is available here.

"Amid a barrage of criticism over the amount of cholesterol in its fries, McDonald's switched to pure vegetable oil in 1990. The switch presented the company with an enormous challenge: how to make fries that subtly taste like beef without cooking them in tallow. A look at the ingredients now used in the preparation of McDonald's French fries suggests how the problem was solved. At the end of the list is a seemingly innocuous yet oddly mysterious phrase: "natural flavor"."

Perhaps before we start asking about ingredients, we should ask what "natural flavor" really is.
posted by davehat at 9:33 AM on May 3, 2001


In Britain, unlike the US, there's much greater consumer pressure for food manufacturers to label their products as suitable for vegetarians. (As well as itemising problematic ingredients such as wheat or nuts, or GM soya.)

The UK ingredient list for Micky D's says the fries are cooked in "pure hardened 100% rapeseed oil", with added sugar solution at the start of the season; there's also the Vegetable Deluxe. Not that I'm going to eat there.
posted by holgate at 9:33 AM on May 3, 2001


Anathema: It was in Atlantic Monthly. Why McDonald's Fries Taste So Good.

Oddly, the title is followed by "This article is no longer on the web. I taste a conspiracy!!!
posted by mecran01 at 9:37 AM on May 3, 2001


The article was in the New Yorker.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:41 AM on May 3, 2001


There's a guide available to veg fast food eating. The VRG has some excerpts of it on their site.

I'll note that not all of Pizza Hut's marinara sauces contain beef now; this is a very recent development. It's apparently a complex issue depending on what pizza/pasta/breadstick/pickle you order, so be sure to check with your local Hut worker.

There's also a similar lawsuit from 1998 where a vegetarian sued Wendy's over the contents of the dressing in a sandwich they advertised as vegetarian.

holgate, one thing I really appreciated about UK menus (besides being posted outside!) was that nearly every one I encountered clearly labeled veg items. It makes things so much more convenient. A few US restaraunts have a similar practice, but no where near the scope that I saw in the UK.
posted by ahughey at 9:42 AM on May 3, 2001


The Trouble with Fries by Malcolm Gladwell. Apparently you can make them taste good and still be healthy. Warning: Pro-olestra commentary within.
posted by mecran01 at 9:42 AM on May 3, 2001


Mmmmmm.... meat fries.

Now if we could just get them to offer ground beef on the side salads we'd be all set...
posted by bondcliff at 9:47 AM on May 3, 2001


The link ahughey presents to the 1998 Wendy's lawsuit contains insulting and stereotype-based content; viewer discretion is advised.

I'm wondering now if it's just a matter of time before the fast food industry looks at vegetarianism seriously. After all, there is money to be made - never mind all of the other worlds of debate that spring up in regards to the industry.

Also ahughey: The even admitted that the natural flavors were derived from an animal source (pretty much assumed to be beef).

If McD's admitted this, and there is evidence, then the case at hand is DOA. One can't sue for one's own ignorance, but goodness knows millions try.

This feels like a two-pronged issue to me. Should McDonald's tell people that, yes, this item might have beef in it? Or should McDonald's wash its hands of the matter and say, "Hey, we're just meeting basic requirement #92390 of the FDA's regulations by not going into further detail!"?
posted by hijinx at 9:51 AM on May 3, 2001


When I was in high school I had to interview a professional chemist for a class (chemistry, in case you couldn't guess). I interviewed a chemist at a "flavor lab". The main thing I learned is the difference between "natural flavor" and "artificial flavor".

"Natural flavor" means they figure out what exactly the flavor is you want - in this case, beef - and they find a naturally occurring way of getting it, i.e. extracting the flavor from beef.

"Artificial flavor" means they take a sample of beef flavor, break it down into its chemical components to figure out what makes it taste like "beef", and then they make a beef flavor compound from those same chemicals.

They're really more or less the same thing. It's the source that matters.
posted by starvingartist at 9:55 AM on May 3, 2001


McDonalds has clearly deceived the public on this matter. I hope the law suit goes forward. Guess my next fry craving will have to be satiated at the Kosher Pizzeria. Only problem: what to do for the Interstate craving? What about BK? Wendy's, etc.?
posted by ParisParamus at 9:57 AM on May 3, 2001


It makes things so much more convenient.

Tell me about it: I've become an expert scanner of labels while I'm visiting the US, given the propensity of food companies to stick "chicken fat" in items I'd normally consider innocuous. (Potato crisps, for goodness' sake?)

[starvingartist: the terminology in the UK is "flavour" (artificial), versus "flavoured" (naturally-derived).]

Fast food can be vegetarian, as anyone who's eaten from a falafel stand can testify. Breaking the tyranny of the burger, that's the first push.
posted by holgate at 10:00 AM on May 3, 2001


McDonalds in India uses 100% vegetable oil, with no meat products for the fries, the veggie nuggets, etc. They don't use any beef.

When I came to the US in '98, I asked the local McDonalds for the ingredients used in their fries, and they showed me the list, I asked about the natural flavoring and was informed that it was vegetarian, and contained no animal products.

So I for one feel like I was ripped off. I have been a lacto-vegan aka Vegetarian in most parts of the world all my life, and this kinda throws a spanner in the works.
posted by riffola at 10:11 AM on May 3, 2001


Wait, I don't think anyone has mentioned "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser in like three whole posts!

Obviously the lawyer (or his clients) in this case just finished reading this book and decided this would be some good publicity.

Oh, and did I mention "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser?
posted by briank at 10:12 AM on May 3, 2001


In my younger days I worked at a McDonalds, and occasionally we made grilled/toasted cheese sandwiches for people, particularly during Fridays in Lent when people were sick of fish - LOL. You take a regular hamburger bun, turn the outside facing the inside and put two pieces of cheese in it, then put it in the bun 'carmelizer' (toaster) and wha-lah! I don't know if they still do it, but if you're curious... *grin* Not that this solves the questions about beef flavoring, but well... that's all I had to offer about that - heh heh.
posted by thunder at 10:12 AM on May 3, 2001


Hijinx: Wonder what's in the shakes?

Seaweed.

:-)
posted by baylink at 10:13 AM on May 3, 2001


If McD's admitted this, and there is evidence, then the case at hand is DOA. One can't sue for one's own ignorance, but goodness knows millions try.

Reference: Vegetarian Journal, Volume XVII, Number 1 (Jan/Feb 1998)

"In February 1997, McDonald's informed us by telephone that the natural flavor in their French fries is a "beef product." At that time, they declined to send us this information in writing. In July 1997, McDonald's sent us a fax stating that "[t]he natural flavor used in French fries is from an animal source."

hijinx: Sorry about the inflammatory content of the Wendy's article. I remembered the case so I just did a quick search for an article with some details. I made the mistake of not reading the whole durn thing. Although, I must admit it helps point out how misunderstood the whole veg thing is.

I feel bad for starvingartist. First the ice cream thread and now this.
posted by ahughey at 10:25 AM on May 3, 2001


It was always tempting to say that you'd move to Canada whenever a Republican administration came on board or stayed on board. And for those who are old enough, it was, apparently, the place of choice for avoiding the draft.

But if word gets out that you can still get your fries cooked in beef fat in Canada, well, that giant sucking sound you hear will be cannibalistic couch potatoes rushing for Ontario.

