You might think that McDonald’s French Fries are made from potatoes, oil and salt. But, you need to know that that’s not the case.
Whether or not McDonald’s fries are vegan depends on where in the world you order them. They are vegan in some countries, including the UK. But, the fries that you’ll find in US branches of the fast-food chain are not suitable for vegans or vegetarians. Read on to find out why.
While you’re here, you might also be interested to know if McDonald’s hash browns are vegan or not as well as what’s vegan at Burger King.
What are McDonald’s fries made of?
In the UK, McDonald’s fries are known as chips and they are made from potatoes, vegetable oil, sugar and salt. However, in other countries, the ingredients list is pretty long and may include beef, milk and various chemicals.
In some countries, the ingredients list for McDonald’s fries is pretty shocking as the fries are flavoured to taste like beef!
Vegans who like to travel should be aware that McDonald’s fries are not vegan in every restaurant in the world. In some countries, McDonald’s state that their fries are also not suitable for vegetarians.
The following table should help you to decide whether McDonald’s French Fries are suitable for your vegan or vegetarian diet in your country…
|Country||Vegetarian ingredients?||Vegan ingredients?||Cooked separately?||Guaranteed free of contamination?|
Are McDonald’s fries vegan in the UK?
McDonald’s fries in the UK are 100% vegan and are approved by the Vegetarian Society. The chips are made from potatoes and a blend of sunflower oil and rapeseed oil. They are cooked in dedicated frying vats separately from any animal products.
McDonald’s UK is one of the only McDonald’s chains in the world to offer 100% vegetarian and vegan fries that are cooked separately from any animal products.
McDonald’s chips ingredients in the UK
UK McDonald’s chips have the following ingredients:
Potatoes, blend of non-hydrogenated vegetable oils (sunflower, rapeseed), dextrose (predominantly added at beginning of the potato season). Salt is added after cooking.
See ingredients on the McDonald’s UK website
Are McDonald’s fries vegan in the US?
McDonald’s French Fries in the US are not suitable for vegans because they contain beef flavoring which is made from milk. Years ago, McDonald’s fries were cooked in lard (animal fat). When McDonald’s switched to vegetable oil, customers complained so beef flavoring was added to adjust the taste.
Are McDonald’s fries vegetarian in the US?
The McDonald’s US website states: “Please note none of our menu items are currently certified vegetarian.” While McDonald’s in other countries offer vegetarian and vegan burgers, wraps and dippers, McDonald’s US has no vegetarian or vegan items.
While McDonald’s fries are not certified as vegetarian in the United States, it’s impossible to know whether ‘natural beef flavoring’ actually contains any meat or not.
I emailed McDonald’s in the United States to ask whether the beef flavoring contained meat and was received this response:
“For flavor enhancement, McDonald’s french fry suppliers use a small amount of beef flavor as a natural flavoring during the par-frying process at the potato processing plant. In the restaurant, the French fries are cooked in a canola blend cooking oil.”
“You may be interested to know that our nutrition information includes the sources of “natural flavors” for our US menu items. Customers can find out if a natural flavor comes from a dairy, meat or plant source. If you are interested in reviewing this information, please visit our web site at www.mcdonalds.com.”Latasha
Customer Satisfaction Representative
On the McDonald’s US website it states: “Natural Beef Flavor Contains Hydrolyzed Wheat And Hydrolyzed Milk As Starting Ingredients“
You might then assume that the beef flavor in McDonald’s fries is made with only wheat and milk. However, we can’t know that for sure.
In the US, companies are not required to disclose the ingredients in flavor additives if all components are considered generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Milk and wheat are both allergens so they must be disclosed. Meat is not an allergen so McDonald’s does not need to disclose it, so long as they do not state that the fries are suitable for vegetarians.
We still do not know with certainty whether McDonald’s lack of a vegetarian accreditation for its French Fries is due to real meat in the ‘natural beef flavoring’ or solely the potential cross-contamination with meat.
Therefore, if you’re a vegetarian, it can be tricky to decide whether you’re happy to eat McDonald’s fries.
McDonald’s fries ingredients in the USA
US McDonald’s French Fries have the following ingredients:
Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain color), salt.
See ingredients on McDonald’s US website
The famous lawsuit
In 2001, McDonald’s was sued by several vegetarians and Hindus because the company didn’t disclose that its fries were flavoured with beef tallow. The company apologised and paid out $10 million.
