McDonald's Makes Nutty Choice

I have four children and so far there's no evidence any of them have a tree nut allergy. Two are quite young, so there's still time for such an allergy to manifest itself, but I'm hopeful we've avoided it.

I do have a nephew, however, who is allergic to peanuts. It means when we host a party we have to buy the ice cream that is completely nut free, and when we bake cookies or a cake, all labels must be read! A McDonald's Happy Meal, you'd figure, would be a safe choice.

McDonald's Canada has added a Skor McFlurry to its menu, and that means they can no longer be sure their other products have not "come in contact with peanuts, tree nuts or other allergens".

In my mind, this is a poor trade. McDonald's adds one more flavour of McFlurry to its menu and the cost is telling every family with a child with a nut allergy that their restaurant is no longer safe. Based strictly on my unscientific sniff test, it hardly seems worth it.

In fact, I think it's nuts.


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Comments (30 - click here to join in!)

Not Sanjay Gupta

This decision came straight from legal. You cannot guarantee a nut free environment when you have those Playlands that have spread more pathogens than Typhoid Mary. The online reaction to this story is unbelievable.

January 17, 2017 @ 5:58 PM

Rob

Do they stop people from putting nuts on their Sundays or salads in the restaurant? Therefore there the entire environment has a risk of people being in contact with nuts?

January 17, 2017 @ 7:14 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Rob

But it's about what happens until it's served to you, right?

The peanuts are individually packaged, so they can't contaminate the other menu items.

This Skor Flurry deal is completely different. It just seems like a bizarre trade-off and hardly worth it.

January 17, 2017 @ 7:25 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

I think it irks me because McDonald's markets to kids.... so I think of my 6 year old nephew who already has to miss out on stuff because of the allergy, and suddenly his mom is going to tell him he can't have a happy meal anymore.

And all because they added a new flavour of McFlurry.... that's the kicker. It's not presented as an overall legal disclaimer, but they've tied it to the introduction of something very specific.

January 17, 2017 @ 7:29 PM

Cambo

It's simple math and money.

They've likely done a focus group that suggests they can make a lot of money with a Skor McFlurry. So, they have to make a decision. Do they forgo the new flavour (i.e. sales) in favour of those with peanut allergies? Or do they declare that they are not nut free and allow people to judge for themselves.

To be fair, McDonald's has also been trying to change it's image for years. They've been trying to 'grow up', so children may no longer be their focus. Look at their menu options now. Fries are no longer served in the cardboard envelope- they're served in the basket with paper. They're also offering much healthier choices.

This is a shift in their marketing image.

January 17, 2017 @ 7:35 PM

Rob

@Mike

It is different, no question... but there are people that with just peanut particles floating in the air can trigger an allergic reaction. People have been opening the sealed nuts for years in the restaurant, perhaps some falling on table which is wasn't cleaned properly that was then occupied by someone with a nut allergy, Needless to say the restaurant is not a peanut free environment.

The key difference here is peanuts will be present near cashier where the flurry machines are. Naturally that would increase the risk of peanuts being in contact with food. Certainly understand the concern by individuals that have kids with nut allergies. That being said, unless the allergy is extreme outside of Mc Flurries, the food is not really any more dangerous than the restaurant was prior to this change.

I imagine this move is not just for one new product. Rather, McDonald's has been shifting to becoming a dining experience. Many of the new restaurants are being converted where you take an order on a screen, you get a disk and the food is delivered to you. I would have to guess that their planning to have salads and other products prepped before serving the food. This certainly is not just about one product but a shift in a philosophy for a brand that fighting to stay relevant.

I wouldn't be surprised in the coming year we see many new menu items introduced based on this change.

January 17, 2017 @ 8:46 PM

Aurora bob

So up to now McDonald's WAS a healthy choice? Perhaps this a blessing in disguise.

January 18, 2017 @ 6:56 AM

Aurora bob

So up to now McDonald's WAS a healthy choice? Perhaps this a blessing in disguise.

January 18, 2017 @ 6:56 AM

Anonymous

@Aurora bob

January 18, 2017 @ 8:51 AM

Rob from Ajax

Alright, first things first: my son has a severe peanut and nut allergy. Ok, with that out of the way, let me address @Not Sanjay Gupta and his comment:

This did not come from legal. Legal does not take cases of liability and make a decision to suddenly start serving nuts into the menu items. That comment is ludicrous. Your comment on the playland and the pathogens being spread is also ridiculous and nonsensical.