Oh, and holgate: while I adore anyone with your knowledge of Dickens enough to overlook the flagrant use of gratuitous u's, I think that while you're a guest in our fair country, you should use the appropriate terminology: "potato chip."
posted by anapestic at 10:29 AM on May 3, 2001


I've always wondered about "natural flavors." Natural flavors of what?

It's obviously not the natural flavors of the food itself, or they wouldn't be listed. For all I know, it's the natural flavor of whatever mix of chemicals the lab decided tastes like strawberry.
posted by CrayDrygu at 10:29 AM on May 3, 2001


>>In the veg community, it's pretty well known that McDonald's uses beef flavoring.

Exactly. It's been common knowledge for a while (among American vegans, that is)

But hey, if this guy can get "hundreds of millions of dollars" from McDonalds, more power to him.
posted by johnb at 10:35 AM on May 3, 2001


No prob, ahughey; I appreciated the appropriateness and thoughtful nature of your links and posts. (Check's in the mail.)

You might not believe this, but the milkshakes might have animal fats in them too. Check this out. The ingredient list mentions the delightful and tasty sounding polyglycerol esters of fatty acids in chocolate shakes. According to this page as well as this one, those esters may be animal derived. It's no seaweed, as Baylink jokes, but it might be a better deal. I don't think I want to know about the Shamrock Shakes.

So, in essence, only the beverages at McDonald's - the soft drinks - are meat-free. Impressive.
posted by hijinx at 10:38 AM on May 3, 2001


Where's Triple-Post Guy when you need him?
posted by sudama at 10:44 AM on May 3, 2001


"but sometimes there really is no other chance to eat besides trying to find some small item at a meat-based restaurant."

This explains why vegetarians are now running roughshod over everything - before burger joints popped up on every corner they'd just starve to death.

Yes, I am poking you on purpose. I'm tired of people with a contrived diet preferences expecting places selling mainly meat products to cater to their silliness.

Look, if for whatever reason you want to avoid eating even the tiniest speck of meat, then learn to live with the fact that the world does not work that way. Especially not at McDonald's.

I suspect that the reason McDonald's might label their fries as vegetables is because they don't see how anyone could possibly get upset over such a tiny amount of beef extract. That's certainly how I feel. Expecting strangers to understand the *extreme* nature of your diet is unreasonable.

No, I am not kidding this time. People who expect the world to look out for their best interests just really piss me off. Take some responsibility for yourself and quit being such cry babies.

I happen to hate eggplant (I have issues). I'm pretty careful about not eating it. If I do eat some by mistake I sometimes get ill. But I don't go to the cook and yell at him, "Hey! Why didn't you warn me about the eggplant??!!"

Don't make your weird-ass diet everyone else's problem.

Yes, I understand that a significant percentage of the world population is vegetarian. But expecting a place like McDonald's to be extra sensitive to veggies is ridiculous.

FYI - I don't eat at McDonald's (or very rarely), their food is bad for you. Especially the fries.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:49 AM on May 3, 2001


People who expect the world to look out for their best interests...

Oh please, no one is asking that of the world. The simple request is truth in labelling. If you were at a restaurant and asked if something contained eggplant and were told it didn't, wouldn't you be upset to find it did? People have a right to be told the truth, vegetarians included.

Baylink, if by seaweed you mean carageenan, well it's a thickener used in almost everything.
posted by megnut at 11:06 AM on May 3, 2001


It's no seaweed, as Baylink jokes, but it might be a better deal.

Was that a joke? After all, carageenan, a thickening agent used in many milk shake mixes, is definitely a byproduct of seaweed.
posted by holgate at 11:09 AM on May 3, 2001


y6y6y6 - Most vegans don't expect "special treatment", so I don't know who you're hollerin' at.

As for this Harish Bharti fellow, he's basically saying: "Look, the probability of getting hundreds of millions from McD is sufficiently large relative to the small cost of lawyer's fees to justify the investment." That sounds like rational decision-making to me.

Beyond this particular case, the larger question is "should food companies be required to specify what's in their food?" I think the answer is yes, for obvious reasons.
posted by johnb at 11:23 AM on May 3, 2001


I am interested in this conversation, but I have little to add. I am a reluctant carnivor who does not give McDonald's any money save for the occassional bucket sized Diet Coke.

I have noticed new signs in local McDonald's advertising milk shakes with new product banners. Previously I had them listed as shakes sans milk, and I was told they could not advertise tham as such since they had no milk in them. The shakes probably contain BGH milk, but it is an improvement to my way of thinking.
posted by thirteen at 11:24 AM on May 3, 2001


"asked if something contained eggplant and were told it didn't, wouldn't you be upset to find it did?"

I don't think that's what we're talking about here.

My understanding was that the natural flavoring was the problem. And it is processed from beef extract. And some McDonald's employee somewhere didn't know that.

If I ask a waiter if the curry contains eggplant and he says no, then I find out later that the kitchen uses a spice blend that contains tiny bits of dried eggplant, no, I would not get upset.

How could I have expected the waiter, or even the manager, to know about that? The people at McDonald's who are responsible for definitively answering questions about food content have always said the fries are *not* vegetarian. Right?
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:39 AM on May 3, 2001


Y6: the "waiter" is not being sued; the owner is; or if the "waiter" is being sued he can turn around and sue his employer...
posted by ParisParamus at 11:50 AM on May 3, 2001


I had always assumed that what made McDonald's taste so great was the saliva and semen of angry adolescents. I can't tell you how relieved I am to find out it's just beef extract and seaweed.

I don't really understand anyone who expects McDonald's to be anything even close to being real food. And I say this having just polished off nine McNuggets and a super-sized fry. I'm Canadian too, so that was some tasty tallow and whatever the hell they put inside the McNuggets to make them chewy.

The fact of the matter is that McDonald's is rotten, unhealthy, evil stuff and you all know it. It's freaky-weird Frankenfood cobbled together by mad scientists and lawyers. Expecting anything even vaguely "natural" from it is just a bizarre concept altogether. It would be like walking into a health food store and demanding to know where all the rotten fast food is. You're just in the wrong place. Call your family and have them come and get you.
posted by frenetic at 11:52 AM on May 3, 2001


Yes, I am poking you on purpose. I'm tired of people with a contrived diet preferences expecting places selling mainly meat products to cater to their silliness.

Y6, you are aware that there are people -- including this lawyer -- with religious reasons for not eating beef (or meat in general), right? Or does being a Hindu count as "contrived"? Filing a lawsuit seems asinine to me, too, but if I were keeping kosher, asked a waiter if there was lobster in the fish soup, and later discovered that his erroneous answer made me break a religious restriction, I'd be upset.
posted by snarkout at 11:52 AM on May 3, 2001


The people at McDonald's who are responsible for definitively answering questions about food content have always said the fries are *not* vegetarian. Right?

Not really. As I've said, the situation in the US is different to that in the UK, where you can normally assume that processed food is non-veggie if there's not a nice green label somewhere. In the US, the common practice is to label explicitly the animal-derived ingredients on the list, rather than pass them them off as "natural flavors".

As for the curry house example: well, if we're to assume that the tag of "fast food" means being sold a fast one -- that no-one can tell you what goes into your meals -- isn't that the bigger problem?
posted by holgate at 11:56 AM on May 3, 2001


Expecting strangers to understand the *extreme* nature of your diet is unreasonable.

It's extreme to be unwilling to eat food without knowing what's in it -- especially when one of the ingredients is hardly something that one should begin to suspect would be in that particular food? I don't think so.
posted by Dreama at 11:57 AM on May 3, 2001


There is a difference between one employee's mistake, and the ignorance of millions of employees. Clearly, in that case, if the company doesn't acknowledge that its training is inadequate.

