Changes at one of the country’s oldest fast-food franchises have sparked controversy around food allergens and restaurant policies. McDonald’s Canada recently announced that all food products sold in its restaurants “may contain peanuts, tree nuts or other allergens” as the result of a new menu introduced across Canada on January 17, 2017.
Dr. Susan Waserman, an AllerGen investigator and an allergist at McMaster University, commented on the new allergy statement in a Globe and Mail article, stating: “There’s not a lot of clarity about why they made such a wide-sweeping statement.”
Food Allergy Canada (FAC), an AllerGen Legacy Partner, has taken a central role in representing the concerns of the food-allergic community regarding this announcement, penning an open letter to McDonald’s Canada in the Globe and Mail and launching an online petition. Laurie Harada, FAC’s Executive Director, says the new allergy statement “essentially limits safe dining options for anyone with any food allergy.”
McDonald’s has asked not to be “held to an ‘unreasonable’ standard,” according to a follow-up Globe and Mail article published online on January 23, 2017.
AllerGen Research Leader Dr. Susan Elliott (University of Waterloo) is co-leading an AllerGen-enabled multidisciplinary stakeholder group working to develop a National Food Allergy Strategy for Canada. “Fifty percent of Canadian households are affected by food allergy, either directly or indirectly, so decisions such as the one McDonald’s recently made are not ‘good for business,’ ” says Dr. Elliott. “Ultimately, we should all work together to maximize choice and minimize risk for food-allergic Canadians.”