A McDonald’s spokesperson commented: “With regard to our French Fries, any customer in the US who contacts McDonald’s USA to ask if they contain beef flavoring is told, ‘Yes.’ We have no plans to change the way we prepare our French fries in the US. However, it is important to know that our French Fries are prepared differently in other countries.”
Are McDonald’s fries vegan in Canada?
In Canada, McDonald’s fries could be considered to be suitable for vegans as they do not contain any animal ingredients. However, the McDonald’s Canada website says “No products are certified as vegetarian; products may contain trace amounts of ingredients derived from animals.”
While McDonald’s fries are cooked separately from animal products in Canada, there’s no guarantee against cross-contamination.
Suggested read: Is food that ‘may contain milk’ vegan?
McDonald’s Fries ingredients in Canada
Canadian McDonald’s French Fries have the following ingredients
Potatoes, high oleic low linolenic canola oil and/or canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural flavour (vegetable source), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain colour), citric acid (preservative), dimethylpolysiloxane (antifoaming agent).
See ingredients on McDonald’s Canada website
Are McDonald’s fries vegan in Australia?
In Australia, Macca’s fries could be considered vegan-friendly as they do not contain any animal ingredients. However, the fries may be cooked using the same equipment as products containing egg and milk, so strict vegans or people with allergies may wish to avoid them.
McDonald’s website states: “No food items are certified as vegetarian. Whilst some ingredients may not contain animal ingredients, we cannot guarantee that there will be no cross contact with ingredients that do contain animal ingredients in our kitchens.“
Suggested read: Is food that ‘may contain milk’ vegan?
McDonald’s fries ingredients in Australia
Australian McDonald’s Fries have the following ingredients:
Potato, canola oil, mineral salt (450), dextrose, antifoam (1521)
Potatoes, canola oil (acidity regulator (330)), dextrose monohydrate (preservative (220)), mineral salt (450), antifoam (non-ionic polyalkylene glycol), preservative (223)
See ingredients on McDonald’s Australia website
Are McDonald’s fries vegetarian?
McDonald’s fries are suitable for vegetarians in most countries. However, in some countries, including the US, the fries are flavoured with ‘natural beef flavouring’. McDonald’s do not communicate whether this contains real beef, but simply state that their French Fries are not suitable for vegetarians.
Are McDonald’s chips Halal?
McDonald’s fries are not certified as Halal. In the UK the fries are certified as vegan, so you may consider them to also be Halal. In the US, McDonald’s fries are not certified as vegetarian and so may not be Halal.
Are McDonald’s fries dairy free?
In the UK, Canada and Australia, McDonald’s fries do not contain any cows’ milk as ingredients. However, in the USA, McDonald’s fries do contain milk and so are not suitable for people following a dairy-free diet.
What are McDonald’s fries cooked in?
McDonald’s fries are cooked in vegetable oil, not animal fat. Which type of vegetable oil is used varies by country:
- UK – Blend of Sunflower oil and rapeseed oil
- US – Blend of canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil and hydrogenated soybean oil
- Canada – Blend of canola and hydrogenated soybean oil
- Australia – Canola oil
Do McDonald’s fries have beef in them?
In the United States, McDonald’s fries are flavored with ‘natural beef flavoring’. The fast food chain is not required to disclose whether or not this contains actual meat or not. However, the company does state that the fries are not suitable for vegetarians.
Should vegans eat at McDonald’s?
Vegans are pretty divided over whether eating anything at all from the McDonald’s menu aligns with their principles.
In 2019, Vegan Food & Living magazine surveyed 8,300 UK vegans and found that 43% of them would never go to McDonald’s.
The reasons that vegans give for boycotting fast-food chains like McDonald’s include:
- Not wanting to support a company that kills animals
- Believing that standards of animal welfare should be higher
- Not wanting to support a company that pays employees the minimum wage
- Preferring to support small businesses
On the other hand, most vegans do choose to eat at McDonald’s.
They would argue that ordering vegan items such as the Veggie Dippers or ordering the Veggie Deluxe Burger with ketchup instead of the sandwich sauce (which contains egg) will show the company that there is a demand for plant-based foods.
If more vegan items are added to the menu, this, in turn, will mean that omnivores are more likely to order vegetarian or vegan items, rather than meat.