So a natural growth of that question is, "Do you honestly expect a McDonald's employee to know what's in (food item)?" Absolutely. While I don't expect them to quote me all forty ingredients in a shake, I do expect them to at least be able to tell me, clearly, "Well, this has some 'natural flavor' in it, which may or may not have (questionable food item) in it." If they aren't aware of that, it's McDonald's fault. Why? Inadequate training.

It makes no matter whom I deal with at McDonald's; for me, that person is McDonald's.

Wow: customer service, deceptive labeling, Fast Food Nation, and foodstuffs all in the same thread. Throw in a mention of nachos and I'll be pleased.

frenetic: Well, since everyone knows McDonald's is bad, why doesn't McDonald's just come out and tell us what's in the food? No skin off their noses - people will still eat there, unless they (gasp!) wise up. Educated consumers are not McDonald's customers.

Where's the beef? At McDonald's, it's everywhere!
posted by hijinx at 11:57 AM on May 3, 2001


"y6y6y6 - Most vegans don't expect "special treatment", so I don't know who you're hollerin' at."

I agree. I don't have a problem with vegans. I have a problem with expectations of entitlement by special interests. Specifically in this case, people who want *all* food labeled as to it's "beef status". Where does this hand holding end?

I'm hollerin' at:

"I can assure you that no where on that ingredient sheet does it say there's animal products in the fries."

That's not what ingredient lists are for. If you have a special diet, then educate yourself.

"Hiding beef behind the title of "natural flavors" is deceptive, pure and simple."

Not according to the people who regulate ingredient listings. If you're really that sensitive to beef particles then you have needs that the ingredient listing was never intended to meet.

"McDonalds has clearly deceived the public on this matter."

How? I'm asking. They admit it has beef flavor. Always have. Read the article.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:59 AM on May 3, 2001


The first match for that lawyer on Google points to a complaint about him. There's good publicity.
posted by gluechunk at 12:07 PM on May 3, 2001


y6^3: Not according to the people who regulate ingredient listings.

Then the umbrella of "natural flavors" and "artificial flavors" needs to be examined. McDonald's is a big company, and they have the power to push for this change. They could turn around and say, "Well, we don't want to lead our customers on - so let's spell out what is in this 'natural flavors' thing." But they're not doing that.

Remember when people started having allergic reactions to peanuts in food items, from foods that you wouldn't imagine in a million years contained peanuts? Now, peanut labels are everywhere. Why can't we have the same for beef and animal products? I say that if it's not in the ingredient list, tell me what's in the food, dammit. Dreama's point is wonderfully valid.

How? I'm asking. They admit it has beef flavor. Always have. Read the article.

But beef flavor in a non-beef product, and throwing it behind a purposefully vague term? And then not educating their employees about what's really in the fries? That smacks of incompetence and deception to me.
posted by hijinx at 12:08 PM on May 3, 2001


But beef flavor in a non-beef product

Could you elaborate? What is it?
posted by ParisParamus at 12:15 PM on May 3, 2001


What is what, ParisParamus? Beef flavour in a non-beef product, namely french fries?
posted by Dreama at 12:25 PM on May 3, 2001


if I were keeping kosher, asked a waiter if there was lobster in the fish soup, and later discovered that his erroneous answer made me break a religious restriction, I'd be upset.

If your god condemns you for, through no fault of your own, doing something after taking every reasonable precaution to avoid it, I'd say it's time to get a new one. I realize that sounds intolerant of Jews, but geez. Whether you're keeping kosher or eating vegetarian, if it's that important to you, you should be making your own food, or going to restaurants that specifically cater to your needs, restaurants you know you can trust, where everyone from the chef on down understands the issue and is willing to accommodate you. McDonald's is not such a restaurant, is obviously not intended to be such a restaurant, and has never claimed to be such a restaurant.

Yes, I realize this can be a pain in the ass, but that's the price you pay for swimming against the mainstream. Expecting vegetarianism to be convenient is a little much to ask at this point, I think.
posted by kindall at 12:26 PM on May 3, 2001


>>But beef flavor in a non-beef product
>Could you elaborate? What is it?


E.g., suppose Safeway injected apples with cow's blood "to enhance the flavor" without notifying customers.
posted by johnb at 12:29 PM on May 3, 2001


Y6, you are aware that there are people -- including this lawyer -- with religious reasons for not eating beef (or meat in general), right? Or does being a Hindu count as "contrived"?

As far as I'm concerned, eating at McDonald's even once automatically makes you a nihilist. Have you seen a Big Mac lately? If that's not a slap in the face of God and all that is Holy, I don't know what is.

Remember when people started having allergic reactions to peanuts in food items, from foods that you wouldn't imagine in a million years contained peanuts? Now, peanut labels are everywhere. Why can't we have the same for beef and animal products? I say that if it's not in the ingredient list, tell me what's in the food, dammit. Dreama's point is wonderfully valid.

There's an important and really, really obvious difference between your two examples. Your anti-meat preference is a preference, not a medical necessity. Vegetarians don't puff up and die when they eat meat, they just feel sad and angry and then glare at me when I eat a hamburger. y6's eggplant comment is valid. The guy hates eggplant. He's not going to die if he accidentally eats some. And it's not the establishment's responsibility (though obviously it would be nice of them) to put big MAY CONTAIN TRACE ELEMENTS OF EGGPLANT warnings on everything.
posted by frenetic at 12:31 PM on May 3, 2001


I don't see how people can avoid feeling like everything within 50 feet of a McDonalds contains meat. The whole place is saturated with it to the point where I wouldn't feel comfortable using the napkins or the bathroom. Vegetarians should avoid McDonalds like the peanut-sensitive avoid the George Washington Carver memorial. I think just driving by a McDonalds on Friday without holding your breath is probably a sin.

Hey that sounds funny, but come to think of it there must be unlabelled meat particles in the air around the McDonalds down the street from my house. I guess I can stop by the synagogue and convert on my way to the courthouse to file my lawsuit. Cha-ching!
posted by donkeymon at 12:32 PM on May 3, 2001


I'm dumbfounded that we can't agree that it should be possible to find out what is in your food immediately and authoritatively rather than 3 months later by fax.
posted by sudama at 12:36 PM on May 3, 2001


Dreama: I would like to know what "beef flavor is made of"

if I were keeping kosher, asked a waiter if there was lobster in the fish soup, and later discovered that his erroneous answer made me break a religious restriction, I'd be upset.

First of all, anyone serious about keeping kosher wouldn't go to a restaurant which served shelfish.

If your god condemns you for, through no fault of your own, doing something after taking every reasonable precaution to avoid it, I'd say it's time to get a new one. I realize that sounds intolerant of Jews, but geez.

There's no such view in Judaism.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:36 PM on May 3, 2001


What y6y6y6 seems not to realize is that there's nothing "extreme" about a vegetarian diet... and McDonald's doesn't have to "go out of their way" for vegetarians -- how hard would it be to elaborate on "natural flavorings" rather than just expecting the average person to realize that that phrase could mean beef flavoring? It's not a lot to ask for honestly and full disclosure on things like this. Don't criticize what you don't understand.

