McDonald’s Canada Reverses on Allergen Menu Changes

in Food Allergy, Food Allergy News, Peanut & Tree Nut
Published: February 16, 2017


McDonald's Canada recently discussed menu changes with Food Allergy CanadaPhoto: McDonald's

[Updated July 2017] Food Allergy Canada met with McDonald’s Canada CEO and president John Betts and members of his senior team to discuss the fast-food chain’s recent menu changes.

The changes, announced in January 2017, included McDonald’s Canada issuing a new warning that any of its foods “may contain or come into contact with allergens such as peanuts, tree nuts or other allergens”. This followed the chain’s introduction of a McFlurry with SKOR chocolate which contains both almond and milk ingredients. It was McDonald’s Canada’s first product containing peanuts or tree nuts that were not individually packaged for allergen safety.

Laurie Harada, executive director of the non-profit organization, described a “fruitful” discussion with Betts and his team. “What we agreed on as a starting point is to gain clarity around their allergen statement and processes,” she said.

Among the Canadian food allergy community, thousands expressed profound disappointment at the new company approach on food allergens through a petition. There was also an outpouring in social media posts, using a #NotLovinIt hashtag. McDonald’s has been known for kitchen protocols to avoid cross-contact even though allergens such as dairy, soy and wheat are present.

McDonald’s Canada Update: Allergy Win

At the end of June 2017, McDonald’s Canada announced it had listened to Food Allergy Canada and the outpouring of the food allergy community. It unveiled a revision of its policy, and promised to “to reinforce training and procedures related to allergens.”

The following details are quoted from McDonald’s Canada’s updated policy.

“Here is what you can continue to expect from us:

  • Our continued commitment to developing food preparation procedures specifically designed to minimize allergen cross-contact where possible, including the segregation of equipment and tools, cleaning procedures, and handling of allergens.
  • Ongoing education and training practices for restaurant staff on the seriousness of food allergies, the importance of procedures designed to minimize allergen cross‐contact and protocols for handling guest inquiries.
  • Detailed ingredient and allergen information, including the potential for cross-contact for certain menu items due to the use of shared equipment, provided both online ( and by speaking with managers in the restaurants.
  • We’re also developing an online reference chart that summarizes allergen-related information and we’re working towards adding allergen-related information on our app and kiosks.
  • Ongoing communication regarding ingredient changes and new menu items involving priority allergens on menu boards, merchandising and allergy notices in the restaurant and drive-thru.”

Reversal Called Smart Move

The revised policy was welcomed by the food allergy community. In marketing circles, the reversal was viewed as a sound decision.

Jennifer Marley, a partner at Sklar Wilton & Associates Ltd., a Toronto-based market research company, says the chain’s decision to respond and reverse swiftly was wise. She says the company created “a lot of bad will with a small, but impactful niche.” Initially, she says, McDonald’s Canada “slammed the news” in the allergy community’s face.

Harada views the McDonald’s situation as “a platform for us to talk about wider issues and that we’d like to see food services welcome people with food allergies. We’d rather see more specific language than a blanket statement. People appreciate details; where they get really upset is when it’s not explained.”