The Lie McDonald’s Got Away with Telling


Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash

For a lot of my vegan friends, getting a bite to eat at a fast-food restaurant can be a challenging endeavor.

There doesn’t ever seem to be anything on the menu that suits their needs, and finding an alternative can be impossible.
Only fast food chains stay open into the party hours, not to mention public holidays. They’re our savior after a night of partying, or at home when the midnight munchies strike.

But no matter what offerings come and go, we always thought we could rely on McDonald’s fries. Unfortunately for us though, the McDonalds scandal in India brought our attention to what’s really going on inside the delicious snack.

Scandal in India

According to the New York Times, McDonald’s was sued in India after it was discovered that its fries weren’t as vegetarian as previously advertised by the company.

McDonald’s had claimed that their fries were cooked in “100% vegetable oil” and were safe for people who don’t eat meat for religious reasons all across the country.

This marketing campaign was pulled off smoothly until someone blew the whistle about what’s really going on before the fries hit the stores.

It was discovered that while the fries are cooked in vegetable oil before being given to the customer, while still at the factory they are tossed in a beef powder for flavoring.
The backlash in India was strong following the revelation. Stores across the country were vandalized with windows being smashed, stores being robbed, and shopfronts being smeared in cow feces.

McDonald’s responded by saying that Indian McDonalds was safe and that their fries didn’t contain real beef.
They went on to say that almost everyone globally was safe from accidentally eating meat products with their fries, everyone except Americans.

What’s that now?

McDonald’s went on to say that they never directly claimed that McDonald’s fries in the US were a vegetarian option.

It was later proven that Indian McDonald’s fries are indeed technically vegetarian because the beef powder doesn’t contain real beef.
Angry customers were unhappy with that answer, many feeling tricked by clever marketing.

Customers in the US were the next ones to become mad after the scandal broke because McDonald’s had unwittingly brought attention to the fact that American McDonald’s fries aren’t vegetarian.

“We certainly don’t market ourselves as vegetarian” — Walt Riker from McDonald’s speaking to the New York Times.

What’s written on the box

When you look at the ingredient list that McDonalds supplies, it seems that McDonald’s in the US uses beef power in addition to 8 other ingredients when cooking their fries. these include -

  • Potatoes
  • Canola oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Hydrogenated soybean oil
  • Citric acid
  • Dextrose
  • Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate
  • Salt

McDonald’s claims that the unpronounceable chemicals in the ingredient list help keep the fries from changing color while they’re being fried, and reduce oil splash-back.

What’s strange is that even critics don’t claim that the beef powder actually contains beef, in reality it’s probably made from an entirely synthetic flavor that’s never had anything to do with a cow.

So why does McDonald’s takes the stand that their fries aren’t vegetarian? Couldn’t they claim that the beef powder is as synthetic as it is in India? Or does the US version of beef powder actually contain real beef?

While the beef powder may be ok for vegetarians (depending on their interpretation of what’s ok), it definitely isn’t ok for vegans. Because while it may or may not contain real beef, it contains milk.

Photo by Yusuf Evli on Unsplash

Got Milk?

The beef powder added to fries contains both milk and wheat derivatives, which knocks it off the list for vegans. This is unfortunate because I personally know several vegans who’ve been snacking on McDonald’s fries for years.

It just goes to reinforce the golden rules of food.

  1. Don’t eat anything without checking and fully understanding the ingredient list
  2. Avoid eating food with ingredients that can’t be pronounced by a 6-year-old.

Although if it’s late at night you still don’t have any other options.
Vegans might now be relegated to eating the plastic packaging during late night binges… Unless that’s secretly made of chicken.

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I’m a well travelled writer who loves nothing more than a well polished video game, an expertly crafted sandwich, and a hot mug of Milo.


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