I might also mention that this month in the Vegetarian Journal ( http://www.vrg.org/journal/vj2001may/ gives the table of contents but not the text of the article ) has an entire story about what is and isn't safe for vegetarians and vegans in fast food restaurants. It's a good read... and McDonald's is far from the only one with beef flavoring in their fries.
posted by laze at 12:37 PM on May 3, 2001


>>Specifically in this case, people who want *all* food labeled as to it's "beef status". Where does this hand holding end?

The distinction between Animal and Vegetable is pretty basic. If you're not going to acknowledge this distinction on food labels, you might as well eliminate the labelling requirement altogether.
posted by johnb at 12:37 PM on May 3, 2001


Many fast-food joints have surprising things in their food. Taco Bell used to (and may still) have gelatin in the guac and the sour cream. They tell you this if you ask for the ingredients. Their grilled veggie burrito contained "clam extract." Again, they don't say natural flavor if you ask, they say CLAM EXTRACT. Abundantly clear, if unappetizing.

Even the VRG guide (which I got a long time ago) seemed to indicate that they weren't sure about the natural flavor, except in Canada where they were sure beef was involved.

Oh, and Y6Y6Y6? We just want to know what's in there when we make the choice. It is with great restraint that I'm not throwing anything equalling your rudeness right back at you.

No one who's been a vegetarian for long will ask a fast food worker if something is "vegetarian." You ask for the ingredients and read them yourself. Most people who are not veggies have no idea what gelatin is, much less that it's not vegetarian. (see Wendy's reference above)

Whether one can sue for this, I don't know (and I tend to think not), but it's quite obvious they were being deceptive. BTW, McDonald's publishes NO phone number on any of their packaging. Almost every other fast food place does. Good luck trying to get a clarification on what "natural flavoring" is.
posted by astrogirl at 12:51 PM on May 3, 2001


Wonder what's in the shakes?

Hijinx, that would be kaolin. As in Kaopectate. (Which is actually a good thing for lactose intolerate people like me.)
posted by jennak at 12:52 PM on May 3, 2001


Whether you're keeping kosher or eating vegetarian, if it's that important to you, you should be making your own food, or going to restaurants that specifically cater to your needs, restaurants you know you can trust, where everyone from the chef on down understands the issue and is willing to accommodate you. McDonald's is not such a restaurant, is obviously not intended to be such a restaurant, and has never claimed to be such a restaurant.

That's certainly the case. On the other hand, it seems to me that the lawyer went to reasonable lengths to verify that he wasn't going to be eating any beef. He read an ingredients list; he asked an employee. I have a friend who is horribly allergic to corn and, by extension, corn oil and corn syrup. He does exactly what you suggest -- eat at places he knows are going to give him answers about whether he'll be exposing himself to physical danger by eating the food. He knows corn products are everywhere. It just doesn't seem to me that a reasonable person would expect beef products to be somewhere unexpected and hidden.

(For what it's worth, Kindall, I'm not Jewish; I just thought Jewish dietary restrictions might be a little more familiar. And I am a vegetarian; on those occasions when I've discovered that I've been given meat products at a restaurant, I've variously asked that the dish be exchanged, taken my business elsewhere, or sucked it up and not ordered that particular meal again.)
posted by snarkout at 12:53 PM on May 3, 2001


I seem to have gotten a bit carried away. I apologize to anyone offended by my ranting. I certainly don't hold any ill will against vegetarians in general. We're all individuals and I happen to think the folks here at Metafilter are great people. I'd be happy to have you over for dinner any time.

"Y6, you are aware that there are people with religious reasons for not eating beef"

Yes, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I think tolerating the religious beliefs of others is very important. But I think the responsibility for following your religion in a strict fashion should rest with the individual. McDonald's does *not* claim it's fries meet strict vegetarian standards. In fact it admits they do not.

"Or does being a Hindu count as "contrived"?"

You are baiting me. It will not work.

"But beef flavor in a non-beef product .... That smacks of incompetence and deception to me."

At McDonald's....... Billions served...... Home of the Big Mac......

I've always felt that fries (and fish) fried in tallow tasted better. When they switched to oil I was surprised to find the fries still tasted great. I was not surprised to find that they had started adding "beef flavor", and I wasn't surprised to find that flavor came from actual cows. The switch from tallow to oil was never intended to cater to vegetarians. Any assumptions you make about that are your responsibility. Just my opinion.

"should be possible to find out what is in your food immediately"

If you want to eat highly processed food then you shouldn't expect things like this. My parents want to know what's in their food. So they grow their own.

"What y6y6y6 seems not to realize is that there's nothing "extreme" about a vegetarian diet."

I agree. The expectation that companies that specialize in selling highly processed food should have special labels for your particular diet is extreme. I'm sure you think your diet is fairly mainstream, I happen to think it's kind of nutty. But that's certainly your right. I encourage you to do what you feel is right.

"Don't criticize what you don't understand."

I've been arguing with vegetarians about this crap for longer than you've probably been alive. I always listen. I just happen to think it's silly. That's not the issue here. I know I made it sound like that. I'm sorry. I always support people's right to have whatever diet they want.

"If you're not going to acknowledge this distinction on food labels......"

And the same for Kosher diets? And Mormon? And Vulcan? You're advocating one big-ass label.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:00 PM on May 3, 2001


y6^3, can we agree that "natural flavors" and "artificial flavors" are not descriptive labels?
posted by hijinx at 1:09 PM on May 3, 2001


Y6: whether you think it's silly or stupid, millions of people care, for various reasons, whether animal products are in their food. Somehow, the majority of mainstream food manufacturers can deal with getting Kosher certification for their products (which flags dairy and animal products). This is hardly a fringe issue. Actually, it's your views which seem rather fringe; and you're prefectly free to ingest what you like.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:12 PM on May 3, 2001


And the same for Kosher diets? And Mormon? And Vulcan? You're advocating one big-ass label.

No, I'm not. I'm saying animal/vegetable is pretty basic and should be included under any decent labelling system.
posted by johnb at 1:16 PM on May 3, 2001


You are baiting me. It will not work.

I didn't mean for it to come off as baiting, Y6; you said "I'm tired of people with a contrived diet preferences expecting places selling mainly meat products to cater to their silliness," and I wanted to see if you felt that being a Hindu was a "contrived diet preference." It appears that you don't, so I'm unsure why you used the phrase to begin with.

It seems to me, Y6, that there are three separate issues being argued about here: I think you may be confusing at least some of the arguments in favor of propositions one and two as arguments in favor of arguments in favor of proposition three (or possibly an unstated proposition four, "Are all people who eat meat bad people who should go away and leaven us to frolic in our happy kingdom of soy burgers?", which I'll gladly join you in beating down, should it come to that).

As I said, I think the lawsuit is asinine. And I don't eat at McDonald's, specifically because I don't know what goes into their food. But I'm looking at a bag of Snyder's pretzels right now, and they have the little "U" indicating that they're kosher. Clearly, enough of the potential market for Snyder's pretzels is concerned for them to bring in a rabbi to certify the pretzels as kosher; maybe the market share for potential McDonald's patrons avoiding beef isn't high enough to justify any expense whatsoever in training. But should propositions one and two be dismissed out of hand? Someone who went into a Popeye's and was shocked to discover meat in the gravy deserves to be mocked; I'm not sure that being surprised by beef in the french fries qualifies as that dumb.
posted by snarkout at 1:24 PM on May 3, 2001


You betcha! If I was vegetarian I would seriously worry about animal byproducts in either of those.

I guess my point is that it seems wacky to me that someone would assume otherwise.

