McDonald's French Fries Are Still Not Vegetarian

McDonald's Reveals Presence Of Possible Allergens In Fries
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Most animal-rights activists follow a plant-based diet for ethical reasons and avoid places where billions of dead animals are served up every day. Still, vegetarians or vegans may be inclined to sneak into McDonald's on occasion for a serving of the famous Golden Arches french fries. If so, they should stop. In spite of numerous protests and even lawsuits, McDonald's french fries are not, and never have been, vegan or vegetarian.

"But how can that be?" you might ask. "French fries are made from potatoes and fried in oil, so there's no harm in grabbing a serving for the road. Right?"

It's All Good in India

Sure. If you live in India. In that country, you can consume all the McDonald's French fries your heart desires because they are made of only plant-based ingredients. In fact, McDonald's in India does not serve pork or beef products at all. So if the fast-food giant can respect the fact that, in India, cows are sacred and not for consumption, as well as make veg-friendly fries, then why can’t they do it in the United States?

Not in the U.S.A.

However, French fries served at American McDonald’s locations are not vegetarian. That's because for decades McDonald’s cooked its fries in beef fat—it's supposedly what gave them their famous flavor. But when they switched to vegetable oil, the fries were no longer as tasty. The solution was to add natural beef flavor to the spuds.

Class-Action Lawsuit

In 2001, McDonald’s was hit with a class-action lawsuit, led by a group of Hindu customers who felt they were being duped into unwittingly consuming animal products, which is strictly against their religion. Other vegetarians and vegans joined the fight, pointing out that the company gave out misleading information. Customers were being told that the French fries were fried in vegetable oil—the inference being that the fries were no longer cooked in lard and were therefore veg-friendly. Admitting that the fries were coated in beef flavoring, McDonald's settled for $10 million, with $6 million going to vegetarian organizations.

What's in a Fry?

But they didn’t change their recipe one bit. Their website still lists the ingredients for all to see.

As a representative explained: “With regard to our French fries, any customer in the U.S. who contacts McDonald's USA to ask if they contain beef flavoring is told 'yes.'"

The way it works is, McDonald's French fry suppliers add a very small amount of beef flavor to the oil in the par-frying process at the potato processing plant before shipping the spuds to individual outlets. Once at the restaurant, the fries are cooked in vegetable oil. That same representative went on to say that, "In addition, we have no plans to change the way we prepare our French fries in the U.S. However, it is important to know that our French fries are prepared differently in other countries.”

To vegans and vegetarians, this is insulting. How difficult would it be to just leave out the beef flavoring like they do in India? The likely answer is that because the majority of customers in India are vegetarian or vegan, not accommodating their ethics would mean a loss of billions of dollars. Here in the United States, the opposite is likely to be true. Leave off the beef flavor that has long given the McDonald's French fry its famous flavor, and Americans are likely to just say no to "Do you want fries with that?"