@Rob: @Mike was correct about the nuts that were served with McFlurries and salads were in self-contained packets. You retorted about some individuals who can have a reaction to air-borne particles and I agree - in part - to that comment. Generally, packaged nuts have been processed and pose a lower risk to airborne contamination (but yes, it still exists). Here's an example where that's a risk - baseball games at the Skydome - someone cracking open a peanut shell. The dust and particles then aerosolize and can pose a risk. But opening a jar of PB doesn't pose same risk as its been processed.

So, now to your comment about the nuts now being out in the open and eating in the restaurant. You're forgetting one very important selling factor about McDonalds and other fast food places: Drive Thru! So those who have kids or family members with nut allergies were able to go to McDonald's and order the food from the comfort of their car and take it home to consume. The food was safe. It was never in danger of being in contact with nuts.

What this decision means, and was stated by McDonald's themselves, is that their food is no longer safe because the risk of cross contamination is so high.

So people like @Not Sanjay Gupta who say they don't know what the big uproar is about - well, its simple: you've eliminated a place that parents with kids who are allergic could eat at. You cant go to Tim Horton's and now you cant go to McDonalds. And the people who are applauding this change and upset at the "uproar" over it don't seem to understand this simple idea:

You, the ok-to-eat-nuts consumers, have lost NOTHING. Nuts were always available to you to add to your McFlurry or salad. This changes NOTHING for you. We, the allergic individual or family members of the allergic individual, have the lost a place to go and get (dietary issues notwithstanding) a treat for their kids.

So yes, its maddening and annoying and frustrating and we, the parents and aunts/uncles and grandparents - the adults - have to speak up and be loud on behalf of our kids/nieces/nephews/grandkids whose voices are not able to be loud enough to shout their discontent.

January 18, 2017 @ 9:18 AM

J

Boo :( they're going to lose a lot of customers and feel the sting - and hopefully they'll retract. Why not find a different alternative? No one is saying McDonald's is healthy but it's a nice treat for kiddies once in a while. You're right that now nut allergy kiddies have one less fun place to go every so often - their options are limited and parents have to be extra careful as it is poor things.

January 18, 2017 @ 9:50 AM

Curmudgeon

Louis CK's thoughts on the subject.
https://youtu.be/KFwBH2fb2E0?t=35

January 18, 2017 @ 10:06 AM

Steve

Of course, children with peanut allergies need to be protected. But maybe, if touching a nut kills you, you're supposed to die. — Louis CK

Nut allergies (and many of those other dumb allergies and such) are simply a product of overparenting. Ask anyone over the age of 30 how many kids in their classes at school had any type of allergy and the number will be minimal. Now, society needs to cater to every whim and need of little Johnny because he can't eat nuts or diary or gluten.

More specifically, maybe this will enable some parents to provide healthier meals to their children instead of a burger and fries. Or y'know, just switch fast food allegiances to Burger King or Wendy's.

January 18, 2017 @ 10:32 AM

Rob from Ajax

@Steve Wait...sorry....what? You're saying my son's nut allergy, which we first noticed when he was about 5-months old, is from over parenting?? You know...its actually a scientific issue where the individual has an inability to consume the nut-based enzyme. Their body reacts and the windpipe swells and closes, thereby preventing air from entering the lungs.

So sorry...how is that a product of over parenting? And yes, the allergies were prevalent to those over 30 (I'm 40 and can name a couple of examples) but the number of individuals who suffer from the allergy has increased, therefore that's why its more noticeable now than it was "back then".

In terms of Gluten or Dairy allergies, 9/10 of those are not anaphylactic. Those allergies mean if they consume Gluten or Dairy, they are in pain as their body cannot digest those foods. They dont carry an epipen, a tool to save a life of an individual who is having an anaphylactic attack due to exposure or consumption of a nut.

Over-parenting...wow.

January 18, 2017 @ 10:46 AM

Mark H

I do not have a kid with a nut allergy but I do feel the frustration of other parents who do. It is tough to have kids and deny them the occasional meal at McD's. And lately the franchise has made a lot of great choices to help parents make good choices for their kids including putting calories on everything.