Especially from McDonald's.
Especially when they are very conscious of what they eat.
Especially given the McD tradition of frying fries in tallow.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:25 PM on May 3, 2001


i agree with y6 and frenetic. i read at BAMF and Sharky puts a great example on his front page about the whole situation. Strikingly similar to the Eggplant one y6 made.

i hate lima beans/eggplant too and go specially out of my way to make sure its not on my plate when i can. but if i found out something that i have been eating contained them and the whole time i am not harmed by it. so be it. NO BIG DEAL.
posted by Qambient at 1:26 PM on May 3, 2001


Why do veggies think it's bad to kill cows, but alright to kill potatoes, anyway?
posted by frednorman at 1:35 PM on May 3, 2001


(or potatoe plants or whatever the heck they grow on)
posted by frednorman at 1:36 PM on May 3, 2001


This is just stupid. Forget logic, the moron can't even spell "vegetarian".
posted by johnb at 1:39 PM on May 3, 2001


fred: Let me know when the potatoes gain sentience, and I'll reconsider. (I nominate this for the "Best Sentence Out Of Context Award")
posted by hijinx at 1:40 PM on May 3, 2001


frednorman - last time I checked, potatoes don't have nerve endings.
posted by johnb at 1:40 PM on May 3, 2001


Last post before I stop harping on this... McDonald's already offers a list of foods which contain common allergens; how hard would it be to amend the list to include beef and pork? Do Chicken McNuggets contain beef or pork? What about the Fish Filet?

I dunno. Maybe I'm not getting something, but I don't see why making this information easily available is something that should get people riled up -- I'd think that McDonald's would want to make as many people as possible comfortable ordering something off of their menu. (Maybe I'm just projecting, because I was unaware of the beef byproducts used in their fries until couple of years ago.)
posted by snarkout at 1:45 PM on May 3, 2001


What's the lowdown on their fish sandwiches, anybody?
posted by ParisParamus at 1:48 PM on May 3, 2001


First of all, anyone serious about keeping kosher wouldn't go to a restaurant which served shellfish.

Then why would a veggie go to a restaurant which exists to serve beef?

BTW, for everyone who thinks that McD's is being deceptive with their "natural flavors", have you ever even read a food label? I just walked into my kitchen and pulled five items -- among them saltines, canned veggie chili, maple syrup, and a Thai seasoning packet -- and they *ALL* have "natural flavor" listed as an ingredient.
posted by tsitzlar at 1:49 PM on May 3, 2001


"so I'm unsure why you used the phrase to begin with."

I get too inflammatory. I struggle with this. Really. It's a personality problem. Again, I apologize.

"Should chain restaurants be more explicit about what goes into their food .... parseable by people with .... restrictions"

My opinion is: No. I think the current labels are adequate. People with special needs should dig deeper. Or eat in places that are more sympathetic to your needs. If you dig deeper at McDonald's they will tell you it's beef extract.

However, it seems that the only reason McDonald's doesn't list beef extract is that they don't really give a rat's ass about vegetarian business in the US. I encourage you to lobby your cause, but I don't see what the point would be.

And further more, I really *like* the beef flavor in fries, so if you try to get rid of it I'll lobby against you. Potatoes fried in tallow taste *much* better.

"Should those with dietary practices outside the norm expect ... a correct answer"

Oh yes. Most certainly. If the person doesn't know where the "flavor" comes from they should say so. Employees giving incorrect information to customers need to be fired, educated, or retrained.

"Should fast food restaurants cater more to vegetarians?"

Purely a business decision. McDonald's seems to think vegetarian business in the US is marginal, otherwise they'd have vegie fries, just like in India.

"I think you may be confusing at least some of the arguments in......."

Not really. People are claiming McD's is deceiving vegetarians in an actionable manner. I think not. But I'm not a lawyer, I just have an opinion. And that opinion is that it's wacky to sue McDonald's when you find their fries to have small amounts of beef extract.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:51 PM on May 3, 2001


What a lot of posts. I'm veggie, but it's no big deal. Who cares about a bit of beef flavouring? How much of that are you going to have to eat to get to the equivalent of a cow? Why are so many veggies so obsessive about it? Is it something missing from their diet?
posted by andrew cooke at 2:07 PM on May 3, 2001


I'm Hungry
posted by fullerine at 2:09 PM on May 3, 2001


Does "highly processed" suggest to you that, at some point, the processing just gets totally out of control, possibly in some wacky and amusing manner that would make for a better than average episode of "Laverne and Shirley", and everyone responsible just loses track of the ingredients with a what-are-you-gonna-do shrug?
posted by sudama at 2:13 PM on May 3, 2001


I just came back from McDonald's. Had chicken nuggets, with fries, sweet-n-sour sauce and a Coke©. Life is good.
posted by owillis at 2:18 PM on May 3, 2001


I believe Laverne & Shirley worked in a brewery, and, well, I'm sure there were no animal products in the beer.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:20 PM on May 3, 2001


What this should discourage is anyone from thinking, hoping, wishing, that the McVegie thing they're selling now is animal-free. In fact, the most actionable deception is probably offering that McVegie thing with the non-veg. fries!
posted by ParisParamus at 2:24 PM on May 3, 2001


Are you so sure, Paris?

Well, okay, Laverne and Shirley worked in a big brewery in Milwaukee, and I'm sure they weren't making anything that fancy. But boy am I glad I'm not a vegan -- I don't want to have to keep an eagle eye on my beer intake.
posted by snarkout at 2:27 PM on May 3, 2001


I wouldn't be so sure of that

Snarkout beat me to it...
posted by sauril at 2:34 PM on May 3, 2001


Vegetarian is a euphamism for poor hunter.
posted by jbelshaw at 2:41 PM on May 3, 2001


I've read most of the eighty or so comments above (time is money) and you've somehow managed to work your way through without mentioning 'Burger King' (or 'Wendys' for that matter, but I think square burgers are a side issue). Why? Are they completely impeachable? Between the two, they have the tastier burgers and fries. While I'm sure I'm going to regret asking - surely this can't be because they use completely natural ingredients, especially when their fries taste more potatoey than is real.

Plus, I'm shocked no one seems to have linked to this article about how Macdonald's seems to be seeding the world. It appears that they seem to value some staff members more than others.
posted by feelinglistless at 2:47 PM on May 3, 2001


It's hard to find information on which beers use animal products and which don't. Here's a start.
posted by sudama at 2:57 PM on May 3, 2001


ick. Well, other than an occassional Pilsner Urquel, I stick with wine. Anything to disillusion me there?
posted by ParisParamus at 3:05 PM on May 3, 2001


Also: Drinks at McDonald's sometime have spit in them!
posted by gluechunk at 3:07 PM on May 3, 2001


it's not that the beer on that list is "fancy", it's just that the list comes from england. fortunately, my heineken is safe.
posted by sudama at 3:08 PM on May 3, 2001


Well, beer and wine both prey on helpless yeasty beasties who die horrible deaths once the sugar supply runs out.
posted by Skot at 3:09 PM on May 3, 2001


Fortunately, they rarely use ox blood in wine anymore. Unfortunately...
posted by sudama at 3:16 PM on May 3, 2001


tsitzlar: ... why would a veggie go to a restaurant which exists to serve beef?

My wife is vegetarian, and I'm not. Every once in a (great) while, I have a hankering for some McNuggets and Hot Mustard sauce. So, either my wife has to go someplace else or find something vegetarian to order at Mickey-Ds. That's at least one reason, and I'm sure many others exist.
posted by OneBallJay at 3:35 PM on May 3, 2001


As an interesting little side note, I was reading the label of some Famous Amos cookies and found that their Chocolate Chip Cookie ingredients do not have peanuts listed, but still it contains a peanut warning.

