When my son was first diagnosed with a peanut allergy I thought I would never eat out again, especially in fast food restaurants. Before doing any research, I remember being of the naive belief that it was no longer safe to eat in restaurants and that my child would need to eat homemade food all the time. After looking into it though, I learned that there are options out there for parents of children with peanut allergies, even in fast food restaurants. Thank goodness, since having a break from cooking once in awhile is a good thing.
While I had previously looked into which restaurants are “peanut safe” a few years back, I thought I would brush-up by calling a few major fast food places to get their official response. Below are my findings, which only include “peanut free” food items and not “nut free” ones. Many allergists recommend staying nut free if there is a diagnosis of peanut free due to cross-contamination.
I had a conversation with a customer service rep there (800 244-6227) and she mentioned that McDonalds has a strict policy that foods with allergens must be stored separately from other foods. That being said though, McDonalds does serve products may contain both peanut and peanut oil. The women I spoke with asked that I refer to a document on their website which lists all ingredients for all products (http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/nutritionexchange/ingredientslist.pdf). Reading this led me to focus on the following 3 products which you should stay away from:
a) Fruit & Walnut Salad: Made with peanut oil and may contain shell parts, peanuts and other tree nuts
b) Sundaes: These include peanuts
c) McFlurry: These include M&M candies which may contain peanuts and are made on the same equipment as peanuts.
While I personally try to limit the amount of fast food my child eats and concentrate on more healthy options, I will say that there is McDonalds a few blocks away from my house and I am ok taking my son there from time to time. We completely avoid all their desserts and get their burgers/fries instead (we specifically request apple slices for the Happy Meal desserts and do not use the caramel dip that goes along with it).
(Updated 6/2013) The Wendy’s website features a menu which is much more user friendly and includes a dedicated column for all products that contain peanut/tree nuts at the following link (http://www.wendys.com/redesign/wendys/pdf/en_US_nutrition.pdf). As of 6/2013, it appears as though only the salad listed below contains peanuts/tree nuts per the Wendy’s website:
a) Apple Pecan Chicken Salad
I had a conversation with a customer service rep there (305 378-3535) and she pointed me to the following allergen information link on their website which says that there are NO products which contains peanuts (I was surprised to hear this, but the lady I spoke with verbally confirmed it). Just to be safe though, I still always avoid all their desserts.
Their website has the following allergen list (http://www.kfc.com/nutrition/pdf/kfc_allergens_aug10.pdf) which states that the only product containing peanuts is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Pie Slice.
Here is the allergen list from their website (http://www.tacobell.com/nutrition/allergens) which does not list any items under the “Peanuts” column. The site also specifically contains a footnote that states “Peanuts and tree nuts are not used at Taco Bell restaurants. May be used in common manufacturing plants”.
In summary, your child does not have to feel left out since there are many fast food options to have a peanut-free meal. Please note though that even if a restaurant states that they are 100% peanut free, I still ALWAYS carry an EpiPen wherever I go and NEVER leave the home without it (it is forever glued to my side). Also, please use the information in the company links I’ve provided as only a guide, and always verbally confirm the peanut content of every meal with the server (preferably a manager since most servers are usually unsure).
A common theme I’m found from this research is that you should always be extremely careful about ANY dessert you give your child. This daily stressful concern to provide my son a peanut-safe treat is one of the reasons I decided to start a business that sells delicious 100% peanut free desserts (cookies, cupcakes, candies, etc). It is called Peanut Free Sweet Tooth (http://www.peanutfreesweettooth.com) and I’ve made it a point to offer a wide assortment of products at the best prices so that all children can experience the sweet things in life. Please check us out when you get a chance!!