It just makes this decision over a Skor McFlurry all that more baffling.

January 18, 2017 @ 11:07 AM

Mark H

The only saving grace here is that McDonald's has always been quick to pivot on bad ideas. The activity trackers that were panned then found to be causing rashes disappeared overnight. With all the bad press they are getting here and the social media pressure I bet the u-turn on this will be quick in coming.

January 18, 2017 @ 11:09 AM

mississauga frank

Has anyone had a look at the fine print on the labels at Costco where the prepared meals are? You pick up a lasagna and it may contain shellfish or may contain nuts. Who would expect either in lasagna?

January 18, 2017 @ 12:35 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

I'm going to assume people with allergies and parents of kids with allergies read every label.

January 18, 2017 @ 1:25 PM

Cambo

You guys are missing the point of the shift.

"We the people" have been heavy on McDonald's (and other fast-food joints) in the last few years to offer healthier choices. As a result, sales have dropped off the map- regardless of the fact they've put more salads etc out.

McDonald's is shifting it's focus out of the joint-style restaurant and more into a more contemporary outfit- with custom burgers etc. to drive sales.

Ask yourself this- what is this 'treat' that everyone is so desperate to hang onto? A burger? A 'happy meal'? Pop?? Ice cream?

That is exactly the image they're trying to shed- because people treat it as just that. A once in a while 'treat' that is not converting into meaningful sales. Have you noticed that for 4 people, the average total bill is almost $30?

For $30, go buy a few decent butcher burgers and a carton of ice cream. Grill them yourself, and you'll save a boat-load. And it tastes way better. McDonald's has one flavour of ice cream. The grocery store has TONS.

My kids and I haven't eaten at McDonald's in years. And we don't miss it a bit.

January 18, 2017 @ 1:55 PM

Wally

I am a recent new parent so I guess I haven't been playing the game all that long but this announcement doesn't bother me one bit.

Since when should McD's do the parenting for me? If I know my child has a nut allergy then perhaps I take responsibility and prepare my own food at home where I would have total control.

I truly sympathize with those parents that have kids with allergies or health issues, I truly do. But the world does not revolve around your child, and in fact those kids with nut allergies are in the minority . McD's may have just forced a whole bunch of parents into making a responsible choice by preventing their child from eating fast food.

January 18, 2017 @ 2:18 PM

Rob from Ajax

@TorontoMike, yeah we read every label. But its not just for food - hand soaps, lotions, shampoo...lots of items contain almond oil or peanut oil. Nut shells are also used as fillers in certain medicines and supplements.

@Wally, Congrats! Being a new parent is crazy busy. Just to clarify, no one is asking McDonalds to parent for us. No one said or suggested that the world should revolve around kids with allergies. I dont have a "precious little snowflake" on my hands.

That said, lets me real honest here: no matter how much we all want to cook good, healthy meals for our families.....we all throw our hands up every so often and say "eff-it, I'm tired" and order a pizza or take out. And as a new parent, come back in about 5 years and let me know how often you're out on weekends, running around to bday parties and sporting events and groceries and realize 'shit! its lunchtime!' and then decide to do a quick pull up to the McD's drive-thru to get your kid some nuggets.

So lets not pretend that we are asking the world to revolve around our kids but at the same time, lets not pretend that life and time is as easy as you're suggesting it should be.

January 18, 2017 @ 3:06 PM

Cambo

@Rob

However, if you know you're going to be out and about, then you plan for it. You structure your mealtimes around said activities. Or, you bring sufficient snacks/meals with you. We all survived for years without fast food. You'll live.

'get your kid some nuggets.'

If you knew exactly how these 'nuggets' were made, you won't ever eat one again.

January 18, 2017 @ 3:41 PM

Paul

Not weighing in on the McDonalds argument itself, but I'm surprised no one has mentioned to new guidelines:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/05/babies-peanut-allergies-health-guidelines

January 18, 2017 @ 11:37 PM

Cambo

@Paul

It's funny. For years pediatricians were saying to avoid certain foods early on, like strawberries, peanut butter, eggs etc. Which has likely led to allergies developing. Now they're saying the opposite.

Do it old school and follow your own instincts. Our mothers/fathers gave us everything early on.