This was enough to pique my interest, so I called their tech support line to try and get the scoop on this. Well it seems that the machines that make the cookies are used for all their cookies types, including those that do have peanuts in them. They do not certify that the machines are peanut free when they switch recipes, so you could get a surprise. I tried to find out what "traces" meant, but they wouldn't touch that one. It's one thing to present a risk, it's another to provide a means of assessing that risk so you can make an informed choice.

As another aside, their individual serving cookies look good in terms of fat and calories until you find out that there are allegedly multiple servings per packet.
posted by plinth at 3:37 PM on May 3, 2001


First of all, anyone serious about keeping kosher wouldn't go to a restaurant which served shellfish.

Then why would a veggie go to a restaurant which exists to serve beef?

Wow. First, I am unaware of any vegetarian principle which prohibits eating vegtables in an establishment which offers animal (a kosher restaurant can only have kosher food in it).

Second, the company has said that it switched from beef tallow to vegetable shortening for its fries and it could be argued that this implies their fries no longer contain animal fat. (Question: what about animal products in their salads and dressing?).

Perhaps the most reasonable explanation for the anger is that vegetarians would like to avoid meat and fast food joints, but make compromises when they, e.g., travel. And many people think the fries, and perhaps the fish, is the way to go when hungry and on some Interstate somewhere.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:41 PM on May 3, 2001


"Does "highly processed" suggest to you that, at some point, the processing just gets totally out of control......"

We're getting completely off the topic here, but then I was probably never on it, so.......

No. It suggests to me that it would be hard to lock down just what exactly some processed foods contain. Perhaps, in some cases, impossible. Especially in cases where even "traces" are of concern.

As was pointed out above with the cookies.

But your comment that I was referring to contended that "it should be possible to find out what is in your food immediately."

I'm splitting hairs here, but the issue was originally over disclosure of beef extract and people's desire that their food contain *zero* beef extract.

"Highly processed" suggests to me that the food contains ingredients from multiple suppliers. It suggests to me that you're taking a big chance if you really want to avoid *all* meat derivatives.

If you want to know exactly and immediately what's in your food, maybe you shouldn't eat at McDonald's. Hmmm????

Sad but true.
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:02 PM on May 3, 2001


Second, the company has said that it switched from beef tallow to vegetable shortening for its fries and it could be argued that this implies their fries no longer contain animal fat.

i believe it has been stated that the switch was in response to public outcry about cholesterol levels.
posted by fuzzygeek at 4:47 PM on May 3, 2001


"Highly processed" suggests to me that the food contains ingredients from multiple suppliers. It suggests to me that you're taking a big chance if you really want to avoid *all* meat derivatives.

Or if your trying to avoid microorganisms that can only come from shit, from a study mentioned in The Book.

My contribution #1: I love meat, but I refuse to eat crappy meat (dig the pun). Meat inspection and grading standards in the US have fallen to such low levels (with fast food industry lobbying) that a McDonald's burger today has almost nothing in common with one from thirty or forty years ago.

Thanks but no thanks, I'll skip that burger and save up for high-quality free-range New York Strips. Medium rare. Right now, come to think about it.

My contribution #2: Don't you people have jobs? Jeeze, I can understand the students yakking all day, but what about the real people?
posted by estopped at 4:57 PM on May 3, 2001


But still, fuzzygeek, the average person, hearing that McDonald's no longer fries their fries in tallow, would be perfectly reasonable in assuming that that means that the fries are vegetarian. Traditionally, fries do not have additional flavor. They are deep fried potato strips. That's it! Even the fact that McD's fries have sugar would surprise most people -- why would anyone expect that there is "beef flavoring" as well? Neither of those things are something one would automatically expect.

Sure, it would be great if everyone took the time to do a bit of research, but somehow I really can't blame anyone for not knowing about the "natural flavoring" in the fries.
posted by litlnemo at 5:12 PM on May 3, 2001


Hey, estopped! get your e-mail address on your profile, please....
posted by ParisParamus at 5:14 PM on May 3, 2001


Yes, heaven forbid anyone should be allowed to be anonymous! :P
You wouldn't be asking if it weren't for the 'don't you have jobs?' crack.
posted by darukaru at 6:13 PM on May 3, 2001


My cousin is allergic to peanuts as well. He eats one - he dies. Peanuts can be in almost anything these days. For instance, my cousin must avoid fruits in general because supermarkets do not have to disclose whether or not foods are genetically engineered.

Undoubtedly, keeping track of what is and isn't in our food is going to become an increasingly complex affair. Too complex for consumers who might have legitimate reasons for wanting to know what is in their food.

Shouldn't the onus for disclosing what is in a food be with the manufacturer? If someone became seriously ill after eating an ingrediant they were told was not in a food at a restaurant - wouldn't that be the restaurant's fault? And wouldn't they be responsible?

Sunny D became one of England's top beverages overnight, in part because it was marketed to kids as cool, and to parents as healthy. It too was made from "natural ingrediants", a term which really doesn't mean much - does it? Considering that Sunny D has more thickeners, flavourings, and sugar than any soft drink?

If you want to talk about a disgusting scenario, how about one in which you ask for a health drink for your child and I give your kid a big jug of Jolt?

Vegetarian - Not vegetarian - who cares? I'm for stringent laws that require companies to clearly state what is in their foods.

I'm skeptical that McDonald's was unaware that they may lose some vegetarian customers by clearly stating that the fries contained animal products. But then again, why should they do anything that the law does not require them to do?

But then isn't that what this lawsuit is about?
posted by xammerboy at 8:46 PM on May 3, 2001


Soylent Green is made from PEOPLE!
posted by ZachsMind at 9:02 PM on May 3, 2001


Sunny D became one of England's top beverages overnight, in part because it was marketed to kids as cool, and to parents as healthy.

This is interesting. Sunny D has been marketed in the US about the same way, and while it's gotten some market share (mainly from adults forcing it on their kids), it's become a major joke to most teens and adults, because the ads' pathetic attempts at instilling "coolness" upon the product were so transparent.
posted by aaron at 9:16 PM on May 3, 2001



How about drinking water? And eating an orange?
posted by ParisParamus at 9:31 PM on May 3, 2001


Geez, wow, big thread. Sorry I'm late.

> asked for 'just the bun' at some small town burger joint will know just what

*whimper* more then once! It's just the saddest thing ever.

I'd venture to say that most vegans know that natural flavoring (in a general sense, as it's in a wide variety of products, not just in fries) can be in-speak for "stray chunks of meat included." Seasoned (oh god, the puns!) vegans should know most of these little tricks, newbies probably won't, but they're bound to make other mistakes along the way anyhow, it's just a process of learning what to avoid. I'm mean, campbell's veggie soup really isn't veggie. So why should we be suprised a place like McDonalds has hidden meat sources. I'm not. Surely these people realize that the fries are often cooked in the same oil as meat products... Probably not an issue for most, but for vegans that don't go for the secondary meat products I'd think that'd be a greater motivation.

For vegans that want fast food I'd say stick to ethnic food venders for better results. If you're stuck in the midwest or rural places make the "sandwich artists" at Subway change their gloves and wipe the counters down to make you a veggie sub w/o mayo --they'll roll their eyes at you, but they'll do it. Just tell them you're violently allergic. :)
posted by Craig at 10:06 PM on May 3, 2001


What's insidious about Sunny D is that the manufacturers demand that it's stocked in the chill cabinet, alongside fresh orange juice, with notably similar packaging, even though it could quite happily go with the orange squashes and soft drinks.

Imagine a lard manufacturer demanding that its products be stocked in the health food section. Pah.
posted by holgate at 5:31 AM on May 4, 2001


I'm glad someone brought up peanuts...

Remember those people you read about? The ones who can't fly airplanes where peanuts are served? The people who can't even touch a nut (stop laughing!)? And god forbid they should eat a nut -- or they will have an anaphylactic reaction and die.

Well, I'm one of those people. Yup -- I'm the reason you can't eat peanuts when I'm flying your airplane. If you served a piece of pecan pie to someone, and then wiped the serving knife (but didn't wash it) and served me a piece of pumpkin pie, I could very well die.

An extreme example, but the point is that it's good practice not to mix stuff up. (A kitchen is basically a lab.) It lazy, it makes food taste bad, it adds cholesterol and/or calories where it shouldn't be, and it's dangerous to those with allergies.

But then again, most fast food employees get paid only minimum wage.....I wouldn't be surprised if there's a whole lot more in those fries! *wink, wink*
posted by jennak at 6:57 AM on May 4, 2001


This is interesting. Sunny D has been marketed in the US about the same way, and while it's gotten some market share (mainly from adults forcing it on their kids), it's become a major joke to most teens and adults, because the ads' pathetic attempts at instilling "coolness" upon the product were so transparent.

Yes. For teens, but Sunny D owes it popularity to small children. pester power.
posted by xammerboy at 7:06 AM on May 4, 2001


goodness me! i didn't realise how close to people's heart this topic was!

just thought i'd gross you all out by saying: if you are a veggie, don't drink the shakes or eat the ice-cream cones.... the reason they are white is mainly due to the aforementioned kaolin, and pig fat. they are not actually ice-cream, but dairy confection because they don't have the agreed 32% minimum butterfat to qualify as a dairy product...

and the mcnuggets are little bits of chicken, and lots of tripe for cost-effectiveness, bulk and tenderness... (tripe, for the uninitiated, is sheep's stomachs, bleached [otherwise it is bright green from the grass they eat] and boiled to soften it)

but i still love the mcnuggets... with sweet mustard sauce... mmmmmm
posted by cakefork at 7:39 AM on May 4, 2001


Joining this thread late. Sorry. Stuck in traffic.

I'm a vegetarian and I'm kicking myself now. I don't know why I assumed the fries were safe but I did. Damn damn damn.

My rule is that I won't do anything to support the killing of animals. If an animal dies of natural causes and will be thrown away I have no issues in eating it. If someone orders a meat-topped pizza and it's about to be thrown out I wouldn't have any issues eating it - but if the girl who bought the pizza saw me eating it and thought to herself that she could buy meat-topped pizza next time then I've failed. I try to do as little as possible to support the killing of animals, I wish I had knew about this, bugger bugger bugger.

I don't like supporting the demand for animals to be killed because I empathise with animals. That they're unintelligent is irrelevant to me as I wouldn't eat an infant or a mentally disabled person. I find the white-meat/red-meat/fish type of vegetarian quite odd.

Most restaurants/take-aways don't list ingredients. I would like them to do this by law as with supermarket food.

Oh, and for the vegetarian hecklers out there -- I would eat an animal if I was starving on a island. Luckily I have never been in that situation. My beliefs are entirely about the superficial empathy I feel for animals. I would also eat YOU AND THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE to stay alive - sorry, but if they were dead I would. I really would.

ps. On Survivor/Treasure Island/Shipwrecked/Castaway there's always several meat-eaters who can only deal with meat when it's culled for them. I hate these people. If you can't switch on the chair you shouldn't be doing it.
posted by holloway at 7:46 AM on May 4, 2001


cakefork, can you supply a citation for the tripe/McNuggets reference? It's not that it bothers me, just that I hadn't heard it before, and now I'm curious.

jennak, do you have to carry an Epi-pen with you? I once went to pick up pizzas with a guy who had a violent allergy to peppers and onions--we put the pizzas in the trunk, and he rode in the passenger's seat with all the windows rolled down. It didn't matter. The fumes wafted in, and the poor bastard forgot his Epi-pen. We had to make an emergency stop at a 7-11 so he could wolf down a handful of Benadryl.
posted by Skot at 8:40 AM on May 4, 2001


"If you served a piece of pecan pie to someone, and then wiped the serving knife (but didn't wash it) and served me a piece of pumpkin pie, I could very well die."

There's something I've always wondered about this...maybe you can answer for me.

If such a tiny, tiny, tiny amount of nut has such a chance of killing you, how on earth did you find out you're allergic to it? (And live to tell the tale)
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:30 AM on May 4, 2001


Well, hell; here's another one of those "Sorry; got here late" replies.

Hijinx:
Then the umbrella of "natural flavors" and "artificial flavors" needs to be examined. McDonald's is a big company, and they have the power to push for this change. They could turn around and say, "Well, we don't want to lead our customers on - so let's spell out what is in this 'natural flavors' thing." But they're not doing that.

Nope, they're not. So they have the power. What *motivation* might they have? On this point, I agree with y6, inflammatory as his rhetoric might seem to some.

Remember when people started having allergic reactions to peanuts in food items, from foods that you wouldn't imagine in a million years contained peanuts? Now, peanut labels are everywhere. Why can't we have the same for beef and animal products? I say that if it's not in the ingredient list, tell me what's in the food, dammit. Dreama's point is wonderfully valid.

Well, you know something? Peanut allergies *kill* people.

Getting a couple micrograms of "natural flavor" in your food isn't gonna do that. So this particular analogy is pretty well moot...

Kindall:
If your god condemns you for, through no fault of your own, doing something after taking every reasonable precaution to avoid it, I'd say it's time to get a new one. I realize that sounds intolerant of Jews, but geez. Whether you're keeping kosher or eating vegetarian, if it's that important to you, you should be making your own food, or going to restaurants that specifically cater to your needs, restaurants you know you can trust, where everyone from the chef on down understands the issue and is willing to accommodate you. McDonald's is not such a restaurant, is obviously not intended to be such a restaurant, and has never claimed to be such a restaurant.

Excellent precis, Kindall. The short version is: "The Due Diligence is *your* responsibility. If you're not happy with the amount of effort it takes, do something else."

Snarkout:
Last post before I stop harping on this... McDonald's already offers a list of foods which contain common allergens; how hard would it be to amend the list to include beef and pork? Do Chicken McNuggets contain beef or pork? What about the Fish Filet?

I dunno. Maybe I'm not getting something, but I don't see why making this information easily available is something that should get people riled up -- I'd think that McDonald's would want to make as many people as possible comfortable ordering something off of their menu. (Maybe I'm just projecting, because I was unaware of the beef byproducts used in their fries until couple of years ago.)


To a certain extent, yeah, you're projecting. Good Business is to cater to special interests *which are large enough to make a financial difference*.

"Vegetarians who *want* to eat at McD's" is likely not a large group.

But more importantly: the more labelling you do, the less flexibility you have to adjust how you do things to changing conditions -- including prices of ingredients. This is sometimes a commercially unacceptable constraint on doing business: if you change the type of vegetable oil you fry in, you have to change 4 million pieces of print? Nope, so we'll just mention *all* the oils, and use whichever one we like this week.