January 19, 2017 @ 8:21 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Cambo

This is all super fresh in my mind because the youngest is only 10 months old.

The only food her pediatrician doesn't want her eating yet is honey. Peanut butter is introduced pretty early... when regular food is introduced.

Personally, I won't follow my own instincts on this. I take the advice of the pediatrician, who I trust.

January 19, 2017 @ 8:25 AM

Beatts

I feel for you Rob.

Thankfully my girls have no allergic issues but a close friend has a boy who does and we were witness once to an accidental reaction he had and it was horrifyingly scary.

January 19, 2017 @ 10:59 AM

Pete

Very interesting debate, and I really don't know where I stand on it. On one hand, I see where the parents of those with nut allergies are coming from. I'm surprised to an extent McDonald's is alienating (perhaps not the right word here) these families. On the other hand, my kids don't have allergies so this will not affect me. As many people as there are now complaining now about, there were just as many complaining before that McDonald's did not offer nuts in their products.

I read yesterday that 2% of the Canadian kid's population suffers from a peanut allergy. Roughly 7.5% of Canadians suffer from any type of allergy in general. Unfortunately, there will be people out there saying that these rules cater to a vast minority of the population, so why should the majority suffer?

Somewhat off topic, but I'd be lying if I said as a parent of non-sufferers it isn't a bit of a pain in the ass trying to pack school lunches where I can't pack a plain old PB&J sandwich, can't put in any old chocolate chip granola bar, and have to check every package label to see if it contains the smallest of trace of a nut or soy product.

Circling back, I'm likely going to end up trying this product because I'm a huge Skor fan. Will I feel guilt in doing so? I may look over my shoulders to see if I get any nasty stares, but probably not.

In the end though, I see McDonald's buckling under the complaints and either nixing the product or finding a solution to appease a happy medium.

January 19, 2017 @ 11:02 AM

Ajax Mike

I grew up with a peanut allergy, among other dangerous food allergies (basically anything that comes from a bird), and environmental ones too. Granted, mine was never so severe that I could be set off by inhaling a microscopic particle across the room, but they were serious enough to require multiple trips to the emergency room.

These trips happened regardless of how careful I or my parents were. It doesn't matter how careful you read the ingredients, how often you limit yourself to "safe" restaurants, mistakes happen. All you can do is be prepared (Epipen, benadryl, teach your kids to understand the symptoms, how to deal with them, and not to panic), and just keep living your life.

Studies have shown recently that early exposure helps to prevent allergies from developing in the first place. There have also been numerous findings that show controlled exposure can reduce or eliminate symptoms going forward. I had KFC for dinner tonight. What's more, I've consumed peanut-based products accidentally a couple of times in as many years recently, and all I've needed to do was pop a couple benadryl and wait it out.

So guess what. In my experience, insulating your kids from the world is NOT a solution. The world isn't going to pay them any mind. It's up to THEM to be vigilant, prepared, and unafraid. I'm looking forward to having a Skor Blizzard with my dinner tomorrow.

January 22, 2017 @ 6:58 AM

Faunie

Thanks Mike for opening up the discussion.
Rob from Ajax; I am in agreement with your comments.
I am the grandmother of a little guy with peanut allergies. He will be seven soon and is fully aware of the need for being careful about what he eats.
He spends a fair time here at our house so my shopping consists of reading and checking labels for 'peanut free".
Not being able to visit McDonalds is not a huge heart ship however he did look forward to his Friday after-school treat of a carrot muffin or ice cream cone.
For those of you who feel inconvenienced by not being able to send your kids to school with a PBJ sandwich: your kid(s) can at least enjoy one on weekends, PA days and school holidays. Not so for children with nut allergies.
We don't expect the world to change and accommodate for kids with peanut allergies; we just want them safe. And at the end of the day that responsibility does belong to parents , grandparents, care givers etc. So please try to not get too upset if a parent checks with you first about what you will be serving at the next birthday party or sleepover. Respect our concerns.

January 22, 2017 @ 7:15 PM

Nancy

As a marketer, I would say that the most significant brand blunder made here is that they have betrayed their most loyal segment of the population. Additionally, I suspect that McDonalds didn't so the math to calculate the lifetime value of an allergic customer. People with allergies grow up as customers and stay very regular customers for life because they have few choices.

January 30, 2017 @ 9:19 AM

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