ParisParamus:
I believe Laverne & Shirley worked in a brewery, and, well, I'm sure there were no animal products in the beer.

And the way that you think those hops and barley were fertilized would ... be?

litlnemo:
But still, fuzzygeek, the average person, hearing that McDonald's no longer fries their fries in tallow, would be perfectly reasonable in assuming that that means that the fries are vegetarian

Apparently not. But you could, by analogy, say that vegetarians who are *that* particular (ones who are doing it for karmic, rather than dietary reasons -- the latter don't trouble me too much) are not "average people". No?
posted by baylink at 9:31 AM on May 4, 2001


baylink: What *motivation* might they have?

Well, ethics. And I know, I know, I can hear you laughing, but there have to be some big companies out there that still have ethics, right? Right?
posted by hijinx at 9:42 AM on May 4, 2001


Jennak, I was in a falafel place the other day, and a guy walked in and asked the guy behind the counter if there were any nuts in the falafel. The guy behind the counter didn't speak very good english, but kept shaking his head, and saying no. So the customer, speaking louder to facilitate understanding, kept saying, "Cause if there are nuts, I WILL DIE." Over and over. "If there are nuts in this, I will DIE."
And so he put his life in the hands of a man with very poor
english skills, and had the falafel. I think he lived.
posted by Doug at 9:43 AM on May 4, 2001


I like posting to nearly dead threads intentionally.

I think it should be easy to find very detailed information on exactly what is in any given food product that is offered for sale to the consumer. I think it should be a requirement that restaurants provide such information. I realize however, that this will not happen, at least not in the near future. Nobody cares what is in their food and if nobody cares, nothing will be done.

I am not a vegetarian and other than attempting to eat less artery-clogging crap in an attempt to perhaps prolong my existence long enough that I can help to create more humans intent on destroying the planet as quickly as possible, I have no particular need for nutrition information. And I know fast food is probably going to be bad for me, so other than sub sandwiches, I do my best to avoid it in the first place. On the other hand, I would like to know if the vegetables that I am buying at the store were engineered with radioactive Martian chemicals or if the fields were doused with gallons of roundup before the crop was planted.

So what if it is not necessary for people to be vegetarian? Whether or not it is a necessity (avoiding peanuts) or a choice should not even matter. If you want to eat vegetables only, you should be able to. If you think eating bananas will make you go to the hell of all hells, you should be able to avoid them. Most people have absolutely no idea what it is that they are eating most of the time. And they do not even care. You could start cooking up rats and cockroaches and blend them into the chicken nuggets and nobody would know, because nobody cares enough to ask. Any type of specialized diet should be easy to maintain, simply because we should know what we are eating to begin with. Oh well.
posted by bargle at 10:38 AM on May 4, 2001


CrayDrygu: My parents found out I was allergic when I was 3 years old. For the first few years of my life, my mom monitored very closely what I ate; nothing processed, only whole foods and breast milk.

One day when we were on a car trip, my mom reached around to the car seat and gave me a peanut. My father continued driving; my mother looked at the scenery. After a good ten minutes, my mother wondered why I was so quiet. She turned around -- and I was blue. My throat had swollen shut. I'm lucky to have found out that way and not because of an inadvertant trace of peanuts. (e.g., plain M&Ms have traces of peanuts in them.)

Doug: I've found that ignorant staff in restaurants will lie to you so you order the questionable item. I don't know why; I guess they just really need the tip.

On Sunday I had dinner with a friend and told the waiter that I'm deathly allergic, and to please make sure with the kitchen that my fish dish have no nuts. "There are no nuts," he said. "Please double check for me; I could die if there are nuts." He came back once and said he did.

The fish came out. It looked wonderful. I cut a piece off, and as the fork was near my mouth, I realized the fish had pesto sauce on it -- pesto is basil, oil, and PINENUTS. I had the waiter take it back, and the chef came out to personally apologize. But what if I hadn't seen the sauce....?
posted by jennak at 11:18 AM on May 4, 2001


Jennak, similar thing happened to me. I was in a restaraunt, and ordered nachos. I asked the waiter if there was lard in the refried beans. He said he'd ask. A second later, the manager came out, and asked me if I was allergic to lard. I said no, and he said. "There's no lard in the beans."
Made me feel real confident in his answer. Of course, I wouldn't have died or anything.
posted by Doug at 12:11 PM on May 4, 2001


"I had the waiter take it back, and the chef came out to personally apologize. But what if I hadn't seen the sauce....?"

Wow...that's scary. I would have gotten mighty angry at said waiter. I hope they gave the meal (the fixed one) to you on the house.

I'm still a little curious about the story of how you found out, by the way. If such a small amount could kill you now, and you were given a whole peanut when you were much smaller and lived through it, I assume the allergy gets worse over the years? It would make sense, I suppose.
posted by CrayDrygu at 6:05 PM on May 4, 2001


Cray, I can't respond from first-hand knowledge, since I'm not allergic, but my best friend growing up was. And still is, of course. A little story, because I'm feeling typative tonight:

My family discovered his allergy at my 12th birthday. For some bizarre reason (I can't imagine enjoying it now) we had peanut butter flavoured ice cream. (Or ice cream with peanut flavour of some sort in it. Not actual whole peanuts, but it tasted like peanuts. Beyond that the whole thing's a little hazy).

My friend dove in and had a great big bite and promptly spit it out. He looked at my mom and said "Is this peanut butter ice cream?" Whenever I see or hear the word "aghast" I think of his expression.

Within minutes, his tongue had swollen. He hadn't swallowed, but his tongue just kept getting bigger and bigger. Thankfully, he lived across the street from me, and we were able to get his parents' over quickly to get him to the hospital.

Anyway, the way most people who are allergic to peanuts die is because they can't get to the hospital fast enough, and their throat, tongue and other parts of their body swell enough to choke them to death.

It's not instantaneous death, but neither is drowning.

Another quick anecdote: Same friend, a little later in life. His girlfriend ate one peanut and then gave him a kiss. We mocked his lips for days. It wasn't deadly because it didn't block his air flow, but the swelling was still pretty severe.
posted by cCranium at 8:03 PM on May 4, 2001


Makes sense, cC.

I've also been curious if something that's peanut-flavored but doesn't actually have peanuts in it would cause a psychosomatic swelling of the throat in someone who's allergic, but I'm not cruel enough to experiment. I wouldn't be surprised if they did, though. I have first-hand experience with mental conditioning. A group of friends and I once trained a mutual friend to laugh hysterically when anyone said the word "purple," but that's another story.

And just to toss in another little anecdote... My mother loved strawberries until a few years ago, when she was having a weird reaction to something and couldn't figure out what. After some trial-and-error, it turned out to be strawberries -- something she had been eating for years and years. She can't eat them now. I don't think it's as severe a reaction as the kinds we've been talking about here, but it's certainly not pleasant.
posted by CrayDrygu at 8:29 PM on May 4, 2001


People who are susceptible to anaphylaxis have a relatively mild first exposure. All exposure after that is much more violent. Most, if not all, nut allergies are anaphylactic.

With regards to a couple of micrograms of natural flavor--one common form of anaphylaxis is due to certain types of protein (nut and insect venom being the most common). If those micrograms are a protein resulting in anaphylaxis (including beef), better have an antihistimine on hand.
posted by plinth at 5:55 AM on May 5, 2001


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